Lots of us have, and regularly use, some version of the Serenity Prayer. This is mine, short and sweet:
Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys.
It’s an old Polish proverb that reminds me to let go of the things in my life (or that are beginning to spill-over into my life) which are frustrating, beyond my control, and infringements on my inner-peace.
My sisters and I have an inside joke, a variant of the saying that states: Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys… My Monkeys Have Wings!
I’d often laugh when I heard my sister Terry snarl, “Don’t make me unleash the flying monkeys!” This proverb usually closes out most sisterly discussions, as it is the most common advice we give each other. Isn’t it funny how a movie–The Wizard of Oz–can have such a lasting impact on our psyche? I enjoy that it’s part of the love language my sisters and I share.
Looking online to buy the “Not My Circus, Not My Monkey” poster for my kitchen I found an article from Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg in Psychology Today, supporting the wisdom of this proverb. She’d never heard it until her daughter defiantly said it to her! It succinctly reflects the main problem we often fail to acknowledge: A ringmaster only has control over his own big-top.
The article, although geared toward depression, mentions daily challenges we may face: our inability to improve things in our relationship, our job frustration, our children’s/family’s choices. I’d add, our frustration with ourselves, too.
When we get right down to it, almost everything and everyone else is beyond our control. All we can control is ourselves, and how well do we manage that most of the time?
In her article, Dr. Wehrenberg said to ask yourself these four questions:
- Am I, and only I, responsible for this situation? If so, it’s time for action.
- Taking action means asking yourself, “What’s going wrong here?” This leads to new thoughts and a way out of the spiral.
- Find possible ways to correct what’s wrong… and this may mean asking for other’s help and input.
- Consider “What’s going right.” I often become obsessed with the negative side of a situation. Sometimes everyone else is okay, and I’m the only one upset and anxious. My not liking something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a problem, and a change in my attitude can be just the solution.
I often get stuck going around and around, and that additional stress is the last thing I need. When I finally remember that I’m not in charge of other people’s circuses, it’s enough to free me.
The next time you find yourself going around in circles, remind yourself that it’s not your circus, and they’re not your monkeys. Or just for laughs, go ahead and unleash your winged monkeys… then sit back and enjoy the show!