Invisible Chains

Baby elephants are controlled the same way we are

Kayla Douglas
Jan 8 · 3 min read
Image by author

Have you ever been close to an elephant? How about at a circus or event? If not, maybe you have seen them on TV. I’m sure you remember seeing these enormous creatures near people, possibly using them as pack animals or performing from the table-like platform on the top of their backs. But did you ever wonder how they keep these enormous animals under control?

Elephants have evolved to uproot trees using only their trunks, and yet these circus elephants never try to leave their captivity. If they were captured as adults raised in their natural habitat, they would break free from the flimsy circus tent and roam wherever they desired to go. It’s not like their trainer would be able to stop them. So why don’t they escape?

They believe in false limitations or invisible chains.

Invisible Chains

This belief of bondage begins when the elephants are babies. Bred into captivity, the trainers begin to instill these beliefs as early as possible and systematically force them to believe that they can never escape.

When the little calf is most vulnerable, a professional trainer takes it into the circus environment. The trainer will attach a large metal clasp tightly around the baby elephant’s ankle and link it to a metal chain. The chain is hammered into the ground using a thick metal stake so that there is no way the baby elephant can move.

At first, the baby elephant resists. Its instincts kick in, and it feels that this is unnatural. The baby elephant tries to break free, but it’s young and weak and hasn’t developed its strength yet. The elephant tries, again and again, to run and escape but is snapped back by the chain.

The baby elephant knows this is wrong. It longs to be free and dreams of roaming the lands outside the circus. The baby elephant fights with all of its will and all of its might day after day. The metal clasp rubs against its ankle making it raw and bloody, but it still fights.

Finally, after about two weeks of consistent fighting, the baby elephant begins to give up. It has tested the chain in every direction, and it sees the limiting line around it very clearly. It feels tired, frustrated, and defeated. This baby elephant is stuck.

Invisible Chains Last

Ten years later, the baby elephant has grown into a massive majestic animal. It weighs over 6,000 pounds, and there is no chain on its ankle. If the spectators saw a chain, they would be outraged at the treatment of the animal!

But the trainer doesn’t need a big heavy chain; all it needs is a small woven rope tied tightly enough around the elephant’s ankle for it to feel the pressure. When the fully grown elephant senses this rope, it still believes that it is that same baby elephant. It doesn’t even think that it can break free. Invisible chains completely bind it.

Those invisible chains will hold that elephant in captivity for its entire life unless something changes.

How Can They Break Free?

There is one way that elephants in captivity have been known to escape. When an elephant becomes sick, it doesn’t know how to deal with its discomfort. When it is in pain, it only feels its instincts and doesn’t consider what it has learned throughout its lifetime.

When an elephant catches a disease, it often breaks free of both the figurative and even literal chains that are holding it back out of sheer instinct and a powerful drive to be in a more desirable state.

What does this mean for humans?

The story will mean different things for different people. But I believe we all should take a look at what invisible chains we might be carrying around from our upbringing.

Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphor is the language of the unconscious mind. This is a collection of stories that speak to a deeper level. Fiction or non-fiction, its storytelling that leaves an impact.

Kayla Douglas

Written by

Life Coach, author, lifelong learner, travel enthusiast, narcolepsy advocate, living in Myanmar, she/her

Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphor is the language of the unconscious mind. This is a collection of stories that speak to a deeper level. Fiction or non-fiction, its storytelling that leaves an impact.

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