Ask yourself, “What do I control?” Quite often I cannot control my thoughts. Those monkeys pop up constantly. Usually my thoughts are funny, interesting, or dripping with emotions.
Try meditating. Going 10 minutes while contemplating nothing is a learned skill. Not one I have mastered. I listen to music or audiobooks, and watch TV because during those times my mind is occupied. The monkeys contentedly lie in the branches and stop chattering. That might be why we mindlessly watch TV.
I enjoy my monkeys. I devote time throughout the day to observe my monkeys. I want to know what makes them happy, sad, confused, excited. I want to know as much about my monkeys as possible. Those are my thoughts that produce emotions. I’m curious about my monkeys’ behaviour. The more I know, the better I am at taming my monkeys. There are a lot of monkeys. They are usually fairly boring. They fight with each other, fling pooh, groom, and leap around. Sometimes, one will rush forward and catch me off guard. They are surprising and they are mine.
Change freaks my monkeys out. Fear of rejection motivates much of their behaviour. Wild monkeys are scared monkeys. Calm monkeys are much nicer. The biting is a problem I’m working on. They bite me and other people less now than in the past. That requires attention. Soothing, playing, learning new things, and having novel experiences really helps keep my monkeys happy. If I ignore them too long they throw poop at me. I never know how long is too long. Mind you, if I spend too much time with them all I think about is monkeys, and I get nothing done.
Blazing Angry Monkeys
My monkeys woke up the other morning blazing angry. This is highly unusual. Their laughter normally wakes me up. I watched them to figure out what the heck was going on. Turns out I was listening to a Young Adult book, Shouting at the Rain, in which the two main characters are abandonned by their moms. One, because her mother’s addiction prompted her grandparents to leave the girl with them. The other was dropped off at his father’s, who he didn’t know well, because the mother thought she was no longer capable of raising a young male. Abandonment is a tricky subject for the monkeys. In the book there is a line to the effect, “There is nothing wrong with us, there is something wrong with them”, the abandoning mothers.
While I slept, my monkeys pondered this statement. As they turned it over, pulled each word apart, they got sadder and angrier. By morning, their teeth were bared and chests were beaten as they screeched in anger. They were unconsolably angry.
How the Past Affects Monkeys
My mother attended residential school. Her parents attended day school. We are non-Indigenous. Prairie francophones sent their children to those institutions at the urging of the Catholic Church. It was preached that mothers and families are unnecessary. That theme runs throughout my relationship with that side of the family.
My father’s family were broke, Anglophones in Toronto. I don’t know them either. Alberta, where I lived and live, is a long way from Toronto. My family, the people I trust and who raised me, are people who chose to step in when my mother left with my sister.
I was 7 years old when she left. After my son died by suicide, my mother and sister walked out of my life again. Death either brings families together or blows them apart.
As a child, I constantly was told that I was okay and that my mother was flawed. Those words do not penetrate a child’s soul. I live with that attachment wound. Once I realized what was going on, I could calm my monkeys. I groomed them. Monkeys love being groomed. I promised that anyone who takes pleasure in our pain will be ejected. Thrown out never to return. My attachment wound caused me to confuse love for pain. Real love, the type we get from our family of choice and my spouse, the relationship is primary. We each sacrifice interests that separate us, and work towards solutions.
It took a day or two, but the monkeys calmed down. Pretty soon the monkeys were back in the trees, chattering contentedly. Life returned to my version of normal. Normal is personal. My normal and yours are different. The baseline that keeps us between the lines of too excited and too lethargic has a wide range. I call the range contentment. That’s what I shoot for everyday. Knowing how to get back in the range is a skill. A skill that anyone can learn.
Here's my contentment chart.
I'm too up when I think I'm the best thing since sliced bread, above reproach, or too cool for school.
I'm content when I can feel my emotions as separate from my identity. Emotions are momentary. When content I can love, laugh (usually at my silly life), get embarrassed, be annoyed, reflective, and sad.
I'm too down when I'm overwhelmed with pain, cry at the drop of a hat, and am consumed with anger.
Try building your own contentment chart.