In his book “The Happiness Hypothesis” Jonathan Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider on the back of an elephant as a way to describe how our lives work. He points to our conscious mind as the rider and our unconscious mind is the elephant. He recognizes we can’t control the elephant we ride by force of will or just thinking and wishing or expecting. He also recognizes that while this is not an effective means to live an intentional life, it is a common mistake in many of our approaches to life. He identifies this as a common reason why we do so many things outside what we would otherwise decide for ourselves.
Destructive addictions, attraction to toxic relationships and losing our temper at inappropriate times are just a few examples of these portions of our lives where we appear to be more “along for the ride” than steering in any intentional, meaningful and purposeful direction. Jon points to learning how to train the elephant as the way to a satisfied life. It is fairly clear that some of us don’t treat our elephants very well much less take the time to build a solid cooperative mutually nourishing relationship with them even though they’re willing to work for peanuts. Peanuts anyone?