Bert’s mission

(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.

Bert speaking:)

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.

My mission? 

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.

8 responses to “Bert’s mission

  • chuck

    The printed I, or I’M says there is an ordered identity referred to as the letter I or
    I ‘m as in the transitive. But Bert and companies as we see here are a composite of influences, some from thinking some expressed in learned words for feelings, some as we have learned the word “somatic” and many more under the process of sensing and “interpreting”. So this “I” as we are learning, is much more than the generic unity or biunity or perhaps tri unity we are looking into. “It”, the( “I” in us) is rich with diversity and interactions . quite a phenomenon.

  • Phyllis

    Hey Bert, I really like this little story. I never thought about having a sibling of yours inside me. Never pictured a monkey in there calling the shots.. But I will consider it. God knows that there must be someone in there making life harder than it has to be, bossing me around!

    • fritzfreud

      Actually I don’t think it’s the bossing I do that bothers Steve as much as the scaring. Part of my job is to anticipate the worst, which kind of keeps him on the edge of his seat, so to speak. I try to give him a break from time to time — detach from my fears, relax into the now. But it’s hard, because I’m basically one scared monkey.

  • Marie

    Not sure if I have one of Bert’s sisters or brothers inside of me. I can’t say if it is a monkey or who or what it is. But, whomever or whatever has been inside of me, taught me to remain quiet, to not complain, to be strong and to not show my fear or my anger. Even now “It” tells me to shy away from aggressive people and/or the unknown. Maybe it is just good common sense to be quiet and play dead when faced with danger; either real or imagined.

    Is it possible that Bert’s other name is “learned behavior”?

  • fritzfreud

    Thanks, Marie. I suppose “learned behavior” is as good a middle name as any, though I prefer “socialized” or “carefully taught.” As in the Rogers & Hammerstein song:

    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught

    On the other hand, if you don’t want to hate and fear, you pretty much have to teach yourself that.

  • Deb

    Loved the Dance Monkey Dance video Steve…and Bert as always.

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