Today I worked with a client who asked me to work with her on identifying and eliminating her 'bananas'.

For those of you who haven't read my free book - Reverse Therapy for Health - then let me explain:

A banana is a fixation or a compulsion, which dictates inflexible, repetitive, self-defeating behavior.

The metaphor is taken from an ancient method for catching monkeys - still practiced to this day in parts of Africa and Asia. Here's how the capture works:

The Hunter lays down a wicker basket with a banana inside it, in a grove where monkeys are known to forage. The cage is so constructed that the monkey can get at the banana but can't pull it out because the bars of the cage are too narrow. Indeed, it cannot withdraw its hand at all unless it drops the banana. Most monkeys are smart enough to let go of the banana and go and look for better opportunities. But a minority don't - that banana just means too much to them. They stay put, holding their booby prize until the hunter comes and throws a net over them.

Like some monkeys, a lot of human beings would rather be slaves than let go of their bananas.

Here are some examples of common bananas:

* I have to be liked
* I should be in control
* I must be successful
* I must not let people down
* I must never get angry
* I should always put other peoples' needs first, no matter
what happens to me
* I must be strong

Notice that what makes the banana obsessional is the absolute demand to always act or be that way - as conveyed by the 'musts' and 'shoulds' contained in the injunction. There is nothing wrong with being loved, attracting success, and helping people out. The problem arises when no deviations from the rule are permitted. If that is the case then when we can't cope, we wear ourselves out. Or, when we meet with rejection, failure, bullying or stress, then we no longer know what to do. We go on repeating the same destructive behavior like a broken record. Hoping that, sooner or later, it will work.

Some people get upset when you question their bananas. Their Conscious Mind sees that as a threat to its grasp on reality. To such people, their obsession with the banana is an 'obvious' way to be. Not acting that way is deemed by them to be 'selfish', 'unrealistic', 'immature'. etc. So holding on to bananas - even when they don't apply - is viewed as a right way to be, while discarding them is bad, immoral or stupid. This explains their compulsive character. As does the fact that some people believe that something terrible will happen to them if they let go of their bananas.

This is why so many of us repeat the same toxic relationships over and over again - exploited by 'must-have' employers, abused by 'caring' partners, manipulated by 'helpless' children, let down by 'unlucky' friends', controlled by 'wonderful' parents. Meanwhile, Bodymind is sending us emotional signals to tell us about the way things really are and what we need to be doing about that - saying 'no' when we are tired, asking for help when we are overwhelmed, taking a break when we are frustrated, demanding fairness when we are angry. But if we go on ignoring our emotions, obsessing about bananas and dwelling in toxic relationships, we end up with depression, panic attacks, or what, in Reverse Therapy, we call non-specific illness.

When you get rid of your bananas life will become a lot less stressful and a lot more serene. You will also feel a lot less obsessional and driven. When you stop wasting time on bananas you will free up your energy for the things that matter most to you.

1. The first step towards getting rid of bananas is to understand how they got installed in you and why you need not be bound by them.
2. The next step is to train your awareness on yourself.
3. The third step is to identify the bananas themselves, and the damage they do to you.
4. The fourth step is to take ownership for the needs denied by the banana
5. The next step is experiment with a different way of life.
6. A potential sixth step is to start doing the opposite of what your banana forces you to do.
7. The final step is to practice living spontaneously, free from rules, in line with what your emotions and gut instincts guide you towards doing in the moment.

How bananas get installed.

Like all worries, bananas are created by conditioning, trauma-reactions and identification.

Most bananas originally belonged to other people - a parent, a teacher, a friend or even to to people you never met - writers, gurus and celebrities you read about. After a while their thoughts became yours because you imagined you would get their approval if you did that. You don't in fact need anyone's approval. Nor do you need their limiting beliefs.

Some bananas were adopted at an impressionable age when you saw other human beings doing things that scared you. For example - bullying, rage, rejection, abuse, punishment. Your Headmind then decided that you must NEVER again do what seemed to provoke that particular reaction - expressing love, asserting yourself, being honest, etc.

The most important reason your bananas are there, however is that you identify yourself as having to be perfect: a perfect daughter, perfect parent, perfect at your job, perfect lover, and so on

When you see that your compulsions are based on a fantasy then you immediately begin to separate from them. When you see the frustration, anxiety, misery and illness these obsessions create for you, then you have a powerful incentive to free yourself from them.


Those of you who follow Reverse Therapy will practice staying in Bodymind, becoming aware of your aliveness in the 'Now'. Tuning in to your deepest emotions, feeling and intuitions about what is truthful, loving and 'right' for you and others in that moment. Learning to distinguish between the promptings of Bodymind and the compulsions of Headmind.

Identifying the Bananas you have

The simplest way is to consult a Reverse Therapist. If you want to do it yourself then you have to start noticing where, and with whom, you are most driven and compulsive. In which situations you are most likely to ignore your feelings about things and do what others want. Or the areas where you keep making the same mistakes, over and over again. Bananas always take the form: 'I must always....', 'I must...', I must never...', 'I should...', 'I should never....'. 'I have to....'

You can't eliminate a banana you don't know you have. Unfortunately, it is harder to see your own bananas than other peoples', simply because your Head thinks they are the 'obvious' truth.

Owning your needs

Bananas deny your right to nurture yourself, to be angry, to be honest, to be sad, to take time out, to get frustrated, to make mistakes, to be happy. Give yourself permission to do all and any of these things. Tell other people (as well as yourself): 'I can't cope. I need help'. Or 'I am sad today'. Or 'I screwed up - I am only human'.


Once you know your bananas you can experiment with a different way of being. For example, if your banana dictates that that you stay in your comfort zone, then you can start experimenting with taking (small) risks. If your banana is about never expressing anger then you can learn assertiveness skills. If your banana is about having to work hard all the time then you can factor in more leisure time into your life.

Doing the opposite to what the banana tells you to do

This won't work for some bananas so be careful with this slightly drastic strategy. For example, if you have a banana that tells you that you must never make mistakes then doing the opposite of that might mean you make a mistake that could cost you. But this strategy will certainly free you up from some bananas. I used to have a banana that told me that I had to know (or pretend to know) everything. When I started telling people that there were things I didn't know and that I would never understand the relief that sometimes followed left me close to tears.

One of the things that gives these compulsions power over us is that we imagine that NOT following the banana will mean that something terrible will happen to us. Or that we will end up looking stupid, bad or weak. When we disobey the banana and notice that none of these things have, in fact, happened then we are closer still to separating from the delusion.

A common error

By the way, it is vital that you don't turn banana-elimination into another banana.

The life you were meant to live

Because Headmind wants to conform, and because we are always coming up against bananas other people want us to have - right down from our Political and Religious Leaders to our neighbors next door, they are difficult to resist. Yet the examples of Lao-Tse, The Buddha, Christ, and many other enlightened saints, shows that this is possible. To follow them, we must learn to give up guilt, live as rebels. play with the rules that come with the game of life, become as spontaneous as children of five, and live in the body.

Good Hunting!

Author's Bio: 

John Eaton is the Founder of Reverse Therapy, an organisation that has achieved phenomenal success in the treatment of stress-related conditions such as Depression, Anxiety, Trauma, Addictions, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Tension Myositis and IBS. Reverse Therapy is now practiced in the UK, Spain, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

John originally trained in Ericksonian therapy in 1988. Since 1996 he has been steadily developing the ideas, techniques, principles and methods that, collectively, he named 'Reverse Therapy' in 2002.

He has brought together a unique blend of insights anf techniques drawn from Bodymind healing approaches, Symptom-focused therapy and Psychobiology that forms a powerful application to many different types of symptom.

John is well known in the UK as a Therapist, Healer, Writer, Coach, Speaker and Trainer and has in fact been training other professionals for 18 years. He graduated with a doctorate from Lancaster University Department of Psychology in 1998 and is a member of the British Psychological Society. Since 1988 he has delivered over 20,000 therapy hours to clients.

In 2006 the Second edition of his bestselling book -'ME, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia - The Reverse Therapy Approach' was published. His latest book 'Reverse Therapy for Health' (2006) has also been published as an ebook. He is also the co-author of Coaching Successfully, Influencing People and Communicate with Emotional Intelligence.