This episode, ‘The Hyper Monkey Mind” goes with Chapter 1, Section 1 of Anxiety…I’m So Done with You!
This episode is the companion to Chapter 1, Section 1: The Hyper Monkey Mind. In it, you’ll learn:
- The huge capacity of the human mind
- What the Monkey Mind is
- Why the Monkey Mind intensifies, magnifies, and worsens your problems
- How to change your negative thinking
- How to stop overthinking by changing your neural pathways
- Why laughter is the best medicine
If your Monkey Mind is wreaking havoc on your life, this episode is for you!
Hey, you’re here with Dr. Jodi, and this is “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!”
I am so excited about this podcast. It accompanies my book by the same name, “Anxiety… I’m So Done With You!” It’s a teen’s guide to ditching toxic stress and hardwiring your brain for happiness, because that is what we’re going to do in the series: We’re ditching that freaking toxic stress and hardwiring your brain to generate happiness every day.
This is what you do: You read or listen to a section of the book. Then come on over here and listen to an episode where we’re going to go a little bit deeper, give more examples, and tell more stories. I want to provide you with everything you need to be sure that you find your way out of this horrible anxiety cycle so that you no longer have to suffer. Please leave me a five-star review on Apple podcasts. That’ll help me get in the ears of more people who need this series. Mental health problems are skyrocketing, especially among teenagers, and this series will change the tide.
Welcome to Chapter 1, Section 1: The Hyper Monkey Mind
Grab your notebook and pen because I’m about to download some details about that hyper monkey that is wreaking havoc on your life. In this episode, we’re going to cover the huge capacity of the human mind. I’m going to tell you what a Monkey Mind is. I’ll explain how and why the Monkey Mind intensifies, magnifies, and worsens your problems. We’ll go over how to change your negative thinking and how to stop overthinking everything. I’ve also made some YouTube videos on this section so you could head on over to my YouTube channel @drjodi and check those out, too. I go live every Monday at 11am Eastern New York City time. So, if you have questions for me that is the place to be. Of course, each podcast episode has a blog post where you can leave a comment. As well, you could comment on any one of my social media posts. The link to all of them are in the show notes.
Understand it Biologically, Culturally, Emotionally, Contextually
We’re getting started on Chapter 1 here. Chapter 1 correlates with Step 1: Understand it Biologically. And I’m not going to just do that. In this chapter, I’m going to help you understand it culturally, emotionally, contextually – in addition to biologically. The title of this chapter is It’s Not Me, It’s You. Because when we have problems we are so focused on what we’re doing wrong that’s caused those problems. And this focus on deconstructing yourself – that means tearing yourself down – keeps you from deconstructing anxiety. You focusing on yourself is exactly what the anxiety wants to happen because that’s how it gets power over you. If you don’t understand anxiety or depression, it stays in power.
You’ll notice that I’m personifying anxiety because that is how I think about it. It’s not you––not even a part of you. It’s something that affects you. When you think about it this way it’s going to help you get rid of it. You can’t get rid of something that’s you, right? Well, anxiety is not you and you can get rid of it. The goal of this chapter is to demystify anxiety for you because that disempowers it. Giving the power over yourself and your emotions back to you. That’s how I’m different from other people helping you out with anxiety. You may have learned skills to calm yourself down or reframe a situation but my steps help you take down anxiety’s power so those skills work.
The human mind has a huge capacity for thinking.
The first thing I want you to know is that the human mind has a huge capacity for thinking. It could think of twelve thousand to sixty thousand thoughts a day. And in modern times we really don’t have that many important things to think about. We don’t have to find food or build a house or protect ourselves like our first ancestors did. Our brains evolved for millions of years before we had construction companies and grocery stores. Right now in our life, we have less things to talk about and so there’s a huge gap. We have this huge capacity and not much to think about. The human mind tries to fill that gap by making things up. And the bigger problem is that 80 percent of the made-up thoughts are negative. The good thing is this means that you are not crazy. Your experience of negative thinking is part of being human in this modern world.
Let’s Talk About The Monkey Mind
So let’s talk about the Monkey Mind. The metaphor of the Monkey Mind is attributed to the Buddha. The Buddha used it to describe mind chatter. Just like a monkey swings grabbing one branch to another our mind swings like we’re grabbing one thought going from one negative thought to another negative thought – increasing our emotional chaos. And the hyper energy of the monkey lends to the metaphor. It gives you the sense of that urgency to grab one and another and another. It’s important to note that the Monkey Mind in this metaphor is not your feelings of sad or angry or scared. But it’s the thoughts and stories that are us trying to make meanings around the sad and the scared and the angry. And it’s the thoughts and stories that are us trying to make meanings around the thoughts about being sad and scared and angry.
It looks like this: you have a feeling – let’s pretend it’s sad. Right away, you think:
“Why do I feel this bad? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? How long am I going to feel like this? How come I always feel bad? I’m totally overreacting here.”
Globs of self-judgment
Another metaphor often used is the rabbit hole. The rabbit hole means you get lost in this underground maze going from one spinning negative story to another spinning negative story. The Monkey Mind intensifies your problems. The way I explain the Monkey Mind it comes with a visual. If you are listening to the audiobook you know that you could come on over to the Book Resource page and download that visual on PDF called Globs of Self-Judgment.
So take a look at this. Or, let me paint a picture in your mind. So, imagine heartbroken as a circle that represents so many units of emotional pain. You don’t just have the feeling of heartbroken because right away your mind says:
“Why does everyone leave me? How did I mess this up? Am I overreacting? I’m not good enough for someone to stay with me.”
Those are the negative self-judgments that come right away when you have a negative feeling. Because we’re uncomfortable and we think:
“Oh no, this is not okay!”
Our Monkey Mind is trying to protect us
so it’s trying to figure out what went wrong. Right away, after those negative self-judgments – which are also represented as circles of emotional units of pain – but they’re bigger than the heartbroken and there’s more of them. Right after that, you get worries.
“I don’t think I can handle this. I think I’m going to lose my mind. Oh no, oh no how long will this last? How am I gonna do this?”
These are bigger circles of emotional pain and they come and circle the negative self-judgments which have circled the heartbroken. Right away, we get more negative self-judgments on top of those worries.
“I can’t believe I can’t do this. I’m so weak to have this bother me this much. Other people would be over this by now. This is all my fault.”
“What if it happens?!”
You can imagine how small comparatively is that heartbroken circle compared to all of these circles which are bigger and greater number. From this illustration you could see how our problems intensify and magnify and worsen because of these negative self-judgments and worries – not because of the original feeling. You might be wondering why this happens. Again, our mind evolved for millions of years to problem solve, to adapt, to survive. Your mind wants to make sure it doesn’t miss anything that it needs to do to protect you. But there’s less things for it to do so it’s looking for things to do. Things to worry about, things to judge, and things to assess. And even when it makes them up it makes them sound really real. It’s like when the anxiety says:
“But what if? It’s possible, right? It’s possible. What if it happens?!”
The problem is that the hyper Monkey Mind gives you the sense that you are constantly vulnerable – keeping you distracted in the figuring out what’s wrong. And in doing so, it makes you think that you need it. This monkey is a major obstacle to your recovery. Right now, you may be worrying that if this is normal then do I have to just live like this? Yes, this is a human reaction to living in this modern world. But it’s operating below your understanding. Now that I’m telling you, you understand it. You could change it. Because mastering the mind is learnable.
Judging negative feelings
Let me illustrate the Monkey Mind with a couple more stories. I once knew a 15-year-old who was dumped by her boyfriend and she was understandably sad and confused and hurt. And she kept saying that she was not handling this well because she was upset. Being upset is not wrong in this context. But her anxiety told her that she couldn’t do it. She assumed that handling it meant that she wouldn’t feel bad. So she concluded that she must be wrong for feeling bad. One time, my sister and I were talking to my mom and she was telling us a story of a friend who passed away. And it was a really tragic story and she was telling us all about what happened and the interaction she had during that time and then she said:
“I just can’t get over it. I
just… I really can’t get past it.”
And I was like:
“Mom! It was a week ago.”
We really have very little tolerance for our negative feelings because we think that they’re wrong. Then, we start to judge them. And what happens when we start to judge them is we get the Monkey involved. And we attach to them. They intensify, magnify, and worsen.
The best way to stop overthinking
Let’s talk about the best way to stop overthinking. You need to give your mind something to do – to stimulate that prefrontal cortex. You need to give it an interest or inspiration or some kind of spark. The prefrontal cortex is the adapting mind. The more you engage it, the more you can use it to override the emotional brain. This means you’ll have less anxiety and depression and anger to deal with. To engage the prefrontal cortex, you have to do something creative or problem-solving or organizing or planning. And as a bonus, these things connect you with your skills and abilities. But in addition to these kinds of actions, you could also engage the mind in a story—fiction rocks. Humans are storytellers. It’s the way our minds work. It’s how we remember things. And when you hear a story, you often get immersed in it. It can provoke new perspectives. You can learn skills or be inspired by the characters. I often recommend reading or listening to novels to clients with a particularly intense anxiety episodes. It gives your mind something to do and a break from negative thinking. I’d even recommend a Netflix binge.
There’s a difference between purposefully getting lost in a story and hiding to avoid things. If you are giving your mind something to do to stimulate it that is a good thing. It’s all about intention. You want to light a fire under yourself. You want to give yourself some brain activity to get you moving, engaged, and interested. You’ll have less time and less inclination to be sad or anxious or angry. Your mind won’t act like it has to protect you. It will know that you are thriving.
Compassion and understanding
The second way to stop overthinking is to have compassion and understanding for yourself. When you are feeling bad and then judge it then worry about it – those negative self-judgments and worry make you attach to that emotion more fully.
Check out these two examples:
“Wow, that hurt. I totally get it. I totally understand why I feel that way.”
And then this one:
“Wow, that hurt. Oh, why does it hurt me? Why am I so sensitive all the time? Why am I… why am I such a jerk? And… and people always never like me… and I wish I didn’t do that… and I messed up.”
You could see the difference, right? When you start to judge and worry you are giving the power to the Monkey.
Changing Your Neural Pathways
Before we end this episode, let’s talk about the best way to change your neural pathways. Neural pathways are pathways that your brain has created of something that it often does. To be more efficient it creates a groove to get there faster. If you have a habit of being negative or having anxiety your brain will get there faster. This doesn’t mean it has to stay that way because you could change the pathway. However, because there’s a groove it’s a little bit harder. It takes a little bit more effort and a lot of repetition.
So I’m going to give you four reasons why laughter is the best way to change your neural pathways. And the first reason is because it increases your neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that your brain has ability to change. And laughter really increases that ability to change – which means the effort will be less and the repetitions will be less.
The second reason why laughter helps you change beliefs and change your neural pathways is because it gives you a positive affect. Affect means mood. When you’re laughing you’re having a positive experience. And that positive experience is going to lend itself to changing your neural pathways for the better.
The third way is that laughter is an energy release. It’s cathartic. You’re relieving yourself of a lot of tension that has been building up. And that really helps you have more bandwidth to change your neural pathways.
And the fourth way is that laughter brings a creative spark which connects you to your prefrontal cortex. Usually, you’re laughing at something clever or something creative like a play on words or a pun. Or there is some connection or reference to an inside joke. That lights up the prefrontal cortex. And, in general, we really have to lighten up. Because our problems – our anxiety, our depression – are various serious dudes. And that seriousness really calls our attention. It’s like you got to pay attention to me. And giving attention to the anxiety is exactly what anxiety wants you to do.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode where you learned about the Monkey Mind. How it intensifies your problems. How to stop thinking. And why laughter is the best medicine. Again, leave me a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Like, share, and subscribe. And get all the resources that I spoke about in this podcast in the show notes.
Stick with me. Coming up next is Chapter 1, Section 2. This is going to shock you but it will be okay and you will be okay. I’ll meet you in the next episode.