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. Lately, I’ve found myself needing to take a break from politics. I find it fascinating how the same story can sound so different depending on the news source. After a moment of fascination however,  I begin to feel depressed. Things just seem to be getting worse. I know that turning on music will boost my mood, but strangely, it can be hard to 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 an eating disorder treatment session that I was leading, one of the participants said that she didn’t believe she had a good life. She came to this conclusion because she believed that other people had it better.  Another member of the group 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. 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 Dialectical Behavior Therapy (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. It doesn’t even mean that we wouldn’t work to change it. What it does mean, is that in this moment, we accept that it is what it is. Then, you may even 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 your 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 decisio
  • I can’t stand this traffic.

You can follow these types of unhelpful thoughts with:

  • “It is what it is,”
  • “I’m here now,”
  • “It happened, but it doesn’t define me,”
  • “Well, what now?”

Once you try accepting the thoughts, beliefs or circumstances, notice the shift you feel. Likely, you will recognize a lower level of negative emotion. This shift in energy can help you to improve your moment, take responsibility for your future, learn something important or seek change. So, I urge you to try this out and see the shifts you can see in your day-to-day life! Happy accepting y’all!

For more information on this topic, please check out these blogs:

  1. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – Best Practices for Eating Disorder Treatment
  2. How Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is Changing the Lives of Those with Eating Disorders
  3. What We’re Reading: A Book Review by Dr. Linda Buchanan

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Linda is a pioneer in the eating disorder field and she is credited with training a large percentage of the eating disorder therapists in the Atlanta area. She was the founder of Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders (ACE) that is now part of Walden.  She received her Master’s degree from the Psychological Studies Institute (now known as Richmont University) in Christian Counseling and received the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus Award for her work in founding ACE. Dr. Buchanan then went on to receive her Ph.D. from Georgia State University completing a residency at the Medical College of Georgia.

Linda is a published author. Her book “A Clinician’s Guide to Pathological Ambivalence; How to be on Your Client’s Side Without Taking a Side,” provides helpful techniques in working with a population that is ambivalent about recovery. When she’s not busy profoundly impacting her clients or mentoring other clinicians, Linda enjoys traveling, backpacking and writing.