Today I watched a donkey working at a watermill, it was just walking round and round in a circle, attached by a harness to a beam, which was in turn attached to some simple gearing system that operated a pump, pumping water from a well to irrigate the farmers fields and crops.
For hours on end, the donkey walked this never ending circuit, like the second hand of a clock, forever passing the same number 12 at the top of the hour, time and time again, forever moving but getting nowhere, and like that second hand of the clock just showing the passing of time, getting nowhere.
The donkey was like that hamster or mouse on its’ wheel in a cage, spinning round and round and getting nowhere, but at least the donkey was pumping water, whereas the hamster or mouse is expending energy turning the wheel for the gratification of the animal’s owner. Like riding a roundabout in the fairground, getting nowhere.
I see many people on a similar wheel, roundabout or treadmill, doing the same thing time and time again as they progress through the short lifetime we have on this earth, never progressing, never learning new concepts and ideas, never learning from the mistakes they make, never experiencing new things and seeing the beauty that life can give.
They are passing their time, never getting anywhere.
Perhaps they are trapped in a relationship, in a family situation, in an employment that restricts their future, or in a culture that is very restrictive, never open to new ideas to other peoples points of view, much like a lion in a zoo cage will have nothing to do but to walk round and round in their little world of understanding, forever in frustration and depression, following the same endless pathway they have made in that small world or enclosure.
As I look about me, I see people not only travelling the same pathway they have had inflicted by others upon them, or have placed upon themselves, but they are also being led, like that donkey, by a carrot hanging infront of his nose. Always that carrot is a small distance away, just out of reach, they are hoping that that tasty carrot will be theirs, that their never ending treadmill will lead to that Utopia one day, hoping that they will reach their Xanadu, their dream led by the Muse Kira, (the Greek mythical Muse’s real name was Clio, one of nine sisters, Kira being the assumed name), the daughter of the Greek God Zeus, or as in the poem of the same name, Xanadu, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, leading to the pleasure garden which Kubla Khan created in the Chinese province in China.
These people are being lead by ideals, promises, dreams, often created by others, like tales of the streets of big cities being paved with gold, where riches can be anyones, just by the taking, but often, just as they are about to reach their dream, it is taken away from them by those that created them, the chance of a kiss by a beautiful princess only to find that it is to be that donkey’s backside.
Sometimes I notice the farmer was walking behind the donkey as it worked that water mill, round and round that never ending circle, and the farmer held a stick in his hand with which he occasionally tapped the donkey’s rump, just enough to inflict a little pain, which spurred the donkey on, and as it is like most animals and humans, they do not like pain.
We are not only driven by dreams, but sometimes we are also driven by avoidance, to move away from something, some place, some issue, as when people experience fears or phobias. The easiest way to stop a phobia or fear people often find, is to avoid the experience which causes the phobia, to avoid that place where a spider or snake could be, not to enter that high building or walk across that bridge. Experience has shown though, that by avoiding the fear or phobia, it only re-enforces them making them worse.
In the past I had a client who had a phobia of tunnels, especially those where the exit could not be seen when entering perhaps because there was a bend in the middle, or it was very long. This lady’s train station had such a tunnel, and to get to the other side of the station from where she lived she would travel a very long distance to avoid using the tunnel. Participants on my courses will have heard of this lady, and I forgot to tell them that after seeing me that once, she overcame her phobia.
To avoid pain and hurt may not necessarily be negative as some people presuppose, thinking that such a person is always negative, never a “go getter”, but avoidance can often lead to a positive outcomes or results.
Many rich people have the fear of living in poverty, not to have the flash car, not to go on that exotic holiday, not to be recognised as someone of high standing, not to be loved. These people are driven by the negative outcomes, the pain of not being rich, and strive to create the wealth, the business, to get the qualifications to bring the knowledge of how to achieve those riches.
Perhaps it is the fear of being left alone, not to have a relationship, that drives people to become over friendly, to draw others into a relationship with them, only to find that the person they are left with is not the person they had expected as a life partner, but then when deciding to leave that relationship, they hurt the ones who had been drawn in by the carrot.
Others choose to enter situations, relationships for the pure pleasure of a negative outcome.
As a small child, I am sure you remember when you lost your first teeth, the Milk Teeth as they are known in the UK? Did you put the tooth under your pillow when you went to bed for the fairies to take and leave a sum of money?
They became wobbly, loose, as the new tooth pushed up from beneath. I remember using my tongue or my fingers to move the tooth backwards and forwards, only stopping pushing or pulling when I felt that twinge of pain, but somehow I enjoyed that little pain, I was reassured that soon the fairies would be visiting, and I became addicted to moving the tooth until I got the pain, pushing the limits and the boundaries.
I observe people who have injured themselves, and keep touching the area just to make sure the injury is still there I am sure to experience that little twinge of pain.
I see many people who come to me for help, and insist on telling me how ill they are, how “no-body loves them“, how depressed they are, they take great joy and satisfaction from re-experiencing their pain and sorrow.
I watch the joggers, panting, sweating, red in the face, as they push themselves imagining they are on yet another London Marathon race. I look into the windows of the myriad of gym clubs around he world, and see people rowing imaginary boats, running down imaginary roads on the treadmills, getting nowhere like the donkey, yet pushing for better times, longer imaginary distances covered.
I had a friend Richard, who was/is a fitness fanatic. Every lunchtime he was in the gym, every night he was in the gym after his hour long run or swim, every morning he would arrive at his desk wearing his tight lycra cycle racing outfit, beads of sweat forming on his forehead and dripping from the end of his nose, his eyes bulging through the extreme energy he had exerted ridding his bike to work, imagining he was wearing the Yellow Shirt on the Tour de France.
Why did Richard and other put themselves through such pain and suffering?
Some say it is to become fitter, healthier. But, when I asked Richard what happens when he does not go to the gym, does not cycle to work, he said he feels bad, that he just has to, to feel good. Research has shown that excessive exercise places the body under stress, and the body responds by producing the addictive substances called beta-endorphins.
So, the pain, the physical stress in the body makes the pituitary gland secrete the hormones of endorphins which are chemically related to Morphine. The name “endorphin” is often referred to as “endogenous morphine“, a chemical that binds to certain receptors in the brain, and act as a pain killer and become highly addictive, also known to reduce the appetite, decrease depression and anxiety, giving that feeling of euphoria.
It is no wonder some people are drawn towards pain and suffering and become addicted to such acts, as when the body experiences that stress or pain, chemicals are released to give them a high.
Yet others are drawn to pain because it draws attention to them from others. In extreme cases, people will mutilate themselves by cutting themselves, pulling their hair out. These cases are wide ranging and have multiple causes not to be discussed here, but in some cases it is what is called a “cry for help“, they want attention. We often tell our family, friends and colleagues what a terrible time we have had, bringing back, reliving the experiences only to bring that pain back, for to relive, to talk about, to think about something, we will have to experience the pain again.
So we are all driven towards something, a reward, a pleasure, a new car or dress, a visit to the theatre, or we are driven away from something, to avoid a dislike, pain, discomfort, certain food, a person or place.
In NLP terms (see the NLP Glossary click) there are the Towards People and there are the Away People.
When reading some books on NLP on the subject of Towards and Away People, the author says that a person is either one or the other. When teaching the subject, I will explain the concept, and ask for a show of hands who are Towards and who are Away, and too many people categorise themselves as only one or the other, because that is what they have been told and so believe.
When you analyse a person, ask them questions, and you will ascertain in one situation they will be Towards, yet in another they will be an Away from person.
For me and food, if you mention chocolate cake or ice cream and the chances of eating some, I would do anything for you, I would be your slave, I would sing a song for you, yet the mention of a fish meal would find me making all the excuses I could not to sit down with you.
Yet, if we take about fish in another context, I am Towards person. As a Master Scuba Diver, I have had over 600 dives around the world and have swam with some amazing fish, some dangerous like the Stone Fish and some humorous like the Clown Fish. (click her to see more underwater photographs)
A Stone Fish or Scorpion Fish and a Clown Fish taken in the Red Sea off Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
if you cannot see the Stone Fish click here
Some people will draw others into their world by promising dreams, ideas, Towards, other people will drive people along by planting thoughts of suffering if they do or do not do something, Away.
Be aware of how we are influenced by others and how we influence others. Be aware of that carrot being dangled in front of you, or that stick prodding you onwards.