The Watering Hole Blog

The Elephant and Boy

child on elephant

The Elephant & the Boy – a Little Story of Ego & Soul

Image by Sasint on Pixabay

“The human Soul will only find its Light, when the Ego gives its permission.”

– C.C. Campbell

I’m not entirely sure about the above quote…but it’s sure got me thinking! How about you? 

I was telling a friend the other day about my current fascination about learning how to tell the difference between ego and soul. In my experience, sometimes it is crystal clear whether it is my soul communicating to me (or trying to) or whether it’s my ego. Other times, I’m not so sure.

My friend—who is very knowledgeable on spiritual matters and helps people tap into the wisdom and guidance of their higher selves—proceeded to tell me a story that I found very useful. It goes a little something like this (with my own added embellishments):

Once there was a boy and his elephant. The boy used to love to ride his majestic elephant around town…and did so with grace, ease and the gentlest of touch. The boy was small. The elephant was massive and exponentially stronger than the boy. Both boy and elephant were very intelligent, determined, and resourceful—just in different ways.

Our ego is like the elephant: big and strong and can do pretty much whatever it wants to, once it sets its mind to it. But that’s not always a good thing. Click To Tweet

Our soul, in contrast, is like the boy. When all is going well, and the boy is treating the elephant with kindness and respect—including ensuring all the elephant’s needs are met in healthy ways—the elephant will gladly do what the boy wants it to do and go where the boy wants it to go.

But make no mistake: the mighty elephant, like our ego, can wreak havoc. A frightened, angry, and out-of-control elephant on the loose can cause an awful lot of damage—to itself and others—if it’s needs are not being met.

Because here’s the thing: both boy and elephant have a purpose. Likewise, both boy and elephant have needs that must be met.

The boy—our soul—knows what it is here to do in this life, and why, and is perfectly capable of gently but firmly guiding the elephant—our ego—in the right direction, day in and day out. A healthy elephant knows how strong and mighty it is—and doesn’t need to smash through the local china shop to demonstrate its strength to others (including the other mighty elephants).

Without an elephant, the boy would find it very difficult to navigate his way about town and all the other elephants roaming about. Same with us: our ego is an integral component of our human experience. Without an ego, we would have no boundaries. And without boundaries, it’s pretty tough to get done what we need to get done…plus we tend to become rather resentful.

I’ve thought an awful lot about this story since first hearing it. I like it because it creates a powerful image in my mind that is one of gentle guidance: a boy calmly and gracefully directing his elephant where it needs to go, versus a struggle…a battle of wills between ego and soul.

I don’t think we’re meant to live that way.

Because contrary to much of what I’ve read on the subject, I think both ego and soul are important AND necessary for us to be able to function as healthy, happy, and productive human beings.

I like to think of the ego and soul working together to get us where we want and need to go in our lives---without harming ourselves, or others, or the planet, in the process. Click To Tweet

The trick, of course, is to always remember and honour the sheer strength of the ego. For even a sleeping elephant at the watering hole is still an elephant.

Whenever I suspect my ego has taken charge, I find it helpful to stop a moment a check in with my imagination:

Is the elephant asleep at the watering hole?

Is the elephant (with the boy on its back) slowing and calmly walking through town, the boy gently guiding the elephant where he wants it to go?

Or is the elephant large and in charge and stampeding straight towards the nearest china shop…and the boy simply hanging on for dear life?

These visuals help me realize who is running my show at any given moment – ego or soul – and then I can adjust accordingly. If you think you might find them of use, borrow away 😊

“The so-called ego is a roommate that we can’t get rid of, so it certainly makes sense to establish kindly and reliable channels of communication with it.”

– Ralph De LaRosa, “Don’t Tell Me to Relax”

“Intuitive Insights” quote cards (30 per set) available in our Etsy shop

Related Blogs by Maryanne

Beware the Mad Woman in the Attic – Then Befriend Her (Sort Of)

Hurt People Hurt People – Nate Shelley & the Danger of Self-Loathing

Ego vs Soul – A Few Tips on How to Tell the Difference

Maryanne Pope is the author of “A Widow’s Awakening.” She also writes screenplays, playscripts and blogs. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and a Director with the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive her blog, “Weekly Words of Wisdom,” please subscribe here.

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8 thoughts on “The Elephant and Boy”

  1. Hi.
    Will be all moved into Nanaimo by this Saturday. Lots of 📦.
    You know!!!!
    Thanks for your podcasts. Always so enlightening.
    Will visit when more settled.
    💕 Louise

  2. Hallo! So glad you enjoyed this story & the elephant visuals. I am really finding them to be of help, too! I was at an incredible workshop a few months ago, where we worked with horses and the facilitator showed us how they mirror us. It was an amazing experience and I could see with my own eyes how the horses responded, when my thoughts changed or my attention drifted away to what I was trying to focus on. You are very blessed to be able to work with horses on a daily basis!

    Thanks so much for reading & providing feedback. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  3. I love this post. The idea of imagine the boy and the elephant as a way of working out what is ego and what is soul..I love it! Such a useful tool..

    Great post Maryanne.. 🙂

  4. Thank you, Elliot! Glad you found the suggested visualizations of help. I have certainly used them myself a couple of times over the past couple weeks since posting this blog. Imagining my elephant ego charging towards a china shop in anger really helps make me stop a moment and ask myself: “Hmmm…who is in charge here?” 🙂

    Thanks for reading & have a great weekend!

  5. “Without an ego, we would have no boundaries. And without boundaries, it’s pretty tough to get done what we need to get done…plus we tend to become rather resentful.”

    And yet, isn’t our ego that experiences resentment? And isn’t what we think we need to get done just a function of our ego?

    Terrence McKenna said 5g of dry psylocibin mushrooms will “flatten the most resistant ego.” I might let you know. Or maybe “I” won’t. :p

    It feels like I’ve been bouncing around like a pinball between my “soul” and “ego” lately. A new experience for me. And I don’t think my ego is a very nice guy. Excellent at shaping the world to its desires, but not exactly empathetic. I’m also wondering if it experiences all the suffering.

    This was a beautiful story. Thank Goo.

  6. Oh, you raise some excellent questions, Carleton! In particular I like: “And yet, isn’t our ego that experiences resentment?” I would say yes. But I am going to ponder further.

    You are not alone in feeling like the ball in a pinpall machine…bouncing around between ego & soul. An awful lot of us are. What is important, I think, is that we are pausing long enough to ask ourselves: who is behind my thought, action, opinion, behaviour, habit, belief, plan etc? Ego or soul? When we can slow down long enough to become more self aware, then I think change can happen. Easier said than done, I know…but do-able! Day by day 🙂

    Thanks for your feedback & big hugs,
    Love MA

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