The Monkey



It’s Narcissist Friday!

I have tried to teach my sons about the monkey. Expectations and criticisms are like a monkey that climbs onto our backs. That monkey sits on us as a burden. When we begin to get used to it, it moves or does something to remind us that it’s there. It creates anxiety, anger, and a sense of inferiority. We may even be embarrassed by it. But it sits there.

The higher a person climbs in any hierarchy, the more the monkey is present. Sometimes it is heavy. Usually, it is uncomfortable. So, the question becomes how to deal with the monkey.

Let me give an example. The General Manager is held to a certain level of store performance. Recently the store has not been keeping up. The GM has a monkey on her back. How does she explain to her bosses? What can she do to make the store do better? She knows that she will have to account for the low numbers. The monkey is heavy, and the GM is worried.

So, that’s what the Assistant Manager is for. He will either fix the store or be the excuse. The monkey is removed from the GM and is put on the AM’s back. When the big bosses ask for an accounting, the GM will point to him. That’s where the monkey is, she will think.

The AM, of course, will try to put the monkey on the backs of the supervisors or the other store employees. Someone else will have to carry it. Otherwise, the attention will all be on him. Others will see the monkey and he will look bad. Better to let others look bad.

The monkey isn’t always about blame or criticism. Sometimes it is expectations. When the GM says to the AM, “Well, you will have to have our numbers up by the end of the month,” she is passing a monkey of responsibility, perhaps even work hours. He knows he will have to do a lot of extra time and work to make that expectation happen, but the monkey is off the GM. When the AM begins to berate the employees or refuse time-off requests or push extra hard for performance, he may simply be trying to get the monkey off his back.

It is often helpful to think of the commands/requests of authority in this way. Odd or burdensome requests may be simply the desire of leaders to pass on the monkey to others. We used to say, “When Mom is cold, we have to put our coats on.”

Narcissistic systems breed monkeys. The monkey is useful. Burdened employees, church members, or family can be pushed to perform by creating monkeys. The narcissist won’t care how heavy or unreasonable the monkey is. Nor will the narcissist have compassion for those who have to carry the monkey. The big bosses create monkeys, the GMs pass them on to the AMs, or perhaps create more monkeys to take the place of the one. Mom looks at the house and sees the mess of normal activity, but she feels the monkey of having it look nice in case company drops in. Suddenly, everyone has to clean. Kids are scolded, Dad is criticized, and no one quite knows where the pressure is coming from. When the monkeys have been moved from Mom to the rest of the family, the pressure is off and things are okay again.

The process of setting and enforcing expectations is not evil. That’s almost always the purpose of an authority structure or hierarchical organization. But a good GM, not a narcissist, would face the monkey and take steps to deal with it, rather than pass it on to others. A good mom would ask the family to do their chores or help with the cleaning. It doesn’t seem like that much of a difference unless you are on the receiving end of the monkey.

So, when the narcissist in your life is demanding and places unreasonable expectations on you, think about the monkey. He/she is probably trying to get it to move to you. The narcissist won’t like it if you try to avoid the monkey or manage to slip away from it somehow. At the same time, you don’t want one of those things on your back, do you?


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 416JQShoEtL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg    Walk with Me: A Grace Devotional by [Orrison, David]


Filed under Narcissism, Uncategorized

6 responses to “The Monkey

  1. Batya Ahul

    The “monkey” was on my back pretty much my whole childhood, being scapegoated child in a narcissistic family- I grew up believing everything was my fault.
    As an adult, God has revealed the truth about my value in Him, but I still struggle with the proverbial “monkey” procrastinating about things Ithat need doing (housework etc) and the guilt generated seems paralysing. I always feel so guilty about prayer requests, but as this is one of my few “safe” places could I ask for prayer for my “monkey” & associated guilt/procrastination finally leave and set me free in Him?
    Thank you so much Pastor Dave for all you do & God bless😎

    • Hi, Batya Ahul. I was rereading this post just now, about the way narcissists put a “monkey” of unhealthy expectations and guilt on other people’s shoulders, because I have been dealing with that lately. After reading the post, I then read the comments and saw your prayer request. I just prayed for the Lord Jesus to set you free from procrastination and guilt and other negative effects caused by narcissists. I know the Lord answers prayers. He is a wonderful healer and he does restore what the locusts have eaten, as it says in the scriptures.

      Normally I would be in church right now, but I am sick today. I know the Lord will heal me, too. Meanwhile, it is a blessing to read Pastor Dave’s nuggets of wisdom. God bless.

      • Batya Ahul

        Hi Linda Lee😎I’ve just read your post -I’ve had a great productive week! God is good & prayer is powerful. Thankyou to all who have prayed & I will continue to pray for your healing too.
        Thanks Pastor Dave for this secret holy refuge😎

      • That’s awesome that you have had a productive week! I am feeling much better, too. Thank you for your prayers. God bless.

  2. Janet Siegel

    WOW!!! SPOT ON what I am dealing with at work, and it confirms what I thought: one of our volunteer nurses from a foreign country has narc tendencies big time and is DEFINITELY carrying a huge monkey she tries to pass on to the rest of the STAFF. After more than a year suffering her criticisms, put downs, undoing my work and doing it over HER way, never being able to do anything right in her eyes, I finally lost it when she LIED behind my back to the shift nurse. I found out when the shift nurse told me what she had been gossiping behind my back. I promptly asked the head nurse to never ever team me up with her on a shift again. We will see how that goes. No contact is the only way.

  3. Cheryl South

    Interesting article.

    Sent from my iPhone


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