How to Remove Your Hand from the Coconut

During a recent family discussion, we were talking about how so frequently, people are responsible for their own unhappiness. We discussed that in nature, monkeys get their paws caught in coconuts and while it seems that the fruit is stuck, the reality is that the monkey won’t let go, even though he is perfectly capable of doing so. You can see the pop culture version of this metaphor from The Simpsons during this episode.

free yourself

When I think about how frequently this is the case in my own life, I wish desperately that there was an obvious solution. How few problems would we all have if we could just make a resolution to react differently to the people and events that bother us? But it’s never that simple. I haven’t been able to come up with a step-by-step guide through the process, but just a few thoughts about tactics that may help when faced with this situation.

1. De-polarize. No one makes rational decisions when frustrated, sad, angry, upset. Hold off on any “next steps” until enough time has passed to let initial heated feelings subside a bit.

2. Don’t talk about it. The temptation is to find an ally and commiserate about the offending issue. But usually it just gets things more riled up and blown out of proportion. Committing to not speaking about it for a little while allows it to settle more before finally deciding that it IS something that needs to be discussed with someone, and at that point, the discussion will likely be a bit more productive.

3. Go long. Thinking about the trajectory of the situation might help. How you hope it resolves, what you want to gain along the way, what characteristics about yourself you want to project through your reactions.

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