You know about the ‘elephant in the room’, right? We have great big elephants in most of our rooms. They are our bigger-than-life embodiment of those juicy issues that might be considered controversial, uncomfortable or embarrassing. The ‘elephants’ are obvious to pretty much everyone in the room, and yet, no one is talking about them. Shhh! Don’t say the quiet part out loud!
The elephants are ignored, avoided and unspoken, and, although they could be the national debt, sexual preference or imminent death, they aren’t necessarily a big deal. The elephant might be the zit on your nose or the inappropriate way someone is dressed. Oh, glorious elephants: Save us from embarrassment! Shield us from controversy! Deliver us from argument!
And then there are the ‘elephants in your head’… The ‘room’ we had been keeping them in was apparently too public. So we invited them inside. And here they serve us well. We all have ‘em – emotionally charged behemoths that beg for recognition like the elephants that trunk-nudge for a peanut. No peanuts for you, Ms. Pachyderm, you, daughter of a wooly mammoth. You we avoid. Get back into the cage that is my mind! I don’t want to deal with you.
So the elephant in our head goes off to its cage… it does not go away. It is there when you drift off to sleep and still hanging out when you awaken. While you are busy not paying attention to it, it is busy ‘decorating’…hanging mental pictures all over the walls of your mind. You may not speak your elephant, but you will certainly be thinking about it.
I broke off a six-year relationship and, even after almost two years, I really, really, really missed him, being held in his arms and our late night talks. We did talk (very occasionally) on the phone – acceptable topics: his dogs, politics, my family – all safe topics. We never discussed “us”. My elephant was looming large, and apparently so was his. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a tusk!
And then, tired of feeling so suppressed, tired of fighting the elephant in my head and literally longing to revel in full self-expression, I freed the elephant. I told him how I felt, what he meant to me and that I loved him. We both cried. No, we weren’t going to be a couple, but we were truly going to be friends. Caging our elephants had kept us caged, too. Avoiding the difficult conversations hadn’t kept either of us safe; avoiding them had brought us stress, dis-ease, sadness and loneliness. Freeing the elephants was freedom for us. Turns out you can get FULL SELF-EXPRESSION… for peanuts!
How do you get down off an elephant?
(You don’t, you get down off a duck!)