Don’t Fence Me In

I remember hearing a story about how elephants are domesticated and trained.

Among other nasty things, an ankle shackle is placed on the wild elephant’s leg and chained to a post.

At first, the elephant pulls and struggles against the chain and then gives up after coming to terms escape is impossible.

Once broken the chain can be removed.

As long as the elephant wears the ankle shackle, they will believe they are confined and won’t run away.


I’m not sure if the story is true, but I’ve heard reports where animals perish in fires.

They won’t leave their enclosures despite the impending danger.

And why don’t horses jump fences around pastures?


This sounded crazy.

If a fire was coming your way, surely you would try to run as fast as possible in the other direction.

I sure would.


Hold on, maybe not.


Rope fence at property line


The realization hit me when I moved to a small town after decades of growing up in a big city.

Much to my dismay, many of the streets had no sidewalks.


Where were you supposed to walk?



Surely not across the lawns because that was disrespectful, not to mention an obstacle course given the preferences for landscape designs and lawn ornaments.

There was no place to walk except the street. Eeek!

Talk about anxiety inducing!


For a long time those streets were avoided entirely.

Then very reluctantly I would walk down them, close to the curb and parked cars, heart racing and head turning this way and that to ensure nothing was going to mow me down.

(Did I mention you could play football on these streets after 5:00 pm or on Sundays because there was zero traffic?)

I still remember the feeling of taking the first tentative steps having gathered the courage to walk down the MIDDLE of the road.

Double cable fence at park

That’s when I understood the elephants.


And if I understood elephant talk, I’m sure they would say “now there’s the pot calling the kettle black”.

Take fences for example.



Ropes, knee-high cables and flimsy plastic tape keep us contained, either in or out.

They define boundaries and direct our movements in lines.

These materials provide no real physical barrier.

We could easily cut, step over or move straight through all of them.

Yet we don’t.

The barrier is created by our minds.


Not that I’m advocating running around wherever we want.

(Although kids do. They don’t see barriers.)

Respecting others is still important.

But there are interesting questions to ask ourselves about what keeps us in line and why.


Here’s an example from this summer that took me by surprise.


Three different plastic boundary tapes cordoning off area


A “Keep Away” sign obviously wasn’t enough to act as a warning and neither was a single piece of tape.

No, three pieces of plastic tape were needed to emphasize the need to stay back.

Never mind what a pair of scissors, strong hands or just stepping over could easily accomplish.

The fence stood. We all walked by every day to get our mail and we all stayed away from taking a closer look at the inukshuk that suddenly appeared one day.


The power of the mind is baffling and awestriking all at the same time.


What keeps you in or out of line?


feel free to share

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Lorraine Watson - on rustic porch

chief nudging officer


Crazy for cats and potatoes, Lorraine's insatiable curiosity of Life leads her to question, explore and push beyond the box. A self-professed "left-brained creative big picture" type, she has an intuitive knack for seeing beyond and beneath first appearances while at the same time nerding out on the details. Most of all she sees and holds others in their highest until they can see it for themselves.


  1. Tanja @ Conscious Introvert Success on October 22, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I’m a little unusual in the heart-based business space (which seems to – let’s face it – skew towards the spiritual and psychological rebels 😉 ), in that I actually really prefer clear boundaries and structures to work within. Complete freedom to do anything is overwhelming for me, so if I don’t have externally imposed boundaries (which I can usually adapt to pretty easily), I’ll end up creating boundaries of my own.

    Which isn’t to say I always respect my own boundaries (if only!) – but knowing that I have them gives me something to orient myself and navigate by.

    Fascinating post, Lorraine – thank you for sharing it!

    • Lorraine on October 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Tanja, great way to leverage boundaries in a way that propels you forward instead of unknowingly holding yourself back. Another advantage of creating your own set is changing them as needed and not be tied to what was when new things appears.

  2. Michaela Cristallo on October 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Great post! I love the way you liken it to the elephant. At first we feel we are not like them, but as your example shows we are more like them than we know. I really like the message here.

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