Collecting Monkeys
This wasn’t the post that I was originally going to do today but something happened yesterday which prompted me to write this instead.
Some Background Stuff
For years I have worked with people who lack confidence and who sometimes have low self esteem. In order to fully understand their issues and to help them I have spent a lot of time studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), how to enhance confidence and how to raise self-esteem. I, myself, use NLP every day in life to stay positive and focussed on my goals.
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Some people go through life collecting monkeys on their shoulder. Sometimes the monkey hops on first thing in the morning  and sometimes it hops on at some point during the day. Occasionally the monkey has been there for a very long time and becomes increasingly annoying and can become too heavy to bear and many people find that the best way to deal with these monkeys (in their opinion) is to get rid of them – by passing them on to other people. Very often they pass them on to people who least expect it and usually they are passed on to people who are too nice to refuse to take the monkey on.
Here are a couple of examples:
You’ve  received a letter from your bank telling you that you are over your overdraft by 50p and they are going to charge you £60 because a cheque bounced. The monkey hops on. You put the letter aside but by lunchtime you are so angry you decide to confront the bank about it. The monkey has been chattering away all morning, digging its claws in and generally becoming more and more annoying. You make the call and the phone is answered by a very pleasant lady who explains how the banking system works. The monkey is now screeching and becoming very excited. It’s poised on your shoulder; it knows it’s about to make that leap. You explode at the lady, you don’t care how the system works, you want your money back…the monkey leaps. She now has your monkey.
You’re visiting a friend and she tells you she’s been out shopping. She then proceeds to show you the new handbag, coat and boots that she bought, which cost a fortune. She’s very excited and, because you’re her friend, expects you to be excited too. You look at her. It’s not fair. She’s always been slimmer/taller/prettier/ happier/had more money/cleverer than you. It doesn’t really matter what it is. It could be any one or all of these things but because you don’t feel good about yourself you decide “It’s not fair!” Ha!! The monkey wakes up. It starts to get excited. Once again it’s poised – ready to make that leap. You go in for the kill. “Did you try the coat on in a bigger size?” or you simply make a face and say “Umm..yes…it’s…nice.” The monkey soars through the air and lands on your friend’s shoulder. She’s deeply hurt but she’s too nice to say so. As for you – you’re elated. You feel much better now that you’ve brought her down a peg or two.
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So, from that, the first thing I want to say is please be careful that you are not passing your monkeys on to other people. Be aware of your actions and don’t make people feel bad just because it makes you feel better. Imagine if you spent a whole day, or worse, a lifetime collecting other people’s monkeys. It doesn’t make for a happy existence.
Secondly, you need to learn to say NO to other people’s monkeys. It takes courage but if you start off small it does get easier. Refuse to feel bad when someone says or does something to hurt you. Remember, they are the one with the monkey – not you. It’s their monkey and they need to deal with it.
Say how you feel if someone does something to upset you.
1. They may not even be aware that they have upset you.
2. If they have been deliberately spiteful or hurtful they need to know that you know what they’re up to. If you do accept the monkey by getting upset or angry then you have proved to them that their behaviour works and has had the desired effect. They will carry on doing it to you and others as it makes them feel better about themselves.
It has taken me years to learn to refuse monkeys (unless, of course, they are small, furry and looking for a new home). I now say ‘no thank you’ to anyone who ‘offers’ me their monkey. People who insist on continually trying to off-load monkeys to me soon realise it doesn’t work and they usually slink off with their tail between their legs and their monkey still clasped firmly to their shoulder.
Apologies for this being a bit of a marathon post but I feel that it is an important topic. It takes courage to refuse monkeys. You need to be brave, you need to be strong and you need to develop a thick skin but it pays off in the end. If you feel you can’t do it then please have a look at my previous post ‘Feeling the Fear’
Here’s hoping you all manage to stay reasonably monkey free but if you have any questions or have anything further to say then please feel free to use the comment section at the end of this post.
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  1. 1

    Denise, thank you so much for this wonderful post! I love the image/symbol of the excited monkey on someone’s shoulder … It’s true that refusing the monkey can be hard, but your self-esteem grows immensely every time you succeed! Very valuable post IMO, I hope many pp will read it!!!

  2. 2

    Hi Judith, thanks for your lovely comment. You’re absolutely right – it’s hard at first but with every step, no matter how small, you’re confidence really grows.

  3. 3

    Denise this is an absolutely excellent post. I certainly don’t go around trying to offload my monkeys on people so I refuse to accept theirs. I never thought about it in this way before. It is so visual. I will definitely link to this in one of my web link posts.

  4. 4

    Thank you so much – for the lovely comments and the link. I love visualisation and use it all the time with my singers. It’s good to hear that you don’t offload your monkeys and refuse to accept those belonging to others. That’s exactly how it should be 🙂

  5. 5

    Hi Denise, thanks for your interesting post. It’s some thing I’ve been thinking about recently too. I think lots of people can give embedded commands without realising it & I’ve just started saying, “No, thank you” as politely as I can.

  6. 6

    Hi Anita, thanks for the comment. It’s so easy to take things on board and get upset by them and the person causing the ‘problem’ isn’t even aware of what they’re doing so well done to you for saying “no”. It definitely gets easier the more you do it.


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