last updated by  Pam B 12 years, 5 months ago
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    Pam B

    I just heard this story-metaphor for the first time in a context regarding today’s energy sources. But it hit me at a very deep level regarding my own thought habits (a subject we’ve been discussing in the context of manifesting.) But it hit me even deeper than just my thoughts about creating my future. It made me realize about how I approach the now.

    I wanted to share it here and see if anyone else had a “me too” about this experience. I’m copying only the parts are in context of the deeper metaphor and leaving out the stuff about the coal/oil/natural resource energy discussion ;) It’s from:
    Kudos to the ArchDruid for his very thoughtful treatment and artful writing on this subject:

    (on the subject of attitudes…)

    It’s all very reminiscent of an old metaphor in cognitive psychology. Many centuries ago in southeast Asia, some clever soul figured out how to use the thinking patterns of monkeys to make a highly effective monkey trap. The trap is a gourd with a hole in one end just big enough for a monkey’s hand to fit in, and a stout rope connected to the other end, fastened to a stake in the ground. Into the gourd goes a piece of some local food prized by monkeys, large and solid enough that it can’t be shaken out of the gourd. You set the trap in a place monkeys frequent, and wait.

    Sooner or later, a monkey comes along, scents the food, and puts a hand into the gourd to grab it. The hole is too small to allow the monkey to extract hand and food together, though, and the rope and stake keeps the monkey from hauling it away, so the monkey keeps trying to get the food out in its hand. Meanwhile you come out of hiding and head toward the monkey with a net, if there’s a market for live monkeys, or with something more deadly if there isn’t. Far more often than not, instead of dropping the food and scampering toward the safety of the nearest tree, the monkey will frantically keep trying to wrestle the food out of the gourd until the net snares it or the club comes whistling down.

    The trap works because monkeys, like the rest of us, tend to become so focused on pursuing immediate goals by familiar means that they lose track of the wider context of priorities that make those goals and means meaningful in the first place. Once the monkey scents the food in the gourd, it defines the problem as how to get the food out, and tries to solve the problem in a familiar way, by maipulating food and gourd. When the hunter appears, that simply adds a note of urgency, and makes the problem appear to be how to get the food out before the hunter arrives. Phrased in either of these terms, the problem is impossible to solve. Only if the monkey remembers that food is of no value to a dead monkey, and redefines the problem as primarily a matter of getting away from the hunter, will it let go of the food, get its hand out of the trap, and run for the nearest tree.

    The monkey trap may not look like a viable theme for great literature, but exactly the same dilemma forms the main plot engine of Christopher Marlowe’s classic play Doctor Faustus. In Marlowe’s vision, Faustus is an intellectual manqué who has mastered all the scholarship of his time and dismisses it as worthless because he can’t cash it in for power. So he conjures the devil Mephistopheles, who offers him twenty-four years of power over the world of appearances, in exchange for his immortal soul. Faustus gladly makes the bargain and proceeds to run riot for the better part of nine scenes, with the ever-obsequious Mephistopheles always ready to fulfill his every wish but one. Finally, the twenty-four years are up, and at the stroke of midnight a crew of devils swoops down on Faustus and haul him off to Hell.

    All this came to Marlowe out of the folk literature that gave him the raw materials for his play. What makes Marlowe’s version of the story one of Elizabethan England’s great dramas, though, is his insight into the psychology of Faustus’ damnation. Faustus spends nearly the entire play a heartbeat away from escaping the pact that ultimately drags him to his doom. All he has to do is renounce the pact and all the powers and pleasures it brings him, and salvation is his – but this is exactly what he cannot do. He becomes so focused on his sorcerer’s powers, so used to getting what he wants by ordering Mephistopheles around, that the possibility of getting anything any other way slips out of his grasp. Even at the very end, as the devils drag him away, the last words that burst from his lips are a cry for Mephistopheles to save him.

    The logic of the monkey trap underlies the entire scenario, because the monkey and Faustus trap themselves in essentially the same way. Both have a track record of solving problems using a specific method – the monkey, by manipulating things with its hands; Faustus, by summoning Mephistopheles and having him take care of it. Both encounter a problem that looks as though it can be solved in the same way, but can’t. Both keep on trying to use their familiar set of problem-solving tools even when they clearly don’t work. Even when the real shape of the problem becomes clear and breaking out of the old way of thinking becomes a question of immediate survival, they keep on struggling to make the problem fit their choice of solutions, rather than adjusting their solution to the actual problem.

    Mephistopheles and the monkey hunter have a crucial ally here, and its name is stress. It’s one thing to step back and take stock of a situation when there seems to be plenty of time and no sign of danger. It’s quite another to do it in the presence of an imminent threat to survival. Once the true shape of the situation appears, stress reactions hardwired into the nervous systems of men and monkeys alike cut in, and make it very difficult indeed to reassess the situation and consider alternative ways of dealing with it. The final scene of Marlowe’s drama, as Faustus waits for the stroke of midnight and tries every means of escape except the one that can actually save him, expresses this dilemma with shattering intensity.

    seems like common sense, but that’s what the monkey thinks about getting the food out of the gourd, too.

    Faustus may be a better model than the monkey, too, because the predicament we face, like his, is precisely the result of what we’re best at. Faustus became so dependent on his attendant devils that he lost track of the possibility that he could do something without them.

    So this led me to so many questions about my own negative thinking patterns, my own addictions, be they addictions to negative thoughts, food, relationship patterns, spending patterns, beliefs about what I’m capable of, beliefs about what I’m deserving of and the list (and baggage) goes on and on.

    In fact, I can say that I’m so ingrained in my more harmful “beliefs” (I’m not good/pretty/thin/rich/educated enough) my hand unwilling to let go of them, that I have mistaken them for fact. It’s a circular prison, because I feel that if I let go of my beliefs I will let go of “fact” and if I can’t perceive “fact” then I will totally lose it, and end up in the loony bin, homeless or dead.

    I have to remember that I can let go of the banana or perhaps like the monkey, end up being studied by men in white coats, or possibly end up as some else’s dinner. If I don’t dismiss Mephistopheles and handle my own problems in a head on way, instead of blaming others for standing in my way, or blaming “the way it just is” then all I am doing is surviving, when clearly the Divine intended for us to grow, create, prosper and assist the human race and Universe in expansion and positive evolution.

    Wow, what an image for me to remember, to simply let go of the banana. :banana:



    I think we can all relate to this in one way or another. Thanks for posting.

    Blessings to all,

    No. VA


    Wow, does this resonate!!! Now to learn from it and changing my way of thinking. As Abraham says, that is my work. Thanks, Pam.



    Wow, Pam that is a fantastic analogy. I, too can relate to that. I imagine that most of us can in one way or another. I think that I will add it to my daily mantra on my mirror. “let go of the banana”
    Thanks Pam.


    Wow very interesting stories. I don’t know which is worse to be oblivious to the fact you should let go or “know” but somehow you can’t let it go. Its something you would really have to work at each and everyday…so YES I can totally relate to this.

    Thanks Pam you got me thinking…. again:love:


    Pam B

    I read the whole thing again today and this is what stuck out at me:

    they keep on struggling to make the problem fit their choice of solutions, rather than adjusting their solution to the actual problem.

    Then I remember this which mirrors that idea:

    “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing, the same way, over and over again, but expecting a different result each time.”

    I need to change the way I do things, the way I think!

    “I” am not my thoughts! I am the I AM!

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