Not my circus, not my monkeys
My counselor told me once that there will always be people in my life that try to pull me, at times yank me, down into their craziness. That was nice validation since I felt that in my lifetime, I’ve dealt with more than my share of Crazy. But, of course the lesson continued, as it should, to something about me (heavens!) that needed work. We don’t go to counseling for a pat on the back.
It was up to me when the Crazies came running to say “no” (politely) and stay on my sane side of the street.
He used this phrase that he told me to repeat whenever I felt that tug from the aforementioned Crazies: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Not my circus, not my monkeys.
In other words, we don’t have to let other people drag us into their mess. We aren’t responsible for others behavior, only for our own. We have a choice to stay on our own side of sanity and not run with them into the drama, the accusations, the victim-mentality, the taking-sides, or whatever unhealthy place in which Crazy thrives.
Michael and I had a situation recently, where a Crazy Circus Train filled with monkeys stopped at our doorstep and baited us to jump on. People can be so disappointing, can’t they? We were both tempted to jump on this train, get in these
monkeys’ people’s faces with a laser on their flaws, prove our rightness, and bask in our self-righteousness.
After all, we were the offended party. We were the right ones. (Aren’t we always?)
Instead of allowing these people to drag us into their mad circus, we stayed on our side of the street and focused on our behavior, in essence keeping our side clean. We didn’t let them drag us into arguments with hateful words, nor did we send them links to articles online like “10 Reasons You Know You’ve Lost Your Mind”. We responded as we’ve learned to respond: kindly, without defending ourselves. As monkeys often do, they tried again to pull us into their circus, and because two are better than one, we were able to maintained kindness and complete calm.
But before you think I’m patting The Deans on the back, it hasn’t always been this way, at least for me. I’ve woken up many times with monkeys jumping all-around me, without knowing how I got there. My first instinct was to blame the friend, the parent, the ex-boyfriend, the boss that was allegedly responsible for my being there in the first place.
But now I know that it’s my choice, and it’s yours, to keep our boundaries. We must know when it’s ok to ‘get into it’ and when it will do more harm than good. It’s a matter of knowing who the safe people are, and even more so be able to identify the unsafe ones. It’s our choice to stay responsible for our behavior, for our words, in essence keeping our side of the street clean.
And while you are throwing up prayers and gritting your teeth in effort to not go down the path with Crazy once again, it can bring calmness to say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” . . . as many times as it takes before those monkeys to leave you alone.
Have you experienced the monkeys and the circus? How have you responded? How might you respond differently next time?
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- The Poisonous Victim Mentality
- The Road Less Traveled : On Choosing the Right Path