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  • Writer's pictureLinda Buchanan

From Change Your Story - Change Your Life: My Circus - My Monkeys

I love that phrase "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

I think of it as a humorous way to remind myself when to let go of the craziness around me, like when I need to take a break from politics, or situations that I've already moved beyond. Politics, ugh! Sometimes I find myself compulsively listening to the news in my car. I find it fascinating how completely different the same story can sound from different news sources. But after a moment of fascination, I begin to feel depressed. Things just seem to be getting worse. I know that turning on music will boost my mood, but strangely sometimes, I can’t tear myself away from the circus.

But what about when it is YOUR circus and YOUR monkeys? We all have them right? No one's life is without craziness. Do you ever feel unsatisfied or even sad or mad wishing and waiting for a better life and comparing yours to others? The other day in a group therapy session that I was leading, one of the participants said that she didn't deserve good things to happen, which she had concluded because it seemed to her that others had it better. Yes, our minds can play tricks on us by associating things which are not causally related. Another member reminded her that we never really know what is going on in others' lives.

That's right, everyone has monkeys and lives in a circus.

Whenever you compare yourself to others, you are making assumptions; telling yourself that they don’t live in a circus and they have no monkeys. Yes, you assume this but we all know what ASS U ME means. Mindful awareness would involve

accepting your monkeys

in the moment and moving forward one step at time.

If you have something going on right now that you are having trouble accepting, try leaning into it. Radical Acceptance is a mindfulness (DBT) concept that refers to the necessity of accepting WHAT IS. When something isn’t the way we wish it were, it can cause us discomfort or pain. But when we don’t accept how it is, we add suffering to the pain. Accepting what is doesn’t mean that we like or approve of it or even that we wouldn’t work to change it. It does mean that we accept that, in this moment, it is what it is. You may then be able to encourage curiosity about the situation.

It can be hard to be aware or recognize when you aren't accepting reality. Catching yourself in these types of thoughts can increase you awareness of when you are causing yourself unnecessary stress.

Examples of lack of acceptance:

I can’t believe I forgot that meeting, we lost that game, I was treated that way

I wish my parents hadn’t divorced, I were taller, I didn't make that decision

I can’t stand this traffic.

Follow these kinds of thoughts with

“It is what it is,”

"I'm here now,"

"It happened, but it doesn't define me,"

“It could be worse,” or

“Well, what now?”

Then notice the shift in the level of negative emotion that you feel. This shift then releases energy to improve your moment, take responsibility for your future, learn something important, or seek change.

I am currently publishing a book titled I'm Not Good Enough: How the Stories You Tell Yourself are Ruining Your Life. By following my blog, you will be notified when it is ready for purchase. I would love to hear from you. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page (past the banner of recent posts) to leave a comment.

301 views4 comments


Linda Buchanan
Linda Buchanan
Oct 29, 2019

Thank you Donna! As one of my first supervisors, that means so much! Hope you’re doing well!


Donna Kennington Ulrici
Oct 29, 2019

Linda. I so appreciate your Emails and Website. What a gift to clinical psychologist. Your are addressing and giving information on subjects that we use everyday in practice. However, we do not often have the time or opportunity to reflect on these concepts or process how our work is impacting our clients- not to mention how our work is affecting us. Please keep up this meaningful correspondence. Your illustrations, and cartoons are great! My best to you and your family, Donna Ulrici


Linda Buchanan
Linda Buchanan
Oct 04, 2019

Absolutely! Thanks for the comment!


Oct 04, 2019

Great some time or another, it is definitely our circus full of our monkeys.

The concept of radical acceptance has been a welcomed reminder on some days and more difficulty pill to swallow on others, but once you have accepted that it really "is what it is", you are free to move differently, while you make decisions and shift through the "stuff" in a very unique way.

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