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Harness your inner elephant

As should be obvious from this blog, the pursuit of game has for me with astonishing rapidity become so much more. While talking to Wisdom the other day we discussed how some material is so potent that often you hear a single sentence and that single sentence just turns your world upside down.It’s as if you hear this one sentence and the veil is ripped back and so much becomes clear. I described it as ‘falling off the floor’.

One example was listening to Tyler describe EDM in the Foundations course. The Blueprint also contains many such instances. A few times I’ve had to literally stop the DVD in shock, and just sit quietly digesting something before continuing.

I had another “falling off the floor” moment at the weekend. I’m reading Jonathon Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis”.

He describes how the human brain should not be likened to one single autonomous unit, but rather like an elephant with  a rider on the back. Have you ever wondered why even when you say “I should eat healthily and go to the gym” you do not? Consider it like this: the elephant is the automatic part of your brain, the creature of habit and instinct. It trundles on like a juggernaut. The rider is the intellectual, controlling part. When you ‘decide’ to make changes in your life quite often deciding alone is not enough to ensure success. Why? Because even though the rider is stamping his feet and pulling the reins the elephant trundles on. By the way I do like to regard the rider as a monkey wearing a little red fez and a red circus blazer with brass buttons on it.

A researcher did an experiment at a University. He put two cookies in a jar in front of children in a room. If they waited an indefinite amount of time they could have ten cookies when the researcher returned. If they couldn’t wait and they ate the cookies they could have them but they wouldn’t get any more. He observed that the children who succeeded in waiting were those who successfully distracted themselves (e.g. by deliberately looking elswhere or playing with toys) rather than those who sat and tried to use willpower alone.

Now think of that phrase: ‘distract yourself’. Sounds strange doesn’t it? How can you distract yourself, after all you are yourself? Wrong. Here’s the rub. Your mind is not a single autonomous unit. You are a big, trundling creature of habit with a tiny rider on the top. You will have the greater success at  your endeavors of change if you learn to subtly coax, distract and encourage yourself. I quote:

“An emotionally intelligent person has a skilled rider who knows how to distract and coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills.”

It’s hard for the rider to control the elephant by will alone. He can do it for a short time but eventually tires and caves in, but the elephant keeps plodding along, effortlessly and endlessly. You must understand the power of stimulus control. You need to fill your environment with positive stimuli and remove temptations.

How does this apply to game? Well personally my elephant is scared of rejection and scared of approaching. What I need to do is retrain the elephant over the long term. Retraining your elephant is not easy. Your monkey rider needs to concentrate, exert maximum possible control, take the reins and force a change of behaviour. You do your approach. All is good. However please understand the elephant will then veer back to its previous, well trodden course. When retraining your inner-elephant you have to provide constant, repeated stimulus over a long period of time, remove negative stimuli and surround yourself with positive stimuli. So this would mean set yourself goals and a schedule and get numerous, frequent approaches in. Stop socializing or interacting with those who sap your energy and lower your self esteem and give yourself a good amount of positive stimuli, such as interacting with like-minded people and reading the right kind of books. Slowly your elephant will change course.

I will finish with a final example showing how this concept has helped me understand another aspect of my own behaviour. Given that alcohol is a disinhibitor then why does alcohol not reduce my AA and in fact seems to make it slightly harder to approach? Well for a lot of people their elephants are quite leary, attention seeking and love talking to women, but their riders are the controlling factor telling them it’s not acceptable. I believe alcohol supresses the rider, so if these people drink then they become more able to approach. However with myself I believe my elephant is the opposite and is instinctively very anxious about approaching but my rider, the thinking part realizes the long term benefits of doing so. I believe if I drink then my rider is supressed and it is harder for him to control the elephant and force it to go against its habits. I now perfectly understand why I can approach easier when sober.

I encourage you all to acknowledge your inner-elephants and take control of them!

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Categories: General, Reviews
  1. March 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm | #1

    I’m not sure that I 100% agree with this post. I’m not trying to have a go or anything. The underlying metaphor seems to be a bit off to me.

    The elephant and driver metaphor sounds a lot like Stephen Covey’s concept of habits… successful people are the ones who learn how to form and maintain successful habits… habits are hard to change but you can do it etc etc.

    This seems a bit simplistic and over optimistic to me. It is basically selling people the idea that they can change their current situation just by changing their actions. While this is not untrue in all cases, it is untrue in a very high proportion of them (in my experience). Of course everyone knows this deep down, but then everyone also thinks that they are a bit special, a bit better than everyone else, and will do better than the average. This is basic human self deception (of which there are good reasons for, see Trivers’ theory of self-deception).

    I remember you emailing me on the forum about building ecosystems in which you have value. I think that this is the approach that really works. Sure you can get yourself into a habit of not expecting chicks to bite your head off if you approach them. But you can’t get yourself into the habit of expecting them to actually like you and want to shag you… unless a reasonable percentage of them actually do. For this you need to not be hideous ugly/overweight and to have a decent level of social confidence. To have social confidence you need value in your ecosystem.

    Sorry if any of this comes of as blunt. My head is just too full of pain fog to write it more clearly.

  2. March 26, 2011 at 1:06 pm | #2

    I should actually define what I mean by “value in your ecosystem”. I’ll have a quick stab, but I’m too bloody ill to think 100% cleary about it (and even if I was it is difficult to pin down).

    I’d say your ecosystem is basically your job, your friends, your social group, but also the people outside your immediate social circle that you met all the time when meeting friends, going to parties, going out to bars, traveling etc.

    When you have value in your ecosystem people are pleased to see you and your self esteem gets lots of little boosts all the time. I reckon it is particularly important to be good at your job, if you are struggling there then you self esteem is pretty much fucked.

    Also important somehow is whether your life is a fun life that other people would want to be a part of. Is your life cooler (a bigger party) than theirs?

    This isn’t coming out clearly… feck… I’ll try to explain what I mean on my blog soon…

    • bhodisatta
      March 30, 2011 at 12:01 am | #3

      no. it makes sense. if i ever get my ‘life plans’ posts written you’ll see it.

  1. August 4, 2010 at 10:26 pm | #1
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