I have a monkey in my mind, and so do you. I know you do, because we all do.
I had similar conversations multiple times with clients last week, and it stems around the classic case of "should-ing all over yourself."
One client quit her job about a year ago and broke down her "picture perfect" corporate life in order to pursue the message she feels she must share with other women. She didn't quit willy nilly or on a whim: a doctor actually told her to quit. For her health. She wasn't sleeping. She had no energy. She was actually killing herself. Now, in hindsight, not exactly where she thought she would end up (but still in a truly beautiful place) she found herself should-ing all over herself: "I should have made it work. I shouldn't be struggling now."
Another client showed up to our session and pulled her list of goals and recommendations from her previous session out of her purse and used the paper as a tool to beat herself up. She had been should-ing all over herself all day because she hadn't completed any of the things she really wanted to do for herself. "Why am I NOT doing the things I really want to do for myself? Why do I resist? Why am I so stubborn?"
The third found herself struggling with eating breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Every meal felt like an internal battle. A struggle between what she should do and what she wanted to do for herself. Between the habits she's been living in and the changes she's craves, she feels torn. "I really want to feel joyful release!"
So what gives with these three intelligent, self nurturing, and otherwise perfectly "normal" women. Why did they feel so ABNORMAL in their capacity to act and do and think in the way they so desperately want to act and do and think?
Actually, all of these women—and you—are extremely normal.
This is where I'd like to introduce you to the monkey that lives in my mind.
This monkey wears a three piece, navy, pin stripe suit and a bowler hat. He is like an actuary, typing away at his computer (actually, my monkey has a typewriter because he's not even sure he likes or trusts computers), adjusting for all possible variables in my life. His utmost concern is to maintain the current state of existence I am in. It's safe here. The patterns we've constructed for survival are working. Why would we change a darn thing? No, thank you, I would not like to take this AMAZING opportunity you're offering me because... I might fail. And that would be unacceptable. Also, no, I would not like to try a new pattern for my day to day living, even if it means I could possibly feel stronger and more energetic. I'm still breathing, and that's the goal!
But we all want to THRIVE and not just SURVIVE, right!?
So, I hear you monkey, but I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree.
The concept of "Monkey Mind" I'm referring to here stems from Buddhism, which the Buddha named much more beautifully: “Kapicitta.” ‘Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night.’
This monkey mind is the self criticizing aspect of our mind that swings us from doubt, to worry, and back to doubt. It is the LOUDEST when we threaten it by changing the status quo, even if it's what we want the very most. It doesn't like change and it doesn't take risks, and it doesn't go away. But YOUR mind can grow stronger than Monkey Mind (which is actually what each of these women is in the process of doing).
Rather than trying to change the thoughts that come up as they come up (using energy that could be better spent on things that perpetuate your dreams), note that the "should-ing all over yourself", "resistance to change", or voice of doubt, fear, or concern is really a Monkey Mind thought. Instead of trying to push it down or feel bummed out that you're experiencing these seemingly counter intuitive thoughts, tell it: "oh, okay. I hear you, Mr. Monkey in a three piece suit. Thank you for trying to protect me and save me, but I actually have this under control!"
Thank it. Move on. Your brain, the new one that you're working so hard to cultivate, it will go stronger.
That's what the work I do with my clients is for. To strengthen their own voices of inner knowing to crowd out the voices of shame, guilt, confusion, and "shoulds" in favor of what each really wants for herself.
Trust that the tiny steps you take each day, the micro-adjustments and minor daily shifts, will eventually translate into what you want for yourself. It may not happen ALL at once. More than that, it's an energetic game. Don't let one setback or one moment of "weakness" dishearten you. This living is all an experiment.
Rather than struggling to get away from feeling desperate or uncomfortable or in doubt, notice the thoughts. Greet them like a friend. Invite them in. But tell them they aren't in charge.