How to Control Your Monkey Mind and Not Get Hijacked Again

Siim Land 1 comment

I have to warn you, the following video will reveal to you some of the natural dangers of our mind and teach you how to not be negatively influenced by them. In particular, it’s about how to control your monkey mind.

The Zoo Inside Your Head

I’m going to tell you a secret – inside your head, there are many entities and personality types which you use in different situations. Let me explain.

The human brain, according to the Triune brain model, is divided into 3 main regions.

  • The brain stem is the most primitive part that governs motor skills and our survival instinct. It’s the crocodile brain.
  • Then, we have the limbic system – the center of our emotions and sociality – that’s where the monkey mind sits. The reason it’s called the monkey mind is that we developed this region after we started living in social groups when we were just monkeys throwing shit at each other.
  • Finally, on top of it all, the prefrontal cortex is the human brain that is the seat of rationality, abstract thinking and higher executive functioning.
Triune Brain Monkey Mind
Triune Brain Monkey Mind

Each region is the result of evolution and the purpose of the monkey mind is to control our most basic emotions, such as fear, anxiety and direct our behavior towards the more emotionally appealing option.

Monkey Mind in Buddhism

In Buddhism, the term ‘monkey mind’ refers to “anxious, restless, confused, distracted, indecisive and uncontrollable” mental behavior.

You’ve probably been in a situation where you’re trying to concentrate on something and…then you get distracted, find yourself browsing through Reddit or Facebook. Your monkey mind is creating these distractions whether through anxious thoughts, procrastination or by seeking social validation.

The reason being, your inner chimp simply gets bored and wants immediate gratification. Getting social approval and creating social hierarchies is another one of its function. It wants to have something pleasurable right now or otherwise, it’s going to flip out and go crazy.

The monkey mind is literally like a chimpanzee playing drums inside your head. It will distract you from rationality and brings in random nonsense that will impede our actions towards our purpose.

However, it doesn’t mean that it can prevent us from TAKING ACTION. The only person who can STOP you from taking action is yourself, not your monkey mind, or crocodile brain or other circumstances.

Can You Control Your Monkey Mind?

In the limbic system, the amygdala is the center of our emotions that creates this circus, to begin with. Whenever we receive a stimulus, the amygdala sends out a corresponding signal to the rest of the brain.

If we’re in an uncomfortable situation, while public speaking or stuck in traffic, we experience fear and anxiety because we perceive it to be dangerous. Anger is just another response – a reaction to outside events – meaning that it’s your monkey mind that’s taking the offense, not your conscious self.

The prefrontal cortex is the seat of higher executive functioning and it can override these messages. Studies have shown that the prefrontal cortex plays a crucial role in controlling impulsive behavior[i][ii]. Whenever the amygdala sends out a signal of: “#CODE_REDGET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE!” your neocortex can go: “Chill the f#ck out, you’re awesome, I’m awesome, we got this.”

Why Your Monkey Mind Controls You

To Control your monkey mind, you need the help of your human brain. The reason why your rationality gets hijacked is that you lack control in the first place because of the neocortical regions of the brain aren’t strong enough. Simply put, you need to have more willpower.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure its neural connections. Whenever you execute a certain behavior or learn something new, you’re literally changing the structure of your brain and creating new patterns of thinking and behaving. The more often you do something, the more automatic it becomes. Which means, if you get scared or distracted easily, then you’re strengthening these bonds and creating a vicious circle of repeating that same behavior in the future.

Neurons that fire together, wire together. (Click to Tweet)

That’s the basis of addiction as well. In one 1954 study, Olds and Milner found that if you implant metal electrodes onto the nucleus accumbens (Nac) – the pleasure center – of rats, they would repeatedly press a lever that would activate this region[iii]. They kept on doing it and forgot about eating and drinking. Eventually, they died of exhaustion. That’s just crazy because it means you can keep repeating your bad habits and afflictive thoughts up to the point of death.

It also means that, in order to change that, you have to first rip out the old neural patterns and then rebuild new ones through sheer positive repetition. Eventually, you’ll start repeating the good activities out of habit. Simply put, you need to have more willpower.

How to Control Your Monkey Mind

But the problem of the monkey mind still remains to be an issue. How do you stop yourself from getting hijacked in the first place?

The key is in developing more meta-awareness and self-mastery. You have to rise above both your monkey mind and reptilian brain.

Realize that you are not your mind, especially your monkey mind. You have a mind. It’s another tool in your head but it’s not a part of who you really are.

The innate nature of our mind is stillness. We experience thoughts and emotions because of the law of cause and effect and grasping onto external stimuli.

  • The Facebook notification is the cause and you getting distracted is the effect.
  • Your limiting beliefs are the cause and your feeling of anxiety is the effect.
  • Lack of self-control is the cause and following bad habits is the effect.
  • Lacking confidence is the cause and projecting anger onto others is the effect.

Self-mastery and governance are the foundational building blocks to higher levels of consciousness and meta-awareness.

Taming the Monkey Mind

Here are several ways you can develop more meta-awareness so that you would habitually learn to disassociate yourself from your monkey mind and learn how to increase your higher prefrontal behavior.

  • Practice meditation. Probably the most important one. You’re regulating your own autonomic nervous system and experiencing the stillness of your mind. This will reveal to you that your thoughts and emotions actually DON’T have a reasonable basis.
  • Start journaling. Another one of those meta-practices. As you’re writing about your experiences you can project them outside of yourself. This way you can look at them more objectively and can evaluate your behavior.
  • Breathe, motherf#%ker! Before you start screaming at someone, take a step back and create this empty space between you and the situation. Breathe in deeply, think about it for a moment and then decide the right course of action. Be proactive, not reactive.
  • Change your habits. Restructure your afflictive neural pathways. You are not your habits either. You do certain things just because you’ve programmed your brain to do it. The real you doesn’t like to binge eat, get addicted to drugs or lack motivation. What you need to do is stop doing the thing that’s controlling you right now. You’re simply stuck inside the habit loop. The key is to distance yourself from the stimulus for a while – to fast and abstain from it. After this, you can liberate yourself from the addiction and will live a much more fulfilling life.

 

Be In Control or Be Controlled

Lastly, you have to focus on the things that you can control. You can’t control your monkey mind kicking into overdrive whenever it gets a Facebook message, but what you can do is turn off your phone when you’re trying to concentrate.

Become the master – the apex predator – of your environment. Be very careful with what stimulus you expose yourself to – the people you spend time with, the books you read, the media you consume, the thoughts you allow to enter your headspace and the vision you choose to have.

Did you know that the average person watches 5 hours of TV a day? 5 freaking hours of complete random nonsense. They’re literally allowing themselves to be mind-controlled by the media. You have to decide whether you’re going to BE IN CONTROL or BE CONTROLLED. If you’re still watching TV then I don’t know what to say.

Anyway, thanks for reading and hopefully you had enough willpower to make it this far. If you did then make sure to join the Body Mind Agoge because I’m going to be bringing you nothing but QUALITY information that will make you more empowered not weakened. Watch the video on my YouTube channel as well.

I’m Siim

Control Thy Monkey Mind, Stay Empowered!

 

References

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730661/

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991430/

[iii] http://wadsworth.cengage.com/ps ychology_d/templates/student_resources/0155060678_rathus/ps/ps02.html

  • Ahh, the monkey mind! Who isn’t struggling with this?! Do you mind sharing which of the tactics has been the most effective for you?

    For me, it would definitely be mindfulness meditation as well as reading Eckhart Tolle’s and Osho’s books.