The Stressed Monkey


When I was 11… my father returned home one day from work, a little depressed and quiet.

“What’s wrong daddy?” I asked.

My father was a cancer doctor at Siriraj Hospital in Thailand.  Worked his whole life, 17 hours a day, 7 days a week.  With 4 jobs daily at hand; Frozen Section (analyzing live cancer cells) early morning, running Emergency Wards shortly after, Private lab looking at more of them cancer cells in the afternoon, and running a Home Clinic in the evening.  Yes!  My house was a clinic.  Luckily mother was a nurse and she assisted him every evening at home.

“Son…” he said.  “My friends and I… we did something terrible and cruel.”

“What did you do?”  I asked.

“A cancer experiment on live animals”.  He replied.

“…..” I nodded.

“We built 2 cages, both cubical shaped, around 2 metres on all sides” he said while mimicking his hands to illustrate the sizes of the cubed cages.  “I then put 2 monkeys, one into each cage”.

“And…?”  I asked curiously.

“Both cages were electrified.”  He said while looking straight at me.  “Every three minutes, a shock will come.”

“Huh?!  Does the shock kill the monkeys?”

“No.”  He shook his head. “But it really hurt them.”

“And then?”  I was glued to the story.

“Well, we fitted one cage with an anti-shock switch.  The monkey had to stand, reach up and press the switch at the right moment to avoid the shock”.

“A-ha…”  I nodded.  “You trained the monkey to do that?”

“Yeah… he learned it quickly once he knew it could stop the pain.”

“And the other monkey dad?”  I asked.

“No switch for him.  He received the shock full-on every time.”

I heard sadness in my father’s voice which was rare to me. “Oh man… poor guy”

“The point of experiment was STRESS RELATED CANCER, and we wanted to see which animal would die from it first.  Some lab technicians made bets on it like it was a game of dice.”

“Which monkey did they bet on?”  I was curious myself.

“Well, most of them went for the monkey without the switch”.  He said.  “What about you son… what do you think?”

“My guess?… the same as them.  Am I right dad?”

My father shook his head.  “No.  True that the pain was relentless, shook him up a little at first and it terribly disrupted his living.  But it was non-judgmental, it striked every 3 minutes without any prejudice.  No matter what he was doing; eating, toileting, sleeping, scratching or whatever…  it didn’t care. Good thing was he got used to it, and since he didn’t have any means of stopping it, he learned to accept it.”  My father gestured the hand posture of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva with a compassionate smile on his face.

I did not understand the concepts of letting go nor acceptance, let alone who Kuan Yin was (I was 11!)

“The guy with the switch on the other hand couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and couldn’t take a poop without looking at the switch.  Sure he was a prisoner in a cage, but that switch became a much more suffering mental prison for him.  There were times when his miscalculated the timing of the shock and got zapped, he would have a major fit.  Screamed and jumped, threw his food and water bowls around and destroyed his little tree branch.”  Father fussed and flapped his hands up and down with his eyes crossed and tongue sticking out to imitate the stressed monkey.

“Hahahahaha…” I laughed innocently.

“His eyes were red, emotionally unstable, erratic behaviors and he was completely stressed out.  He died in three months son.”  Father looked at me seriously again.

“…. aha”  I nodded unconsciously and blankly.

“We did an autopsy on him, and found that cancer originated from his tummy, spreading out quickly until it swallowed his intestines, liver, kidneys and eventually his lungs.”


“His internals were rock solid son.”  Said my father.

“I see… so what happened to the other monkey dad?”

“We took a scan of him and found no cancer or any other diseases.”

“He’s still alive?”  I asked lively.

“Yes.  His name is Khun Was-sa-nha (Mr. Spiritually-lucky).”  Said my father. “Would you like to go visit him?”


“Good… I’ll take you to see him on Sunday.”



3 Responses to “The Stressed Monkey”

  1. […] Excerpt from:The Stressed Monkey […]

  2. First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Are you tension? panic?

  3. the importance of acceptance in our life, accept everything that comes ,willingly,happily and at ease:)
    not easy but we are all learning:)
    thanks for the sharing:)

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