Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Chasing Down the Monkeys

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.
The Buddha

My interest in all things self development and a recommendation led me to Michael Neill's blog. I've been popping by to read his articles and generally to see how other people do it. Last night, I saw this and I've been thinking about it ever since.

The premise of his article is simple: use meditation to control the chattering monkeys in your head and you will enjoy better mental health.

It's funny, but in the past few weeks, as I've been looking for inspirational quotes and doing bits and pieces of reading, it's occurred to me that Buddhism has much to offer. Certainly, there are many overlaps in the teachings of The Buddha and what I've learnt both through my NLP training and also my own life experience.

NLP appeals to me because it's all about the stories. The stories we tell each other and the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we tell ourselves dictate how we feel, how we feel dictates how we carry ourselves and how we interact with other people and ultimately what we achieve.

If your chattering monkeys take on the voice, tonality and volume of the harshest critic you've ever encountered, it becomes difficult to be anything other than negative about yourself and your goals. If you've ever been told off by a parent, by a teacher or someone you've loved and trusted, you'll remember how easy it is to internalise that voice. If you've got a voice saying 'you're stupid, why bother?' it sabotages and undermines at any given moment.

NLP also states that every behaviour has a positive intention, it might not be a positive outcome; but there's a reason for it. For example, phobias are ultimately a safety/fear response out of kilter. Fear is a very important part of your survival mechanism, fear is the emotional response to a perceived or actual threat. It's the warning that all is not well. A phobia is the response out of proportion to a perceived threat. 

I've tried to choose my words fairly carefully with that. Take for example: a fear of spiders is not a bad thing if you live in a country that has poisonous spiders. However, if you can't look at a picture of a spider without having a complete meltdown...it's a response out of proportion to the perceived threat. The person suffering from the phobia is actually afraid of the thought of the spider, rather than an actual spider. I did my NLP training with a lady who was so phobic of snakes, she couldn't look at a picture of one in a magazine! 

So, the positive intention of the chattering monkeys is to try and keep you safe, to shelter you from disappointment; to protect you. The trouble starts if your chattering monkeys take over the zoo; and start telling you stories, big whoppers. I liked Michael Neill's article for it's succinct message: cut the story short. In other words, don't let your chattering monkeys turn a drama into a crisis.

If you've recently endured a break-up, and are feeling hurt and vulnerable (for example), it's hard not to give into the monkeys that say: I'm hurt and feeling rejected, because I'm difficult and unattractive and unlovable. Michael Neill recommends using meditation to insert a full stop after rejected and delete the rest of the sentence. After all, it's important to acknowledge what's going on. Playing a lovely tune while the ship is sinking, to my mind isn't helpful. Far better to get into the lifeboat and row away from the wreck.

One of the first things I do when working with new clients, is to un-install the chattering monkeys, boot out the harsh and unpleasant voice. Doing so creates the room for the wise voice to be heard, the voice with good advice and good things to say. With a positive internal dialogue, you feel more able, better resourced and it's generally more pleasant inside your head, which makes it more pleasant for you and everyone else around you.

I'm not saying it's a magic wand, but it does make a difference.


  1. Like you say, I nurture, stroke and calm some of my monkeys. Others I beat the shit out of, because I'm tougher than them. The rest I drown. xx

    1. Sounds like you've got it all under control.

  2. Dear Roses,

    This might not be a magic wand but it's surely better than Harry Potter! ;)


    1. Steady on, thems fightin' words to some people.

      Not to me, I'm not that bothered about Harry...

  3. Good post Roses. One of the reasons I like yoga so much is because of the mediatation at the start and end of the class.
    Where we stand back from thoughts for ten minutes peace.


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