Why is it so hard to let go of what holds us back?

Recently, my colleague and I discussed this experiment.

The rumour goes that the best way to catch a monkey is to put a banana at the bottom of a jar with a narrow neck. The monkey will stick its hand in to grab the banana, but it can’t get its hand out because it won’t let go of the banana. Even when hunters come to capture the monkey and take it to the zoo, the monkey will still hold onto the banana and scream and struggle to try to free itself, but ultimately it will be caught.

The monkey will do anything except let go of the banana.

The point of this story is that often the things we want the most are the things that grab us and steal our freedom. For example, we try with all our might to let go of people who hurt us, but we can’t. We’re like the monkey, holding on tightly to something that ultimately holds us back. We need to learn to let go of these things, even if it’s difficult, in order to truly be free.

The only thing we are not afraid of is the fact that we will permanently lose our freedom if we don’t let go of it. A desperate, frightened mind only worries about what it can hold onto now, not the great things that could happen if we let go. If we could let go – who knows what could happen!? We could:

  • Escape to freedom in the jungle and not end up in the zoo
  • Find even more bananas – (after all, this banana came from somewhere right?)
  • Teach other poor monkeys who don’t let go of their bananas
  • Create a blog about the dangers of banana traps

So, how do we let go of those things, people, perspectives, and beliefs that are literally holding us back from growing?

Awareness: as soon as you see it, you can name it. Like the monsters in our childhood bedrooms, if you name them, you steal their power. Once we realize that the person we can’t let go of or the thing we can’t let go of is controlling our thoughts and actions, we can start to take back our power.

So, start by becoming aware of what is holding you back and give it a name. Then, start taking small steps to let go of it. It may be hard and it may take time, but ultimately it will lead to greater freedom and opportunities.

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