Feeling Stuck? It could be your monkey brain.

Ever felt ‘stuck’? Like your current way of doing things isn’t yielding any positive results but you can’t seem to shift into the next gear. Maybe you’ve slipped into habits or ways of thinking that are stopping you from doing or getting the things you really want in life?

Your monkey brain keeps you alive. It looks out for threats, and rewards you when you spot them. Now.. If you are in a positive frame of mind you can often make an assessment of the situation and react appropriately. If however,  you find yourself living with anxiety and stress you might find that you’re trapped in a cycle of negativity and constantly on red alert. You may be looking out for threats most of the time and be firmly in the ‘fight or flight’ response. You become irritable, your heart beats quickly and you find it hard not to see things from the very worst perspective. Once you’re in this space your monkey brain is fully in control. It’s not an intellect so it can only refer to previous patterns of behaviour, believing it kept you alive in the past and repeating those same patterns today. So you have a limited choice, freeze and hope that it all passes or run away from the perceived threat.

So… What can we do?

First of all it helps to know what you want. It might not be where you end up but setting your compass to a direction and then setting off one foot in front of the other helps kick start the process. There may be some intellectual anxiety about ‘just setting off’ but I can guarantee that there will be people you haven’t met yet and places that you haven’t been to that will have an impact on your life. It could be where you meet a new partner, learn something new or become your favourite spot to just sit and contemplate.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Next, we need to keep a look out for that monkey brain throwing out interference and having us doubt our abilities or course of action. It can be pretty sophisticated (it is trying to keep you alive). It could tell you that catastrophising is something you were born with and that you’re denying the real you if you start to think positively, that you deserve that reward and will drink less tomorrow or stop smoking after that party because you’re more fun if you do. The trick here is to spot the propaganda coming from this primitive part of the brain and firmly deal with any objections, doubts or challenges to your chosen path as soon as they appear.

When you start to learn a new skill or challenge habits you can often feel daunted. Your brain can even interpret this as physical pain giving you another reason to procrastinate or even stop before you’ve started. A quick tip for this is to remember to ‘eat your frogs first’. When you start with the thing that you are least looking forward to first you get a bigger chemical reward and find the next steps even easier.

Small achievable goals that challenge you to step out of our comfort zone, but not so much that we feel isolated and freeze or run back to safety, are also a helpful way of keeping the flow of positive chemicals pushing you in the right direction. It might be keeping a diary, going to the gym this week or meeting up with friends. What’s important is that you see it as something that would improve your happiness and confidence levels, helping you to get closer to that positive goal or vision for the future. This is why collectors enjoy their hobby so much. Their goal is to amass a large collection but they are constantly searching for and being rewarded by adding to that collection in small ways. They’ve turned that search for threats into a search for stamps, comic books or in my case guitars.

You might find that our goal takes time to achieve. Don’t be disheartened if you take a step backwards once in awhile. Repetition and focus will help you get quickly back on track.

If you’re challenging a specific habit my previous post might help – CHANGE THAT HABIT

Finally always remember that you’re not alone! If you feel ‘stuck in a rut’, are looking to change a habit that’s holding you back or feel that you ‘just can’t cope’ with things the way they are – talk to someone. This could be a family member, friend or your GP.

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monkey brain

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A bit more information

Ben Gaskell is a Clinical Hypnotherapist working with clients who suffer from anxiety, stress, low mood and phobias. He practices from Stretford and Deansgate, Manchester and serves the areas of:


Altrincham, Stockport, Trafford, Urmston, Didsbury, Sale, Chorlton.


Deansgate, Northern Quarter, Spinning fields.

Further details can be found on the ‘getting here’ or ‘contact’ page. For more information on how Ben at Greater Manchester Hypnotherapy can help you please call 07756 932 702 or email

ONLINE SESSIONS ONLY, whilst we move to a new location!