(THE BOOK) Chapter 11: Heart

About addiction:

More people talk about it than understand it.

That’s because most people don’t know the secret at addiction’s heart. 

That secret is (surprise) this book’s subject.

Because all addicts are control addicts.

And every addiction is an addiction to control.

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(THE BOOK) Chapter 10: Choiceful and compulsive

There’s one more distinction to make.

It is closely related to the last one, but essential to understand in its own right:

Controlling may be choiceful or compulsive.

Choiceful means both conscious and freely chosen.  Compulsive means driven by anxiety, to where a person essentially loses the ability to choose.

Most dysfunctional controlling is compulsive.

Compulsive controllers are people who see no other way to feel safe or secure than by trying to control people, places, things and themselves.  And who keep on controlling despite all evidence that the control they seek is an illusion.

Another word for compulsive is addictive.

Compulsive controllers, then, are addicts:

People who feel driven to control.

Who are unable to stop, even when their controlling is inappropriate, unhealthy or impossible.

Who’ve lost control of their need for control.

 

 

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Corner

Submitted to The Practice Corner:
We’re separated a year and a half now, and it still doesn’t feel real.  Behind all our talking and fighting and negotiating and problem-solving certain thoughts play like background music: 
It‘s just a separation.  Be careful what you say.  Don’t push him away.  Maybe he’ll see the changes I’ve made.  Maybe he’ll come back.  It‘s just a separation.
But life has moved on.  Now, after years of stay-at-home momming, I have a job I love.  People notice and value what I do.  And I’m beginning to feel, you know, like a full-fledged person.    
So today he calls to talk about our budget.  And he’s being irritable and rude. 
And I’m tired of it.
“Why are you talking to me this way?” I ask.
“Because you don’t help me,” he snaps.
And the background music suddenly stops.
“You’re a dick,” I say, and I hang up.
And a full-fledged person walks away from the phone feeling like she turned a corner somehow.   
~ Shared by Anonymous  (2/22/15)
Archived in Tales of Responsibility

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The Practice Corner is an occasional series of true (but cleverly disguised) stories told by readers working actively to free themselves from compulsive controlling. Read more here.

(THE BOOK) Chapter 9: Functional and dysfunctional

Perhaps most importantly:

Controlling may be either functional or dysfunctional.

Functional controlling is in some way necessary, appropriate or need-satisfying.

Dysfunctional controlling — a.k.a. dyscontrol — is none of those things.

Distinguishing the two can be tricky.  Dysfunctional control often seems, in the moment, to be an effective way of coping.

Remember the list of controlling behaviors I offered in Chapter 7?   Do you ever lie?  Go along to get along?   Hide your true thoughts and feelings?  Most of us find it impossible to never engage in some of that stuff. 

But eventually all forms of dyscontrol fail.

That’s because, where functional controlling represents an attempt to face and solve a problem, dyscontrol is a fear-based response whose main goal is to avoid anxiety or discomfort.

We’ll examine specific examples of this in Part 2: Dysfunction.  They include anxiety, depression, addiction, and most relationship problems.

For now it’s enough to define dyscontrol as any controlling that ends up frustrating needs instead of meeting them.

Even Edith Bunker came to recognize this.  Eventually she saw she needed to stand up to Archie, to stop appeasing him and simply say No.

(Haven’t seen that particular episode?  Please do.*  And notice the studio audience’s reaction.)

 

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mxcphqdefault

*All in the Family, Season 6, Episode 8: “Edith Breaks Out” (YouTube)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-Q0IYPJiFM

Jump to 12:00.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 8: Conscious and unconscious

Controlling can be conscious or unconscious

Conscious controlling is the sort we notice ourselves doing.  Unconscious controlling operates outside our awareness.

Archie probably knew he was trying to control Edith.  Edith, though, may not have realized she was controlling him back.

One way we hide our controlling from ourselves is by calling it something else:

Niceness.  Politeness.  Respect.  Helpfulness.  Protection.  Loyalty.  Love.

That’s not to say all unconscious controlling is dishonest or unhealthy.  But it’s also true that the vast majority of compulsive controllers are relentlessly “nice” people unaware of their driving need for control.

They’re also unaware of how much their need for control controls them.

It’s easy to identify such people.  Just place them in a situation beyond their control and see how uncomfortable they get.

(On the wall behind my chair there’s a picture of flowers.  I once tilted it so that it hung crooked.  Then I spent the day watching my clients’ eyes flick back and forth between my face and the crooked picture.  Most were unaware they were doing this.  All seemed increasingly restless or irritable.  Two finally felt compelled to ask permission to straighten it.)

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We’re still forming two Skype-based study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, six members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 7: Overt and covert

Controlling may also be overt or covert.

Overt controlling is observable or obvious.  Covert controlling is hidden or disguised.

When I tell my son to take out the garbage, that’s overt controlling.  When he forgets and I retaliate by ignoring him, that’s covert.

Remember All in the Family?  Archie Bunker’s treatment of his wife (Stifle, you dingbat) was overtly controlling.  But Edith controlled Archie right back – by shutting her mouth, agreeing with him, bringing him a beer.  She manipulated Archie, and manipulation is another name for covert controlling.

Most of our controlling is covert.

Do you ever lie?  Go along to get along? 

Hide your true thoughts and feelings?  Tell people what you think they want to hear?

Laugh at jokes you find unfunny?  Act politely towards people you hate?

Take better care of others than of yourself?

All covert controlling.

Covert controlling is, in fact, the universal social lubricant.  

It’s how socialized human beings relate to each other.

Whether they know it or not.

Whether they like it or not.

Universal.  Inevitable.  Inescapable.

Like a psychological ocean in which every one of us swims.

 

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We’re still forming two Skype-based study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, six members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 6: External and internal

Let’s start by distinguishing different types of controlling.

Controlling, to begin with, may be external or internal.

External controlling focuses outside the individual, on people, places and things.  Internal controlling focuses inside the individual, on his or her own thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Cleaning my garage, disciplining my kids, selling anyone anything, and steering my car out of a skid are examples of external controlling.

Dieting, memorizing French verbs, learning to meditate, and hiding my true feelings are examples of internal controlling.

This may seem an obvious distinction.  It isn’t. 

Because people addicted to control often lose the ability to distinguish between external and internal.

For example, as a control addict I may well believe that the only way to accept myself (internal) is to get you to like me or love me or give me money (external).  So I try to control you in order to control how I feel.

But I may also be convinced that in order to control you (external) I must control myself (internal) – hide what I really think of your haircut or your politics, for example.

So I control you to control me, and control me to control you.

And if you’re a control addict, you do the same.

And the boundary between us gets impossibly blurred.

(More on this confusion later, in Part 2: Dysfunction.)

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We continue to collect members for two Skype-based study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One will be for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, four t0 six members at most, and meet weekly.

These groups have two purposes.  One (the study function) is to help members understand and relate to the ideas in Monkeytraps, which are new to most people and feel counterintuitive to many.  The other (the support function) is to help members integrate these ideas into their lives and relationships. For therapists this would include their relationships with clients.  

The first step to joining is an introductory Skype consult with me, so we can meet each other, I get a sense of your interests and needs, and you can ask questions about the group, the book, and whatever.

The Skype consult fee is $50, payable in advance via PayPal.  That is also the fee for each group session.  Group members may also purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price when it’s released next spring, and will be the first to be informed of any related projects or services.

I’ve already met some cool people through these consults, and am excited to see the new groups unfold.  

I expect we’ll learn a lot from each other.

Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 5: A controlling person

Start with an experiment.

In the privacy of your own mind, take a moment to consider this question:

How does a controlling person look, sound and act?

(Authorial pause while reader complies.)

What came up?

If you bothered to try this, I’m guessing you found some image, memory or feeling that carries the emotional weight of the word controlling for you.

What most of us encounter is a distillation of our most powerful (usually most painful) experiences with people by whom we’ve felt controlled.

Or we discover that we harbor some archetypal image of how a controller looks and acts.  Someone like Hitler, or Donald Trump, or Mom.

That, at least, used to be my own reaction.  

It changed when I began to really study control.

Ten years of practicing a therapy focused mainly on control issues taught me to see controlling as a shape-shifter, so various, subtle and relentless that it manages to slip sideways into virtually every experience and interaction.

And I came to see the need for some finer distinctions.

Some first steps, then, towards a more descriptive language.

 

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We’re still forming two Skype-based study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, six members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 4: Chameleon

Controlling is hard to spot, and even harder to talk about.

Several reasons for this:

(1) It’s automatic and unconscious, like blinking or the beat of a heart.  You can make yourself aware of your own controlling, but it takes effort.

(2) It’s normal.  You do it all the time.  Everyone around you does it all the time.  So controlling behavior fades into the background of awareness, like a chameleon blends into its surroundings.

(3) We use stunted language to describe it.  We apply the verb control to wildly different behaviors, to our handling of everything from feelings to finances, foreign trade to cholesterol, termites to acne.   We almost need to construct a new language in order to adequately describe this chameleon we’re looking for.

Let’s try to do that, then.

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We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time; one is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, six members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 3: Pictures

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)You may not think of yourself as controlling.  

Well, you are.

You just don’t see it.

Consider this view of how we operate:

From moment to moment, each of us carries in our heads a picture of how we want reality to be.

And we constantly compare that internal picture to the reality we have.

Everything we do to bring those pictures closer together — whether we do it out in public or in the privacy of our most secret thoughts — is what I mean by controlling.

See it yet?

Add this, then:

Discomfort of any sort – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, everything from agony to an itch – amounts to a signal that the two pictures don’t match.

And we respond to that signal automatically.

So wherever there’s discomfort, there’s controlling.

And we all know how uncomfortable life can be.

Controlling, in short, is as reflexive and inevitable a response as slapping a mosquito that’s biting you.

See it now?

x

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We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 2: Controlling

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)The urge to control is part of our hard wiring.

Why?

Because it is wired into us to

..~ seek pleasure and avoid pain,

..~ imagine a perfect life (one that meets all our needs and makes us perfectly happy), and then

..~ try to make those imaginings come true.

The word controlling covers all forms of this imagining and trying.

Our trying may be large (building a skyscraper) or small (killing crabgrass), complex (winning a war) or simple (salting my soup). 

It may be important (curing cancer) or petty (trimming toenails), public (getting elected) or private (losing weight), essential (avoiding a car crash) or incidental (matching socks).

I may inflict my trying on other people (get you to stop drinking, kiss me, wash the dishes, give me a raise) or on myself (raise my self-esteem, lose weight, hide my anger, learn French).

All this involves seeking some form of control.

We’re controlling nearly all of the time.

We control automatically and unconsciously, waking and sleeping, out in the world and in the privacy of our thoughts.

From birth until death.

The only time we’re not controlling is when we can relax, and do nothing, and trust that things will work out just fine anyway.

How often can you do that?

x

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We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 1: Control

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)The ability to dictate reality.

That’s how I define control.

It’s not a definition you’ll find in any dictionary, and probably not how you define it.  

But it’s essential to understanding everything that follows.  

Dictate means rearrange or edit according to our preferences.  Reality means, well, everything — everything outside us (people, places and things) and inside us (thoughts, feelings, behavior) too.

Defined this broadly, the wish for control stands behind just about everything we do consciously.  

Plus most of what we do unconsciously (feel, fantasize, worry, dream) as well.

We seek control in order to get reality to behave as we want it to.

We seek control because we want to make the world adjust itself to us, instead of vice versa.

We all want control in this sense.

Not just want, either.

We crave it.

Control is the mother of all motivations.

Every human ever born has craved it and chased it.

Because it’s a craving that is literally built into us.

x

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We’re planning an online study/support group for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  Also coming, a group for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(THE BOOK) Introduction

 

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)Want to trap a monkey?

Try this:

(1) Find a heavy bottle with a narrow neck.

(2) Drop a banana into it.

(3) Leave the bottle where a monkey can find it.

(4) Wait.

The monkey will do the rest.

He’ll come along, smell the banana, reach in to grab it.

Then find he can’t pull it out, because the bottleneck is too small.

He can free himself easily.  He just has to let go.

But he really, really wants that banana.

So he hangs on.

He’s still hanging on when you come to collect him.

And that’s how you trap a monkey.

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Want to trap a human? 

Try this:

(1) Place the human in an uncomfortable situation.

(2) Wait.

The human will do the rest.

He or she will try to reduce their discomfort by controlling the situation.

The harder they work to reduce their discomfort, the more uncomfortable they’ll get.

The harder they try to escape their discomfort, the more trapped they’ll feel.

And that’s how you trap a human.

 

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This is a book about control in general, and psychological monkeytraps in particular.

A psychological monkeytrap is any situation that temps us to hold on when we should let go — to control what either can’t or shouldn’t be controlled.

The world is filled with monkeytraps.  

As is the emotional life of every human being.

I learned this from practicing psychotherapy.

Therapy also taught me four truths:

1. We are all addicted to control. 

2. This addiction causes most (maybe all) our emotional problems.

3. Behind this addiction lies our wish to control feelings.

4. There are better ways to manage feelings than control.

I call these the Four Laws of control, and they structure the four parts that follow:

Part 1: Addiction is about the idea of control, and how it structures our lives and choices.

Part 2: Dysfunction is about the most common ways control addiction makes us (and those we love) sick and miserable.

Part 3: Emotion is about the real reason we try to control people, places, things, and ourselves.

Part 4: Alternatives is about moving beyond control addiction to healthier ways of responding to discomfort.

I plan to publish the first two parts online for free.  Then I’ll offer the entire book for sale in spring 2015.

Since this is a new way of looking at people and their problems, chapters will be kept bite-sized and spaced out, to give you a chance to chew on each idea as it emerges.  

Chapters you want to reread will be archived on the page titled Monkeytraps (The Book).

Feedback and questions are always welcome.

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Finally:

You may be used to thinking of control as a solution, not a problem.  

Fine.  Read on.

You may not think of yourself as a controlling person.  

Also fine.  Read on.

You may never have tried redefining your emotional problems as rooted in your wish for control.  

Terrific.  Read on.

A client once described his first Al-Anon meeting as “like a light coming on in a dark room.  Suddenly I could see all the furniture I’ve been tripping over all my life.”

That’s just what we’re going for here.

Welcome to the light switch.

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We’re planning an online study/support group for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  Also coming, a group for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per 90-minute session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 

 


One root

ONE ROOT 2

In therapy we sometimes talk as if narcissists and codependents come from different planets.

I’ve done it myself.  In one post, for example, I contrasted their relationship behavior as Me First versus Yes, Dear.

I forgot how much they have in common.

Such as?

Well, both are hungry.  Both typically came from families unable to meet their childhood emotional needs.   So they spend their adult lives seeking attention and acceptance, approval and love.

And both are control addicts.  Yes, they control differently – narcissists more overtly, codependents more covertly.  But both spend most of their energy and time trying to transform the reality they’ve got into the reality they want.  And neither is good at going with the flow.

Finally, they’re both self-centered.

Narcissists, of course, are obvious about it.  Look at me.  Ain’t I special?  Gotta love me.

Codependents are more subtle.  You okay?  Anything I can do for you?  Sure, whatever you want.

Their Yes, dear behavior may manifest as people-pleasing, conflict avoidance, emotional dishonesty, self-sacrifice, self-abuse, or any number of other ways of disguising their true selves.

But behind it all is a desperate attempt to feed themselves by manipulating others — to get their needs met in the only way they know, and without much concern for (or even awareness of) how it impacts those they’re manipulating.

They may call it love or respect or being considerate or being nice.  But codependents put others first, not out of altruism, but in hopes that someday someone will return the favor.

So forget all that two-planets stuff.

Think of codependency as narcissism in sheep’s clothing.

And narcissists and codependents as two flowers with one root.


In the army now

We’re in the Army now.
We’re not behind a plow.
We’ll never get rich, we’re diggin’ a ditch.
We’re in the Army now.

Welcome to the army.

Which army, you ask?

The Army of Second Adolescents.

Remember what adolescent means?  Remember how it felt?

Neither child nor adult.

Inner turmoil.  Vague anxieties.

Chronic feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, self-doubt.

Sound familiar?

Sure it does.

Everyone in the army feels that way.

We’re marching everywhere.
It’s getting in our hair.
We follow the rules
and follow the mules
We’re in the Army now.

Second adolescence is a stage when adults are supposed to find out who they really are.

As in first adolescence, you feel grown, but not grown-up.

You feel constricted by rules and expectations imposed on you.

Not by school, but by your job.

Not by parents, but by marriage and family.

You march through your days wondering just where you’re headed.

And, occasionally, if it’s worth the trip.

And you don’t like yourself much.

And you worry a lot.

And again life feels frustrating.

And again life feels unfair.

We’re happy as can be.
Have lots of company.
The cooties at night
Drop in for a bite.
We’re in the Army now.*

And just as first adolescents have their psychosocial tasks to complete, so do we in the army.

The main task we face?

To grow up psychologically.

To feel as adult as our bodies look.

To feel like this is our life, not someone else’s idea of the one we should be living.

To develop our own values and identity and spiritual core.

To love who we love — and dislike who we dislike — without fear or deceit.

To do our work, the work we were placed here to do.

To stop being controlled by fear and self-doubt, envy and the opinions of others.

To realize that our time here is not limitless.

That we need to stop planning and rehearsing and get on with it.

Get on with acting, finally, like just who we are.

Have you reached those goals yet?

(Me neither.)

So.  On your feet.  Fall in.

You’re in the army now.

 

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*We’re In The Army Now,” lyrics by Tell Taylor & Ole Olsen, music by Isham Jones (1917)

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