How Mentality Affects Behavior: The Bridge Parable

Fromm, the renowned American psychologist, was posed with an inquiry by a group of students: What kind of impact does mentality exert on an individual?

With an enigmatic smile, he led them wordlessly into an obscure chamber. Guided by his presence, the students swiftly traversed this cryptic space, concealed from their view. Then, with a flicker of light, Fromm illuminated the room. Bathed in the gentle glow of a candle-like flame, the students beheld the room’s arrangement, causing an involuntary shiver to course through their bodies. Unveiled before them was a profound and expansive pool, its depth seemingly boundless. Within this aqueous expanse writhed a variety of venomous serpents, including a colossal python and three menacing cobras. These venomous creatures poised their heads aloft, spewing forth their toxic tongues. Suspended just above this snake-infested abyss was a narrow wooden bridge. It was upon this very bridge that they had just ventured.

Surveying their countenances, Fromm inquired, “Now, would you be inclined to traverse this bridge once more?” Each individual exchanged glances, their silence speaking volumes.

After a while, three students mustered their courage and stood up hesitantly. The first student ascended gingerly, exercising extreme caution, progressing at a pace considerably slower than before. The second student stepped onto the petite wooden bridge, trembling uncontrollably as their body involuntarily convulsed, unable to stand upright until they had reached the midpoint. The third student, on the other hand, stooped down and embarked on a slow, deliberate crawl across the bridge.

“Clap!” Fromm activated several additional lights within the room, illuminating the space with a brilliance akin to daylight. The students rubbed their eyes, peering intently, and discovered that a safety net had been installed beneath the diminutive wooden bridge. Unbeknownst to them, its presence had remained concealed due to its extremely subdued coloring. Fromm proclaimed loudly, “Who among you now dares to traverse this humble bridge?”

The students fell into silence. “Why are you reluctant?” queried Fromm. “Is the reliability of this safety net in question?” asked one student, his voice betraying lingering apprehension.

Fromm smiled wistfully, replying, “Allow me to address your inquiries. Walking across this bridge was not inherently arduous; rather, it was the venomous snakes beneath that instilled psychological trepidation, causing your minds to lose composure, leading to confusion and panic. Each of you displayed varying degrees of timidity – undoubtedly, mentality undeniably influences behavior.”

Indeed, why does life not mirror this parable? Often, when we perceive obstacles with excessive clarity, analyze them exhaustively, and scrutinize minute details, we become intimidated by the challenges and struggle to progress. Those who fail to perceive obstacles in their entirety possess a greater capacity to forge ahead.

If we can transcend our circumstances, disregard the perils, and focus solely on treading the path beneath our feet while traversing the precarious single-plank bridge of life, we may hasten our journey towards the desired destination.

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