Are Conditioned Limiting Beliefs Restricting Your Potential?
Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that animals often take on learned behavior which limits their potential.
Baby elephants, for example, are tied by a rope to a pole, in order to limit the area which they are allowed to roam. By the time the elephants become full-grown, they are strong enough to simply uproot the pole, but they don’t, as they have already been conditioned into keeping to that small space.
In an experiment, dogs were given a warning signal and then given an electric shock; naturally, the dogs tried to escape, but were prevented from doing so. Later, even though the researchers provided an escape route, the dogs simply gave up and allowed themselves to be shocked, probably resigned to the fact that they would be unable to escape anyway.
In another study, 5 gorillas were placed in an enclosed space; in the middle of the area, there was a ladder which led to a bunch of bananas at the top. Each time a gorilla attempted to mount the ladder, the other 4 gorillas were sprayed with cold water. After some time, whenever a gorilla tried to mount the ladder, the other 4 gorillas would clobber it, in order to avoid a cold-water spraying. Soon, none of the 5 gorillas bothered to try to get the bananas anymore, knowing it was pointless because they would get stopped and beaten up anyway.
The researchers then removed 1 of the gorillas and replaced it with a new one. Without knowing what was in store, this new gorilla would try to get the bananas – why not, right? But it would get battered by the other 4 gorillas and, soon, it, too, gave up.
One by one, the gorillas were replaced with new ones, until none of the 5 gorillas had been sprayed with cold water at all. Yet, the other 4 would clobber any 1 which tried to climb the ladder, and after a while, none of the 5 tried anymore. Basically, no one tried to get the free bananas, even though no one knew the underlying reason why.
Even though we human beings think of ourselves as much more intelligent than animals, the truth is that we are very much subject to such conditioning, too. And, most of us have been “programmed”, usually from young, to have certain attitudes and mental models. Perhaps we think we deserve to be unhappy, or that it is normal to be depressed almost every day, or that life is meant to be a huge struggle. These are some examples of very unhealthy limiting beliefs and learned helplessness or behavior.
Could it be that we have ready escape routes away from depression and unhappiness, but do not know how to take them? (the dogs and electric shocks example)
Could it be that, within us, we have the power to break free from whatever limiting beliefs and constraints we have, but still choose to keep to our little comfort zones because that’s where we have been all the while? (the elephant and pole example)
Could it be that there is free happiness and abundance to be obtained, but we do not dare to reach out for them, since no one else seems to be doing it, or because we previously tried and got battered? (the gorillas and bananas example)
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