A man comes to a raging river and needs to cross to the other side. The rapids are moving too strongly for him to swim across without being pulled under water.
Knowing that he needs to find a solution to get across the river the man walks into some nearby woods and gathers some sticks and vines. Using the materials gathered he fashions a raft. The man gets on his newly formed raft and uses it to cross the river.
When the man gets to the other side of the river he takes his raft and straps it on his back – carrying it wherever he goes. Eventually he comes upon a mountain that he must climb, so he takes his raft off from his back and tries to use it to climb the mountain. Using the raft makes the climb very difficult but eventually the main finds his way to the top.
The man continues on the rest of his days, carrying this raft on his back and using it whenever he needs to overcome an obstacle.
There is a reason that I start with this story at the beginning stages of your journey. The lesson learned from this tale is often surprising to most, but understanding the meaning has powerful impact on your ability to absorb new information.
The story is written about a man, but the truth is that this story is used as an example of how all of our minds work. This is really a story about the human mind.
We learn information and use it to overcome difficulties in life. When we fashion a useful tool we carry it with us for life. We don't set down the raft after we cross the river, instead we recognize its value and we never let it go.
Furthermore, we use this newly formed tool on other obstacles, even ones that are not similar. We make the assumption, often without thinking about it, that since our tool worked in a past situation it will work in this one too.
With great irony, our minds also have the ability to praise these less than perfect tools by saying to ourselves “Glad I had that raft or I never would have made it up that mountain”. And we feel proud that we had the raft and we cling onto it even tighter.
Much like the mountain, we use our rafts to climb to the top and we never stop to realize that we are doing this the hard way. If only we stopped and made new tools for new problems, life would be much easier.
The raft represents ways that we have learned to approach life that have worked for us in the past. This includes the way we talk, the way we behave, the way we are in relationships, the way we feel about ourselves, and more.
Recognize the rafts that you are carrying with you. It's only when you learn to set down your less useful rafts that you can open up enough space to carry new ones.
Written by Brad Messenger, LMSW.