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August 18, 2014

Get Rid of Your Monkey! Part 1

by alive

A healthcare organization I work for recently passed a grueling gold standard audit. Needless to say we are all very proud of the achievement, although I never had any doubt we would do it. We have good, compassionate people working hard and processes that are continually improved on.


Monkey on your back 2That said, there were lots of preparation work. With this audit hanging like a sword of Damocles over us, other things got put on the backburner. Only after achieving accreditation could we focus, both temporally and mentally, on other tasks, which we did with much gusto and renewed energy.



So I thought that it was time to to write about the monkey on our backs.



What Are Monkeys?


We all have monkeys on our backs.

Monkey on your back 1A monkey on your back is a situation or problem that drains your resources. It is a source of fatigue, irritation, fear, anxiety, regret and other distracting emotions which rears its ugly head in many areas of your Life. Its impact can be very obvious, but most often wreaks the greatest havoc at the level of the subconscious. It festers and bothers, but because it takes time and effort to identify, many people never do. They just know something is there but are unable to put a finger on it.



The family of monkeys is huge, but here are some species.


It may be a problem which vexes you so much, even subconsciously, that it begins to taint your performance in other areas of your Life.

For example, have you been ignoring a specific problem, such as an impending mortgage payment you have no idea how you’ll pay?


Broken dreamsIt may be an unfulfilled dream that hampers your other dreams, because your subconscious or even your conscious is often dwelling on the fact you have a big hole to fill despite what you may have accomplished.

For example, is your conscience telling you that you have strayed from an aspiration or sold out on an ideal in order to achieve what you have now?



It may be a wrong done to you years ago that you keep dwelling on and it’s pulling you back not just because it has coloured the way you view the world, but because you’re subconsciously trying to create a surrogate situation where you can ‘right’ that wrong.

For example, were you cheated on in a relationship years ago which now biases how you view every relationship, and always find ‘proof’ it’s happening again so that this time, you can ‘respond right’? Do you turn people away from your because of untreated anger, insecurity, fear, anxiety and low self-esteem?


It may be a mistake you made that has weighed on your conscience, and affects you because you are always thinking setting it right and rebalancing the scale.

For example, maybe you stole something as a kid and years later having achieved financial success, you find yourself unable to own up because of the implications it would have for your family, and unable to make up because you can no longer locate the party you owe it to?


clingy relationshipFor some people it may be a sticky relationship they just can’t get rid of, and it hampers their ability to be truly happy because they can never let go.

For example, you could be in a bad relationship that is draining you emotionally, mentally, financially and even physically, but out of guilt or compassion you cannot take the step the make the break. Or it may even be a good person you can’t let go of, and you struggle to keep some form of contact long after an official breakup.


Just as there are over 250 species of monkey in the wild, our monkeys can take on more forms than the above examples. They can even take on variations of forms. Some of us may carry multiple monkeys, making heavier burdens that weigh us down even more.


ball and chainThe biggest problem with a monkey is it prevents us from accomplishing goals and fulfilling dreams by hampering our ability to perform at our peak level. This is very important especially if our vision is lofty and our horizons are set very high.


The effects on our mood, health, and mental/ emotional states pervade many areas of our Lives.

Getting control is paramount to living a happier and fuller Life. Here are some key steps.



What to Do


1. Recognize you have a monkey

You may not know you have a monkey on your back. You may even have more than one, each taking its toll on you. The first clue is usually a sense of foreboding, pressure, or being overwhelmed. A wide variety of areas are affected, some of them seemingly unconnected. You may only have a vague idea what the matter is.


You must identify it.


Create three lists.

writingList down everything bothering you, no matter how small.

List down everything you are procrastinating.

List down everything you need to get done.

That’s just three lists, but already you’re going to generate a lot of ideas that will be a good jumping off point.


What’s the good of listing these things?


First, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when you have very many things to think about. You can only have so much in your readily accessible memory. Anything else goes into your subconscious where it might be temporarily out of mind, but is bubbling just beneath the surface. Laying it all out lets you see how full your plate is.

Second, monkeys are social animals. They live in groups and interact with one another. Chances are, even if you couldn’t identify the monkey, by listing everything possibly affecting you, you can

1) order the list according to what’s most important and urgent to you, and

2) start work at the top and work down the bottom.

 monkey group

3) There will be a carry over effect because getting rid of one bother will dissipate the negative emotions associated with it. As you work on each in turn, your state will become increasingly positive.


2. Select the Pareto monkey


Pareto Monkey 2That being said, a monkey on your back is by definition a major thing holding you back in many areas. That’s what you need to identify. If you have a few, your priority will be to nail what I call the Pareto monkey.

The Pareto (80/20) principle states that 80% of the many problems come from 20% of the causes. So targeting that 20% with some cutting solutions can remove most of the problems you have.


In our context, that means identifying and eliminating the one or two monkeys that will free you up the most, and thus have a most immediate effect on your vim and vigour.


For many people, monkeys generally belong to one of these common categories.


A negative, draining relationship

Example: Staying together out of obligation, a loveless marriage, cheating, false/complicated relationship


A negative situation

Example: A terrible job, poverty, loneliness, feeling isolated, feeling lost


Money problems

Example: Losing job, debt, spending too much money, poor money management


Too much complexity in your Life

Example: Too many commitments, office politics, juggling multiple roles and relationships


A health concern

Example: Constant worry stressing relationships, keeping it secret, putting off investigation, fear of affecting employability, not wanting to worry loved ones


Guilt and regret

Example: Roads not travelled, paths not taken, mistakes made with serious repercussions, shame at one’s past or current actions


An unfulfilled goal or dream

Example: Realization that age or current health negates the possibility of some goals, not accomplishing dreams of youth such as a happy marriage, financial independence or business success


3. Made a Decision – Decide to Get Rid of It!


Once you’ve identified your monkey, make a DECISION to deal with it!


Decision and decide have the root words –cise and –cide. It’s interesting because the Latin CISE means CUT (as in “excise”) and CIDE means KILL (as in “homicide”). And this is appropriate when we’re talking about getting rid of that monkey holding you down.


Depending on what your identified monkey is, your problems will have different solutions. I can’t cover these here; I’m not qualified and even in those areas I am, each could easily take up one or two articles. Resources are readily available on the Internet, not just for your reading material, but also to point you in useful directions, such as suggesting the right consultant you might need. It’s obvious that some of these problems will require the involvement of a professional.


The point is: You have to decide to TAKE ACTION!

The problem is: There is always a comfort zone associated with the status quo. Most people are so used to their monkeys that even when they identify it, it becomes scary to let go.


You have to make a decision to cut off what’s holding you back. That monkey may be clinging on today by holding onto your shoulders.


Tomorrow, it may be holding on by its fingers around your throat.

Orang Utan strangling a Borneo Savage


That’s it for now. Just those 3 steps are a great start to working on getting rid of whatever monkey is on your back, raking you raw and weighing you down.


In our conclusion, we’ll look at three more necessary steps for you to shake off that tenacious monkey!


Read more from Home, Living Fully

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