What is a monkey mind?
I like this term which originates from Buddhism as it describes accurately how the mind can feel like an overexcited, agitated monkey charting non-stop as it swings from branch (thought) to branch (another thought) without stopping. The money mind can feel stressed, over-excitable, unfocused, unruly, childish, dramatic and confused. The way you think and behave is learnt from your past and your monkey mind is simply doing what it thinks is best for you in that moment. This can become automatic unconscious behaviour where you are literally in a trance and just reacting to your thoughts and life. I also reference this as living like a walking dead zombie and just drifting through life without really living at all.
The word monkey also references the second oldest primal part of our brain known as the limbic system which governs our emotions and survival response. If your limbic system and nervous system is over active and under pressure then your monkey mind can feel like it’s in overdrive as it’s thinks it’s in danger as cortisol (your stress hormone) is released to help you deal with the perceived threat. This is great for life-threatening events but not so much for popping to the supermarket or when you have an interview for a job you really want.
The constant triggering of cortisol through stress, anxiety and anger is very damaging to your mind and body with cognitive thought and emotion regulation being the hardest hit. Your brain can struggle as Mitochondria (energy generator cells) levels struggle to communicate Not being able too think clearly or manage emotions in situations where you really need to makes life feel much harder than it needs to, it’s truly exhausting.
Taming And Training The Monkey
Your brain loved to be healthy and your monkey mind loves to be trained so it isn’t so dominant! You have the wonderful ability to create new brain pattern pathways which when repeatedly used will create new automatic ways of thinking and behaving. This can help you create resilience, focus, clarity, calm and confidence.
Combine this ABC process with the program I have given you and you really can change your mind to change your life. This is good to do when you really are struggling with a situation which needs some clarity. Doing this with someone else including myself can help you be more objective too.
You can print me out
A = ACTIVATING EVENT
Write down a situation which triggers the monkey into a strong emotional response.
Rate it from 1-10 with 10 being the strongest. Breathe to the stomach to and allow yourself to feel your feelings.
B = BELIEFS
Write down all the automatic thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that the monkey mind throws into your mind when triggered.
Write as many down as you can. Is there a core belief at the centre of the thought process which is at the centre of the monkey mind? An example would be a core belief of a risk of dying from anything wrong with that person can result in lots of health anxiety thoughts or a thoughts associated with the fear of flying on a plane. Please ask me if unsure.
C = CONSEQUENCES
Write down all the consequences of indulging, focusing on and believing the monkey thoughts that it throws into your mind? Suggestions of which areas to look at below.
B) Feelings and emotions
C) Negative behaviours and coping mechanisms
D) What impact is this having on your life? Relationships? Career? Health?
E) Who else is impacted and how?
D = DISPUTE THE BELIEF
“Hey where did D & now E come from in an ABC process?” (TBH, ABC sounds catchier 🙂
Call out our own monkey mind bullsh*t and tap into your thinking brain (the cortexes) to explore new perspectives and beliefs. Remember the monkey mind thoughts are limited, closed minded, not real, they do not represent you, they can lie, be biased, judgemental, over-emotional and get things terribly wrong. Do your thoughts and beliefs contain any of the following unhelpful traits? Tick each answer.
Certainty? “I know they will really react this way.” “It will definitely happen.”
Mind reading and predictions of the future?
Catastrophic negative outcomes?
A) Is there any actual evidence to support your beliefs and thoughts?
B) Is there any actual evidence which contradicts your beliefs and thoughts?
C) What would be a more honest, realistic appraisal of your thoughts, beliefs and the situation?
E = EVOLVE
Evolve your old unhelpful beliefs and dialogue into something more encouraging, honest, empowering and useful to train your monkey mind. You can’t change the content of a thought the monkey mind showed you as that has happened but you can add new insightful, helpful, honest and encouraging imagery and dialogue instead!
You are not a slave to your monkey mind thoughts, you do have the FREEDOM to add whatever you like.
A) What will you choose consciously to start saying to yourself? How will you sound?
B) Create a mini pep talk or mantra to remind you to wake up and stop focusing on unhelpful thought processes thrown up by the monkey mind. “Not this old monkey mind bullsh*t again..”
C) What advice would you give to someone you know going through a similar situation?
Just to note, your automatic thoughts and beliefs may sound more real than the new evolving one at first. That is normal since you may have been repeating the old one for quite a long time and it’s your go-to brain pattern of choice. The new evolving belief needs some time to feel right and not so alien. Repeat, repeat and repeat to help it become your new go-to brain pattern of choice.
Mini Monkey Mind ABC Example
A = Going to a social event. Rating 8 out of 10.
B = “I will look stupid, embarrass myself, I won’t know what to say, I will be left on my own, I don’t look good enough, they are better than me, they will all judge me, I am a loser.”
Core belief =. I am not good enough.
C = I avoid social events, I am lonely, I feel anxious, sick and I get frustrated with myself for being such a loser. I’m bad tempered and treat my family badly, I am also struggling at work. My heart races, I sweat when thinking about going out, I drink alcohol and binge food to feel better. My life is going nowhere.
D = “I don’t actually know I will look stupid or embarrass myself. I can ask questions if I am unsure of what to say. I have struggled before at social events but this is most likely to be from fighting with and believing my monkey mind due to my past. I don’t know at all how this event will go, so why bother predicting it. I could have a good time. Other people are not perfect and are too busy to be judging me.”
E = “I am good enough, I can’t be anymore or any less than I am right now. A few bad memories doesn’t define who I am. I am so much more than my monkey mind thoughts. I don’t have time anymore to focus on boring monkey mind thoughts which are holding me back and wasting my time. I deserve and can get better. I don’t need protecting. I am not that f*cking important.”