The Monkey and the Fish

The story of The Monkey and the Fish goes like this: During a flood, a monkey was sitting high in a tree holding a fish, and exclaiming to the fish, “but I saved you from drowning!”

Being in a helping profession requires compassion. But, we cannot go about our roles with compassion, only. Inquiry, observation, fluidity, open-mindedness, room to be wrong, and discernment must also be present; or, we risk transference of our own baggage, codependent motives, and/or psychological projections onto the very people seeking our support. When all we have is compassion, it is very easy to become the story of The Monkey and the Fish.

Kindly let me help you or you will drown,” said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree.
— Alan Watts

Even though our job as helping professionals is to help others, we can actually harm people if we are unaware of our own motives; and, one significant way is assuming we know what is best for another person. Helping requires compassion, but compassion alone can lead to another’s pain and stunted growth.

Additionally, the importance of environment for each individual is not lost in this short story. The monkey has the fish high up in a tree, out of water. The monkey, seemingly blinded by compassion, is unaware that not a single one of the fish's needs can be met there. Being high up on a branch may be best for some, but others will only thrive deep under water. It is our job to discover and nurture what each of our students need in order for them to become successful.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
— Albert Einstein

When caring for others, we must take our needs and desires out of the equation entirely. After all, this work isn't about us.

 
 
 

 

Enjoy this quick, beautifully animated video for the full story. 

 
Christine Devereaux