In 1998 I had the good fortune to attend a presentation given by psychoneuroimmunologist Joan Borysenko.
(Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the interaction and connection between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body.)
The mind and body are connected in ways you may not even imagine. When you care for one, you are also caring for the other. For example, eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting some exercise (which we consider primarily as doing the right things for our body) are all caring for our mind as well.
And when you are hurting one, you are also hurting the other. For instance, letting anxiety consume your thoughts or refusing to forgive someone harms not only your mind but also your body.
I was, and still am, a huge fan of Dr. Borysenko’s book Minding the Body, Mending the Mind. It’s remarkable that this book that I read in the early 90s can be such a useful resource in my public speaking classes.
I finished teaching an eight-session class today and closed this final lesson with a story from her book.
Using a large, pumpkin-like gourd, hunters in Southeast Asia can easily trap monkeys. Leaving the gourd intact except for a small hole, the hunter hollows it out enough to slip in a banana. The monkey comes by, smells the banana, and sticks in his hand to grab the goodie.
At this point, the monkey is trapped. He wants that banana and doesn’t have the awareness to realize that if he would just let go, he could be free to find another banana. Dr. B writes, “The monkey quite literally is a prisoner of his own mind.”
We might smile at this story and think, “Silly monkey.” But how many times throughout our lives do we hold on to something that keeps us a prisoner?
Someone may be unkind to us and we hold on to the memory of that injustice for how long? We replay the story over and over in our heads becoming more unhappy or mad or upset with each replaying.
We may have had a negative experience in public speaking, and we hold on to that experience as though it defines us as a person who is totally inept at giving a talk.
In our quest to find the perfect someone with whom to share our lives, we may be unjustifiably hurt by betrayal or lies. We hold on to that indignity, letting it color future relationships in ugly shades because we don’t want to be hurt again.
There’s a common theme here…holding on. Just like the monkey and that doggone banana.
The next time you find yourself holding on to a negative thought, idea, or feeling, I want you to remember the image of that monkey, sitting forlornly, his hand inside the gourd, and remember that he has trapped himself by refusing to let go.
And then take this advice concerning your negative thought, idea or feeling: Make it a banana and drop it.