Thursday, October 9, 2008

Prisoner of your memories

I read a story about how a 175 pound man can keep an 11,000 pound elephant in captivity. Elephants are known for their amazing memory; unfortunately this very asset becomes its curse.

When an elephant is very young, it is tied to a four foot long wooden stake driven into the ground with a thick rope. The baby elephant tries its mightiest to break free from this captivity, but is unable. After unsuccessfully trying many times to escape, the young elephant eventually comes to believe that escape is impossible. This belief becomes deeply embedded in his memory and is carried into adulthood. When the elephant is fully grown, it can easily break free from the four-foot wooden stake, yet it never attempts to do so. This intelligent, powerful creature is held captive, not by any physical restraint, but by his own memory and associated thoughts.

We humans carry a lot of memories and in those memories we may have thoughts of despondency, inadequacy and regret. At some time in our life we may have been let down or even cheated by someone. We may have tried something and failed at it.Our confidence may have been shaken or even destroyed at that time. We choose to carry that burden even today. Somehow, we started to believe that we were not good enough and became prisoners of our own negative thoughts. Even though we may be extremely qualified, we may have all that we could possibly desire; we don’t feel confident or deserving and sabotage our own happiness?
A friend of mine had a painful experience when he was 16. His girlfriend left him for his best friend. Today he is 24, extremely wealthy and good-looking, but unfortunately very unhappy. He cannot trust either his girl friend or his best friend. He carries with him the painful memory of 8 years ago and sabotages his own chances of happiness.

Do you ever wonder what thoughts of yours might be holding you back? Are you a prisoner of your memories from which you could easily break free, only if you tried?
We are not elephants who can’t break away from the tether. We are blessed with a brain that is extremely malleable and allows us the luxury of change in our beliefs and perception.

Your thoughts can be your hell, or they can be your heaven. If you think you can or if you think you can't, you are absolutely right. In order to do anything, become anything, or have anything, first believe that it is possible.
Like the elephant, my friend is imprisoned by his painful memory and chooses to remain captive of his past and continues to allow it to ruin his present and his future.
What you believe to be true will come true, so choose to believe in the best and you will experience the best. Do not stay tied to old and painful memories. Do not remain captive, break free now. Believe in your ability to break free and you will break free.

Shveitta Sethi

Benign Masochism

Why do we indulge in “Benign Masochism”? What kind of twisted pleasure do we get out of exposing our body to immense pain?

I was in Phuket (Thailand) last week and experienced so much pain due to the gastronomic indulgence of spicy food that I wondered why this fascination with pain. Why was I subjecting myself to this eyes and nose watering, every cell burning experience and yet enjoying the sensation?

"Benign Masochism" is a term coined by scientist Paul Rozin. He says that “people like chilli peppers for the same reason that they like dangerous sports such as sky diving, bungee jumping, climb difficult mountains, ride roller coasters and watch scary movies. All of these activities excite the body by making it respond to a dangerous situation while the mind is certain that these circumstances are safe.”

We have a feeling of control within the uncertainty. Uncertainty within control is probably what turns us on. Pushing the limits of our pain and tolerance gives us a unique high and propels us towards the next high.

Chilli tends to lose its hotness as we progress into the “hot” meal, because our taste receptors undergo a process called adaptation. Similarly our brain tends to adapt to all experiences, whether painful or pleasurable and eventually both seem to affect us less and less.

Rozin says that people often eat chilli at a heat level close to the highest they can tolerate, which means that eating chilli is like pushing the limits of pain and tolerance. It is a subconscious desire to experience pain so that the experience of pleasure is heightened.

Often we try that sort of pushing our limits? We go on roller coasters that defy gravity, drive fast cars at break neck speed, choose to stay in abusive relationships, insert needles into our bodies, go for tattoos and indulge in various other forms of “benign masochism”.

Is it really a subconscious human desire to feel pain? Or are we perpetual pleasure seekers?
I doubt that pain and pleasure can really be separated. They both seem pretty much like two sides of a coin, so what is the real cause of pain?

I think it is our inability to control the outcome that is the main source of pain? Only if we could accept that life is not about control but about acceptance; our pain would most definitely be diminished. The aim is not elimination of pain, but just a diminishing of pain as our love of “benign masochism” will most certainly ensure that both remain a part of our innate humanness .

So next time you feel down and despondent or extremely euphoric, just remember that it is not the situation but your view of the situation that leads to your experience.

The key to living is therefore to live as passionately, creatively, and courageously as possible and choosing to see the situation as being within control and accepting the inevitability of the outcome.

Our fascination with pain and pleasure will never disappear, and our life will remain all the more colorful for it.