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baby elephant syndromeJoe Segen2016-12-08T14:54:15+00:00
baby elephant syndrome
Definition A term for hopeless helplessness learned in childhood which becomes hard-wired in a person’s psyche as he/she develops and matures.
The name comes from baby elephants raised in captivity. If a baby elephant is tied to a tree with a strong rope or a chain and cannot roam freely, it instinctively tries to break the chain, but can’t because it lacks an adult’s strength. Eventually it accepts its efforts as futile, stops struggling, and won’t try for the rest of its life, because of its prior conditioning. Fully grown elephants raised in captivity can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope, and don’t try to break free, because of what they learned when they were young. Human children who have been beaten down too often by circumstances, and malicious parenting suffer from similar conditioning that prevents them from reaching their full potential as adults.