a handout from one of the groups I went to at the hospital. The poisoned parrot

The Poisoned Parrot

Imagine you’re given a parrot. This parrot is just a parrot – it doesn’t have any knowledge, wisdom or insight. It‟s bird-brained after all. It recites things parrot fashion‟ – without any understanding or comprehension. It‟s a parrot.
However, this particular parrot is a poisoned and
poisonous parrot. It‟s been specifically trained to be
unhelpful to you, continuously commenting on you and
your life, in a way that constantly puts you down,
criticising you.
For example, the bus gets stuck in a traffic jam, and
you arrive at work 5 minutes late. The parrot
sits there saying: “There you go again. Late.
You just can‟t manage to get there on time
can you. So stupid. If you‟d left the house
and got the earlier bus you‟d have arrived
with loads of time to spare and the boss would be happy. But you? No way. Just
can‟t do it. Useless. Waste of space. Absolutely pathetic!”
How long would you put up with this abuse before
throwing a towel over the cage, or getting rid of the
Yet we can often put up with the thoughts from this
internal bully for far too long. Decades. We hear
that „parrot‟, believe the „parrot‟, and naturally get
upset. That then affects the way we live our lives –
the way be behave towards others, how we are, what
we think about others, what we think about the world, and how we think and feel about
We can learn to use the antidote: just notice that parrot, and cover the cage!
“There‟s that parrot again. I don‟t have to listen to it – it‟s just a parrot”. Then
go and do something else. Put your focus of attention on something other than
that parrot. This parrot is poison though, and it won‟t give up easily, so you‟ll
need to keep using that antidote and be
persistent in your practice!
Eventually it will get tired of the towel, tired of you not
responding. You‟ll notice it less and less. It might just
give up it‟s poison as your antidote overcomes it, or
perhaps fly off to wherever poisoned parrots go.
Adapted from “The Malevolent Parrot” – Kristina Ivings