The Lost Axe

AxeAs people around the world celebrate the Chinese new year, I have a traditional Chinese tale for you…

Long ago, there lived a woodcutter who lost his axe. He searched everywhere for it and eventually came to the conclusion that it had been stolen.

At that moment, his neighbour’s teenage son walked by with some friends. The woodcutter watched him as he strolled past his house. 

“Just look at him,” thought the woodcutter. “Doesn’t he walk the way a thief does? Listen to the way he speaks. He is probably boasting about stealing my axe. I can tell by his guilty face that he is the culprit. As soon as I can prove it, I will have words with his father.”

A few days later the woodcutter was working in a nearby forest when he found his lost axe stuck in a tree. He remembered leaving it there the last time he was working here. He realised that it was his own carelessness that had made him lose the axe.

“So, I have blamed the young man wrongly, ” he thought to himself.

The next time he met his neighbour’s son, he looked so different to the woodcutter. The way the young man walked, the expression on his face, the way he talked to his friends. He was just a typical, innocent teenage lad. 

I love this Chinese fable. It illustrates the power of thought and the way our beliefs can change the way we view the world. The woodcutter was so convinced that the teenager had stolen his axe that his whole impression of the boy was skewed.

It is something we are all guilty of. How many times have you had a thought about a person, place or situation, either good or bad, that has biased your judgement?

Thoughts can take a strong hold in our heads and take on a life of their own. Instead of stepping back and examining the evidence, we often let the thought fester until it has worked its way into our emotions and even changed our behaviour.

Think about the last time your partner was late home. What kind of scenarios went through your head? You may have tried to call, only to get an answer phone message. As the time ticked by, what were you imagining?

“I expect they have been held up through no fault of their own. Perhaps the roads are busy or they’ve stayed late at work. It’s probably nothing to worry about. I will go and keep busy until they get home.”


“I bet there’s been an accident! It isn’t like them to be late…they would have called! They are probably lying dead in a ditch somewhere! OMG…I should start phoning around the hospitals. No…maybe I should call the police!” 


They are so selfish! How long would it take them to call and let me know they’d be late back? Maybe they are with someone else. I bet that’s it! I knew it! I knew they were having an affair! Just wait until they get home. That’s it…this relationship is over!”

The truth is, you couldn’t have known what had happened, but how would each of these thoughts affect your mood? How would they have caused you to feel and behave towards your partner when they eventually walked through the door?

Do you control your thoughts or do they control you?

If your thoughts are positive, they can be really helpful. For example, if you have convinced yourself that you are going to be successful at something and can see yourself achieving your dreams, that is great. Positive visualisation gives us the confidence and motivation we need to make changes and reach our goals and that is why we use it during hypnosis.

So, next time you find those negative thoughts taking over, think about that Chinese woodcutter and examine the evidence. How much truth is there in what you are imagining? Are your beliefs clouding the way you see the world? Could you change the scenario in your mind so that your thoughts become more helpful?






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