Your 5 monkeys

by | Jan 5, 2020 | Uncategorised

You may have heard of this, apparently there was a scientific experiment in a lab with 5 monkeys.

The monkeys were in a large cage with a ladder. The researchers delivered a banana at the top of the ladder, but when a monkey went to retrieve the banana the researchers sprayed all the monkeys with water as a punishment.

The monkeys quickly learned not to touch the banana. And if any monkey tried to get it, the other 4 would gently remind that monkey not to by beating the living snot out of them!

Now here’s where it gets really interesting. They would swap out monkeys, one at a time. And each time the new monkey learned very quickly not to climb the ladder, because they received a friendly beaten.

Eventually there were none of the original monkeys left. Only new monkeys. Monkeys who had never been wet as punishment. So did they climb the ladder and retrieve the banana?

Nope. They would still band together and beat any monkey who tried, even though none of them knew why they were doing it!!

A powerful lesson in social pressure, group dynamics and outdated cultural mind-control right?

Except. It never happened. The study was made up.

Disappointing right?

It was very very loosely based on a real monkey study from 1966 where it was demonstrated that pairs of monkeys could teach each other how to think and behave. Ie Their behaviours became more similar over time.

So am I really concerned that the 5 monkeys parable isn’t scientifically accurate?

Nah. Why would I be? It’s still a really good working model for our relationships and how culture works. To me this is transrational wisdom and the power of choosing what you want to believe where it has value.

To me both studies (the real one and the made up one) demonstrate what I know to be true about us humans: The energy of those you hang around with rubs off on you.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”—Jim Rohn

So choose your monkeys wisely!

Have you ever noticed some interactions you walk away from feeling drained, negative, or like you’ve given too much of yourself in that interaction? Perhaps you feel judged. Or it was all about them. Or you had to hide parts of who you really are to fit in. Or pretend to be someone different?

In the community these people are said to have ‘low vibration’.

How to identify the low vibe tribe

  • They get stuck easily in negativity and victimness or persecutorness or even rescuerness (this is known as the drama triangle).
  • They tend to like to complain, gossip and manipulate. Which are signs of low integrity.
  • They feed off others’ energy and attention to fill the void they feel deep inside.
  • This also means they tend to display self-medication, self-soothing and escapism behaviours.
  • They make it all about them, or all about you. There’s little balance.
  • Instead of cheering you on, they are likely to find ways to try to hold you down or undermine your progress (often passively).

There’s no judgement here, that’s where they’re at on their journey. They are still equal in their humanity just like everyone else. They are still perfectly imperfect and entirely lovable.

But, that doesn’t make them healthy people for you to be around. Especially as you accelerate your own awakening and transformation journey.

After you tear down your tower, your story, your masks, your BS and self-deception, your blocks, defences, limiting beliefs and emotional baggage, you need to be free to come back home to your authentic self that was abandoned (by you) at some point in your past.

When you hang out with the low vibe tribe, they will be threatened and want to keep you exactly where and how you were with them because you were filling a very important need for them in their life.

And although once you’ve torn it all down you can never go back to the way you were, the temptation will be to build a similar tower again in order to stay loyal and not abandon those you love.

You have a choice to make:

  • Either you rebuild your old tower, stay small, fit in for them and comply
  • Or, you stay true to yourself. And allow yourself to speak your truth and stay at high vibration.

Just know that if you do the latter, some of your monkeys will turn on you.

First in small ways, they will test you. And if you stand strong, some will accept the new you (Happy days! Right? Possibly, we’ll come back to that).

Some however, will be so threatened that you’ve taken the old you, the ‘small you’ away from them, they will lash out.

“How dare you climb the ladder and take that banana!!!”

Ok, they may not say that, haha. But here’s some I’ve heard (both small tests and larger attacks):

  • “You don’t need this personal development stuff. You are developed enough already”.
  • “Are you sure you’re not joining a cult?”
  • “Sounds like socialism”.
  • “Don’t become too masculine. You were masculine enough before”.
  • “You don’t think we’re terrible people now do you?”.
  • “You don’t need all that. That’s life. You just kinda get on with it”.
  • “This is the core business model of mainstream anglo saxon middle class religion and evangelical self improvement industries”.
  • “You’ve changed. I hate it when people forget where they came from”.

A lot of these don’t sound that bad right? Some are even more subtle again, you just know they don’t agree with what you’re doing or your new perspectives because they don’t say anything positive, they might stay quiet or be passive-aggressive about it.

But if you’re a recovering people pleaser (like I am), even passive or guilt-trip based nudges can carry a lot of weight. Especially when it’s one of your closest monkeys (close friends and family).

The bad news is, it’s the friends and family that are closest to you who are likely to be the most threatened by your transformation and awakening.


Because they care about you. No doubt. They don’t want to think you’ve joined a cult, been brainwashed, or otherwise taken advantage of.

But also, they are happy with their lives and the social dynamics you’ve already established. And you’ve just upset the apple cart. You’re different now.

  • You have greater self-respect, and clearer boundaries.
  • You won’t just accept as much BS.
  • You speak your truth, which is confronting to many people.
  • You have dropped your masks, and the performance you put on for others. Some mistake this as you not being a ‘nice’ person anymore.
  • You are positive and optimistic. Misery loves company. Your optimism challenges their (subconscious) choice to stay a victim, or a persecutor.
  • It also shifts the power dynamics. Narcissists in particular struggle with this, because you are no longer as accommodating to their need to be the centre of the universe.

So what about those who accept you? Great! Probably. It depends. Are they truly happy for you? Or just going with the flow because they know they can’t change you back but are secretly now begrudged or resentful of you for changing? Because that passive resentful energy still has the ability to drag you down.

Here’s the test… Are they generally a high vibration person? If yes, then you know they are truly happy for you…

How to identify the high vibe type

Peeps with high vibration:

  • Are generally positive, constructive, resilient (grateful for the good and the bad) and optimistic about the future.
  • They don’t gossip or talk about people behind their back, or if they do it’s praise or it’s concern without judgement (has the subject’s best interests at heart, this is a fine line).
  • They don’t complain or get stuck in victim, persecutor or rescuer for long. They are able to pop up into the ‘observer’ role or ‘higher self’ and detach from the outcomes.
  • They give you real talk. When they are feeling bad they tell you. When they are sad, they look sad.
  • They can have a stillness about them, and handle a comfortable silence.
  • They will hold you to account but in a really loving and supportive way.
  • Their life is not a performance or a fight. They are just being them.
  • There’s a balance of it being about you and about them.
  • They feel good to be around, you don’t leave those interactions feeling depleted.


This is not an trivial concept, so there are a few cautionary notes here to be aware of…

Remember it’s a continuum

Ok so it’s not always black and white (in fact Core Energetics defines 10 different levels of vibration). It’s a sliding scale and everyone’s on their own journey. Depending what’s going on for us and how we’re managing our state, we can drift up and down day-by-day even minute-by-minute.

For example, I am definitely not exhibiting all high vibration behaviours all the time. And if I don’t keep my cup full, I still have a tendency to slip into negative thought patterns, or hold back from speaking my truth (or communicate my frustration using a passive-aggressive approach) or feel like a victim or monopolise a conversation, or make the other person do all the talking. You get the idea.

Remain humble

We also need to be very careful not to see this as a competition where we put ourselves above others, or judge them. Yes, high vibration is the preferred state for us and those we spend time with, but it’s very easy to achieve some success with vibration and then become complacent, and arrogant. The superiority of the ’spiritual mask’, or the personal development ‘workshop junkie’ is a real danger, and drags us back into an insensitive, intolerant place, ultimately back into low vibration.

I like the labyrinth metaphor for the personal development and spiritual journey.

In a labyrinth:

  • You take steps around the maze, making intuitive decisions about where to turn, making progress towards your goal at the centre.
  • But then the path turns and leads you away again, and you feel like you’ve lost ground (ie 2 steps forward, 1 back).
  • Others start at different entrances around the labyrinth, coming from different perspectives trying to find the same goal. (Ultimately: Awakening. Oneness. The source. Whatever you want to call it).
  • Some are walking, some are running. Others appear to be standing still.
  • You may see others poking out above the walls of the labyrinth, you may even believe you are closer to the centre than they. But stay humble.
  • In reality, it’s impossible to know where they really are on their journey from where you stand, without having a really good chat with them over the walls, and even then, it’s easy to make incorrect assumptions.

Remember we are one

Superiority is also the danger with the ‘high vibe tribe’ label. Don’t get me wrong, the word ’tribe’ makes me feel warm, fuzzy and included too. But in reality, tribalism is quite a dangerous mentality, because it immediately establishes an ‘us’ and a ’them’. We’re seeing tribalism appear more and more prominently in online communities and groups around the world and it’s having a serious and detrimental affect to society.

Be inclusive of diversity

Also remember we’re not talking about weeding out anyone who thinks differently to you. Diversity is important! Diversity keeps us open-minded and helps us test our thinking and decisions from different angle and perspectives, which gives us more robust decisions, not to mention more colour in our life’s palette!

Be aware of timing

Timing is a consideration. Ideally this will happen as you are experiencing shifts in your personality and behaviours as a result of deep emotional healing work you’ve been undertaking. And usually you start to feel these tensions naturally during this process. That’s the right time to act on it. Ie Dumping all your friends before doing The Work and you’re likely to go through a lot of drama only to find the new friends you attract turn out to be quite similar to the last friends (certainly in terms of vibration).

Be sensitive

This process is not to be trivialised. It’s a big decision to scale back or end a friendship. You’re not cold and heartless, you’re a human being, you’re empathetic, you have a lot of time and emotional investment in your friends and you care about them.

But ultimately you have to put yourself first.

How do I know when this needs to happen?

Use the 20% rule

Dr John Gottman performed longitudinal relationship studies in the 70’s and discovered that relationships that worked longer-term had a ratio of 1 negative interaction to 5 positive or neutral interactions.

So technically, if your monkey is sending you negative vibes more then 16% of the time, it’s going to be challenging. 20% and you know you’re in trouble!

Obviously this relates to 20% over an extended period. You want to be there and hold space for friends during the hard times.

But also know that it’s not healthy for you to try to change your friend or rescue them—and typically these never work anyway and are likely to leave us feeling depleted and/or resentful.

So if they are tripping the 20% rule over an extended period, the healthiest thing you can do for both of you is scale it back.

What if low vibe monkeys are unavoidable?

I would champion that we be tolerant and work, communicate and play constructively with all people no matter where they’re at in life or on their journey. (Remember this is about carefully curating who you spend the most time with. )

But yes, what if I have to spend a lot of time with low vibration monkeys? Either at work or because they are family?

Well, then you may have to. At least sometimes.

But ultimately you are in control of how you spend your time. And you may need to find a way to moderate the time you spend with them or if your work place is too much, find a new job!

Whatever you do, be very selective about who you spend the most time with. And just stay focused on being authentically you around everyone.

Because the good news is, if you stay true to yourself, then those who aren’t your vibration will naturally move away. And you will attract and retain new monkeys into your inner circle that vibrate in harmony!

Finally I want to know: How have high and low vibration people shown up in your life? Have you had to make difficult decisions about who to spend time with? And for bonus points: How do you avoid energy tribalism and the spiritual mask?


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