(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is Steve’s control-addicted inner monkey. That’s Bert at left.
So I entered Steve’s life early — probably well before that kindergarten story (“Bert’s born,” in the archive) I just told you.
Probably before he could even talk.
To protect him.
Scary situations. Painful feelings. Discomfort of every sort.
Rejection. Failure. Disappointment. Frustration. Rejection. Conflict. Sadness.
(Just noticed I listed “rejection” twice. Sorry. I really, really hate rejection.)
I did it mainly by searching relentlessly for ways to change things, things both outside and inside him, to somehow move them closer to what he wanted, or needed, or preferred.
I also taught him tricks. Coping tricks, like avoiding emotional risks. And relationship tricks, like hiding his feelings, and obsessing over how others feel about him. Even perceptual tricks, like selective memory and imagining I can guess the future or read other people’s minds
None of these works really well over time. But they gave Steve comfort,, and we grew close quickly.
I became his constant companion, trusted advisor and, he thought, very best friend.
I meant well. And at times I’ve been useful, even helped him out of some bad spots.
But in the end ours has been an unhealthy relationship.
Why? Because in the end my need for control set Steve at odds with reality, instead of teaching him how to accept and coexist and cooperate with it.
It’s like that with us inner monkeys. We mean well. We really do.
But we’re also kind of, well, stupid.
For example, some of you already know that the title of this blog refers to a method used in the East to trap monkeys, where fruit is placed in a weighted jar or bottle and the monkey traps himself by grabbing the fruit and refusing to let go.
That’s my thing. That’s what I do. I grab hold and refuse to let go.
I do this all the time, even when part of me knows it’s not working.
I’m trying not to. I’m trying my damnedest to learn alternatives to control, like surrender and honesty and intimacy.
But it’s not easy. As Steve wrote in his first blog,
Control is like a mirage that vanishes when you walk up to it, or a train you chase but never catch. Most of the time we don’t even know we’re chasing it. “Ideas we have, but don’t know we have, have us,” James Hillman said. Control is just such an idea.
One last thing:
I’m betting you have one of my brothers or sisters inside you, too.
You have it as surely as you have fears, and a monkey mind that whispers and worries and scares you.
You may not have noticed this secret tenant before. But look anyway.
I’d love to hear about him/her, if you care to share.