Today I worked with a client who asked me to work with her on identifying and eliminating her ‘bananas’.
For those of you who haven’t read my book then let me explain:
A banana is a fixation or a compulsion, which dictates inflexible, repetitive, self-defeating behavior.
The metaphor is taken from an ancient method for catching monkeys – still practiced to this day in parts of Africa and Asia. Here’s how the capture works:
The Hunter lays down a wicker basket with a banana inside it, in a grove where monkeys are known to forage. The cage is so constructed that the monkey can get at the banana but can’t pull it out because the bars of the cage are too narrow. Indeed, it cannot withdraw its hand at all unless it drops the banana. Most monkeys are smart enough to let go of the banana and go and look for better opportunities. But a minority don’t – that banana just means too much to them. They stay put, holding their booby prize until the hunter comes and throws a net over them.
Like some monkeys, a lot of human beings would rather be slaves than let go of their bananas.
Here are some examples of common bananas:
- I have to be liked
- I should be in control
- I must be successful
- I must not let people down
- I must never get angry
- I should always put other peoples’ needs first, no matter what happens to me
- I must be strong
Notice that what makes the banana obsessional is the absolute demand to always act or be that way – as conveyed by the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ contained in the injunction. There is nothing wrong with being loved, attracting success, and helping people out. The problem arises when no deviations from the rule are permitted. If that is the case then when we can’t cope, we wear ourselves out. Or, when we meet with rejection, failure, bullying or stress, then we no longer know what to do. We go on repeating the same destructive behavior like a broken record. Hoping that, sooner or later, it will work.
Some people get upset when you question their bananas. Their Conscious Mind sees that as a threat to its grasp on reality. To such people, their
obsession with the banana is an ‘obvious’ way to be. Not acting that way is deemed by them to be ‘selfish’, ‘unrealistic’, ‘immature’. etc. So holding on to bananas – even when they don’t apply – is viewed as a right way to be, while discarding them is bad, immoral or stupid. This explains their compulsive character. As does the fact that some people believe that something terrible will happen to them if they let go of their bananas.
This is why so many of us repeat the same toxic relationships over and
over again – exploited by ‘must-have’ employers, abused by ‘caring’ partners, manipulated by ‘helpless’ children, let down by ‘unlucky’ friends’, controlled by ‘wonderful’ parents. Meanwhile, Bodymind is sending us emotional signals to tell us about the way things really are and what we need to be doing about that – saying ‘no’ when we are tired, asking for help when we are overwhelmed, taking a break when we are frustrated, demanding fairness when we are angry. But if we go on ignoring our emotions, obsessing about bananas and dwelling in toxic relationships, we end up with depression, panic attacks, or what, in Reverse Therapy, we call non-specific illness.
On Monday I will return to this topic, describing how we can give away those bananas!