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Forums / Multicultural experiences / The elephant and the blind men.

Topic: The elephant and the blind men.

5 posts, 0 answered
  1. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    17 January 2018

    Once I heard a story about some blind men and an elephant.

    According to the story, the men were born blind so they’ve never seen an elephant in their entire lives and neither they had a concept of what this animal look like.

    They were in an enclosure at the zoo and asked to describe the elephant by touching and feeling parts of the animal.

    One man said an elephant is like a tree trunk, for he was holding one of the legs. Another said, it was like like a big flat leaf, as he was touching the ear.The third one told the other two were wrong cause an elephant is a long thing like a hose. Yet another said that everyone had it wrong as he was feeling the little tail in his hands.

    When I heard this story I felt like it could be applied to so many diverse experiences in life.

    We all have different perspectives, beliefs, understandings according to whatever we have experienced or we are experiencing. The same thing, situation, issue, event etc can be described so differently by everyone depending on what angle we look at it. Our cultural and religious experience, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, migration experience, education, status, employment, family, types of relationships we have, our environment, experiences, trauma etc will surely affect the way we perceive and interpret things.

    The same applies I believe to mental health. The way we experience and understand distress, moods, energy levels, sleep, attitudes and behaviors towards ourselves and others it will vary depending on our reality.

    I’d like to suggest that perhaps there’s no right or wrong and one approach is not better to another when we are dealing with issues, but, rather, it is different. There are different outlooks that we all have depending on our own unique experiences and the individual way we perceive and respond to them according to our personality, character, idiosyncrasy and background.

    Perhaps, a successful way in our recovery journey could be to develop the ability to see and understand another point of view and acknowledge or accept that multiple ways of dealing and managing mental health exist. This may help us to expand and grow in our understanding and develop empathy for others who equally experience similar issues thus, making it easier to share our stories and ‘hold hands’ so to speak in this journey of recovery towards a better quality of life and improved wellbeing.

    What’s your experience? How do you perceive the ‘elephant’ in the room?

    1 person found this helpful
  2. Doolhof
    Champion Alumni
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    Doolhof avatar
    8810 posts
    17 January 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte,

    The story you have shared is one I have heard as well. Quite often people will say there are "two sides to every story." I like to think there are at least three. Each person sees the events that have happened in their own way as you have explained so well in your post.

    For me, the reality is there is a third side, being the actual facts of what happened. An outsider may comprehend the situation more precisely as they are not involved.

    Same with mental health, we don't all see things the same. A person may suggest a strategies or method that has assisted them in the past. If the first person has always seen their depression from a certain angle they may have no desire to try something different.

    I agree, assisting ourselves to deal with mental health issues can combine multiple actions and ideas.

    Like an elephant's leg, we may need someone strong and stable to hold us up when the going is really rough.

    Like and elephant's ear we need people to listen to us and to be able to listen to them as well.

    Like an elephant's tail, we may feel small and irrelevant, but we all have a purpose.

    Like an elephant's trunk, we need to be continually fed with new information, support, care and comfort, even if it is by self feeding.

    These are my thoughts on Donte's post, others may well have a totally different view of what has been written, and that is okay too.

    Cheers all from Dools

    2 people found this helpful
  3. Hawraa
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Lebanon
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    Hawraa avatar
    9 posts
    17 January 2018

    This thread is fantastic!

    I appreciate the allegory so much, it's definitely a fantastic way to explain the power of perspectives and the various factors Donte listed that impact these. It contributes to the conversation around a severe need for diverse representation within the Mental Health space.

    So thank you both for this thread, a conversational tool for sure!



    1 person found this helpful
  4. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    17 January 2018 in reply to Doolhof

    Hi Dools,

    Thank you for your insight!

    What a great way of dissecting this story! Love it! This is so true.

    Each member of the body has a unique part to play and all together they contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of the elephant. I really will remember this analogy! You have shown me a new perspective. Thank you!

    All views are important. All strategies are good and have a role to play. If one doesn't work for us right now, or we don't understand it or believe in it, then we can apply something different. Keep trying until we find something that actually works for us and is relevant to our lives and applicable to our situation and circumstances!

    Really lovely representation...

    1 person found this helpful
  5. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
    • Foundation members of our Multicultural Experiences section
    • Greece
    • LGBTI
    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    17 January 2018 in reply to Hawraa

    Thanks Hawraa,

    It's so true!

    Different people from a variety of cultural or spiritual backgrounds would respond in a diversity of ways to a mental health challenge.

    The Western model of care is by no means the only or best way to manage illness. In such a diverse multicultural, multilingual and multifaith environment that we live and with all the diversity within diversity that exists, each individual will respond to the same issue in their own unique way. And all responses are valid and relevant to the person experiencing that reality and should be valued.

    We may all speak about the same thing in different ways, as also, we many times speak about different things in similar fashion. This is equally important to be understood by the person experiencing issues as well as their carers and managing health professionals and services.

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