What’s Your Reaction To These Monkeys? [What’s Your Reality?]
Richard and I just got back from our second honeymoon. We didn’t intend to take two honeymoons, but here’s what happened. My dear friend, Sylvia (who I first met when she did her Sedona Soul Adventure, and then did another one, then went on one of our group trips to Egypt and then moved to Sedona and years later became one of our amazing practitioners!), gave us the most incredible wedding present — a week at her timeshare that is in Spain on the Costa del Sol. What a fantastic present!
But the earliest we could get in was a month after the wedding, so we decided we couldn’t just go home after the wedding and do email, we needed to go somewhere right after the wedding. So we went to the Grand Caymans, which was absolutely beautiful and wonderful. But what felt like the real honeymoon was going to Spain and it was fantastic, being right on the Mediterranean (here’s us on our balcony) and seeing things like the Rock of Gibraltar, the Alhambra and spending a day in Morocco. Thank you, Sylvia!
Going to Gibraltar was so fascinating because it’s incredibly beautiful (it’s where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic come together), plus the people who live there are so interesting. Even though it’s attached to Spain, it has been a British colony since 1873, so everyone we talked with spoke with a British accent, yet they feel very much that they are a separate entity.
And then there’s the monkeys. There are wild monkeys in Gibraltar, over 300 of them and they belong to five different troops (isn’t that a great word?). They are considered the biggest tourist attraction in Gibraltar. They are protected and have a very interesting background. At times, humans tried to get rid of the monkeys to no avail. Now they are loved and protected and taken care of. Queen Elizabeth came to visit them in 1954 and they were even featured in a James Bond movie!
They show up all over the place, you never know where you are going to find one and they usually travel with a few of them together. When you visit Gibraltar, the guides tell you not to feed them and not to carry food where they will see it, as they are very good at coming up and grabbing it out of your hands.
During our time there we had a lot of fun watching the monkeys and watching people interact with the monkeys. People would get a little anxious if one of them jumped on them, but that typically only happened if someone was (illegally) feeding one monkey and another one would see it.
But I wasn’t prepared for these two young women (in their twenties), who were absolutely screaming frantically every time they saw a monkey. The two girls were in front of us in a line for the cable car that goes to the top of the Rock and three of the monkeys started walking in the large room where we were. Even though the monkeys were not even close to them and were rather small, both girls started screaming. The monkeys were not in any way doing anything to them, but the girls kept screaming. If one of the monkeys turned to the right, the girls would scream some more. Never at any time did the monkeys threaten them in any way, but the girls just kept screaming.
At first the other tourists who were around (including us) thought it was somewhat amusing because these girls were having such a huge reaction. Some of the tourists even stopped taking pictures of the monkeys and were taking pictures of the girls. But in a very short time, it became increasingly annoying. The girls wouldn’t stop screaming. People were trying to help them, they were telling them they were okay, they weren’t in any danger, but the girls kept screaming. They tried to get the girls to move out of the room, but the girls wouldn’t move. The monkeys didn’t do anything to them at any time, in fact, after a little while the monkeys didn’t like the screaming either and they left.
Luckily, they weren’t in our cable car and we didn’t see them (or hear them) again. I can’t imagine how they navigated the rest of their visit, as the monkeys are everywhere. Richard and I kept wondering why in the world they would come to such a place when everyone who comes here knows about the monkeys. And how could they be so terrified of something that wasn’t doing anything to them? The monkeys were just walking around being monkeys. They weren’t harassing anyone, they weren’t taking anyone’s food, they weren’t even connecting with the girls, the monkeys were trying to get away from the girls as they kept on screaming. The whole thing only lasted a few minutes, but it was very unnerving.
I don’t know the girls’ back story. Maybe both of them were attacked by monkeys as young children and so they have a phobia (the odds against that seem pretty high). Maybe someone told them that the monkeys would attack everyone. Maybe the girls wanted attention.
But I don’t think that’s it. They seemed to be genuinely terrified.
After being annoyed for a short time, I started wondering about what was going on. It amazed me that they were so afraid. It didn’t matter that people were helping them, the girls were refusing any offers of help. It didn’t matter that they could have walked away from the monkeys, the girls remained where the monkeys were. It didn’t matter that the monkeys weren’t doing anything to them – they still kept screaming.
And then I started thinking about everyone else’s reaction. The room was full of people and everyone had different reactions. The vast majority of the people were enjoying the monkeys, they would laugh as they struck a funny pose or looked particularly cute. Some of the people were actively trying to engage the monkeys, talking to them or giving them something to eat. Other people seemed a little skittish (especially as the two girls kept screaming), but no one else went into that level of upset.
It made me start to think about how we all react to something happening. Everyone in that room was reacting to the exact same thing, the same “stimuli” as my college professor would call it. The monkeys came in and they were being monkeys. They were walking, they were climbing, at one point they were grooming each other, they took food from people who were giving them food. They sat on the floor.
But the reactions to the monkeys were different for each person. Some people were laughing, some people were obviously having a lot of fun, a few people were a little anxious and the two girls were terrified and screaming.
Isn’t it interesting that different people can have so many different reactions to the exact same happening? I would have loved for every person in that room to have written a report of exactly what happened. The “reality” of what happened would have been different for almost everyone. Some people would have written that there were cute monkeys and the two girls would have probably written that “killer apes” had been unleashed.
And that’s the point because it wasn’t about the “reality”. It had nothing to do with the monkeys, it had to do with the person. It’s not about what’s happening on the outside [monkeys], it’s what’s happening on the inside — in this case it ran the gamut from joy, happiness and amusement to annoyance, fear, and terror.
We all pretty much have the same things happening to us — stuff going on with work, stuff going on with our relationships, stuff going on with our everyday lives. How are you reacting to all that? With joy or happiness or amusement or annoyance or fear or terror? What “reality” are you choosing?
And when something upsetting does happen, how do we deal with that? It was interesting to me that even when it was offered, the two girls refused help. They were terrified, they were screaming, people offered to help them, but they weren’t interested in getting help. They evidently just wanted to go on feeling badly.
We continued our tour and went to the top. Isn’t this view magnificent? At the top, we had a beautiful brunch and we sat next to two British couples who were talking about the two girls. They were not kind or compassionate, they just kept talking about why would these girls come to this place if they were that afraid of the monkeys?
I said to Richard, that’s another terrible part of what happens for most people when they’re experiencing problems in their lives — most other people don’t care and they wish you would just shut up about it!
Luckily, that’s not how we feel about it. After all these years of working with people, I know that our reactions are all different and they’re all the result of so many different things — our thoughts, our feelings, how we were raised, our wounds, our hurts, the “good” things that have happened to us, the “bad” things that had happened to us — there are so many factors. But the thing I know more than anything is that we can change our reactions and that also changes the reality of what happens to us.
Before I came to Sedona in 1999, I did a lot of what I call “stinkin’ thinkin’”. Even though I knew it wasn’t good for me, I simply didn’t know how to NOT do it. When I got to the root of what was causing that, everything changed. I changed my reactions, and my “reality” changed. My life changed.
How do you react? How is your “reality” showing up? Are you mostly experiencing joy, happiness and amusement or annoyance, fear, and terror?
You can change your reactions. And when you change your reactions, you can change your reality. That’s what we do, all day every day. People come here stressed out, burned out, having a particular problem in their life, or feeling lost and without purpose. They leave here, happy, content, knowing their life purpose and ready to live it. Couples come in crisis or having lost their sizzle – they leave with a deeper and firmer commitment and love for each other that they never dreamed was possible.
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Wishing you a week filled with new realities,
Debra Stangl / Founder
Sedona Soul Adventures – Transforming Lives One Soul At A Time
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