Monthly Archives: April 2012

Bert’s therapy: Faith

I’m requesting a diagnosis.

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Of what?

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My marriage.  

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In your professional opinion, what’s the core problem?

 

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Lack of faith.

  

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Faith?  Like in God?

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No, in relationship. 

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Explain.

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If every morning you swing your feet out of bed and find a solid floor to stand on, you develop faith in the floor. 

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And if whenever you need them your important relationships are there for you, you develop faith in relationship.

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And if they’re not…

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You don‘t.

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Then I haven’t.

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Common problem, actually, among people who grew up in dysfunctional families.

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My wife and I both did. 

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I figured.

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Can you create faith in relationship?

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If you want to.  It takes some work.

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What kind of work?

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You have to practice mutuality. 

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Another new word.  Okay, I’ll bite.  What’s “mutuality”?

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The belief that what’s good for one partner is ultimately good for the other.

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Sounds like codependency.

Actually it’s the opposite.  Codependency means you try to control each other because you expect to be disappointed or hurt.

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But mutuality means you  stop controlling, because you expect to get fed.  You have faith that whatever you give to the relationship will somehow come back to you. 

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Yes, but I don’t really believe that.

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That’s where the work comes in.  At first you have to fake it.

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Until I make it?

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Until she starts feeding you back.  After that you won’t have to fake anything.

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But what if I feed her and feed her and she never feeds me?

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Well, that would mean my theory is all wrong.

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And you can throw it right back in my faith. 

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* * *

 

 
And we’re always at each other’s throats
You know it drives me up the wall
But most of the time I’m just blowing off steam
And I wish to God you’d leave me
Baby I wish to God you’d stay
Life’s so different than it is in your dreams

~ Tom Waits, Please call me baby (4:25), from the album Keeping the Faith.

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Bert’s therapy: Feeding Felicia

So.  I gave Felicia the cookie.

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Ah.  Left it on her pillow?

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And flew away, as you suggested.

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And? 

 

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And she came and asked why I did it.

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What did you say?

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“I wanted to.”

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Good answer.

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Apparently.  She hugged me.

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Good job.

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It was just a cookie.

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No, it was a course correction.  You feel you two moving in a new direction now?

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Yeah.  How do I keep it going?

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Keep feeding her. 

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Cookies?

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No, no.  Emotional feeding.

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With what?

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Well, there are four foods we need from our important relationships.

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Attention, acceptance, appreciation and affection.

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And if we don’t get that stuff regularly…

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We starve.

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Okay.  I fed her attention with the cookie.  How can I show acceptance? 

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Name something she does that she knows annoys you.

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Watches reality tv.

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Huh.  That’s a tough one.

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Why?  What are you suggesting?

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Sit and watch with her.

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Holy mother of God.

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Not for long.  Ten minutes.

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You’re kidding, right?  “The Kardashians”?

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(Shivers.) 

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Neverthless.  Do it for the marriage.

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I’m not sure any marriage is worth it.

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Now, now.  Just once.  Treat it like an experiment.

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Okay.  (Gulps.)  I’ll try.

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Good man.  Be brave.  Be  curious.   

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Can I be drunk?

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* * *

Be the change that you want to see 

 

 

 

Don’t forget that pride

always goes before the fall

And nobody is free

till there’s freedom for all

As you sow so shall you reap

Be the change that you want to see

Be the change that you want to see

~ Kat Edmondson, Be the change (4:07)


Bert’s therapy: The cookie fairy

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How’s Felicia?

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Still not talking to me

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How long has it been?

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Today’s the fourth day.

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Does her silence still scare you?

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No, not really.

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How do you feel?

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Kind of sorry for her.

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How come?

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Since we stopped dancing, she seems sort of lost.  And sad.

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I see. 

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Does she like cookies?

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Cookies?  Sure.

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What’s her favorite?

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Those huge ones.  Chocolate chip.

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The ones big as a small pizza?

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Yeah.

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Go buy one.

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Leave it on her pillow.

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And say what?

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Nothing.  Make like the Cookie Fairy.  Leave it and fly away.

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Won’t that confuse her again?

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Maybe.  But in a good way.

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It’s not appeasement?

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No.  It’s paying attention.

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Most married people are starved for attention.  And she sounds like she needs some right now. 

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It’s not the sort of thing I usually do.

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All the more reason.

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You want to redefine this marriage, right?

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Right.

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That means trying new stuff.  Experimenting.  Taking risks.

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But what if she rejects my cookie?

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Well, if that happens… 

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At least you have dessert for the next two nights. 

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* * * 

What is a healthy marriage?

“What is a healthy marriage?” is a very good question.

And I think if you had asked me that fifteen years ago I would have had to say to you, “I’m not really sure.”

But at this point I think we really know what a healthy marriage is.  And we know because of all the research in the last fifteen years. 

The research is all saying the same thing. 

The essential element of a healthy marriage is not that you don’t fight.  All couples fight.

It’s not that you have to be similar in all respects.  All couples have differences. 

The essential element of a healthy marriage is:

Emotional responsiveness. 

~ Click here for the rest of  “What is a healthy marriage?”  by Dr. Sue Johnson(3:52)

 

* * *

 Going. Going.

 

As April winds down,

the Bert Mug Contest approaches

its thunderous conclusion. 

 

Next weekend, our three intrepid judges…

.(Judge Steve) …….(Judge Bert)  …………(Judge Felicia) …………..

 

…will sequester themselves — not unlike the College of Cardinals, except with monkeys — in a secluded location to pore over the entries. 

We can’t tell you, of course, where they’ll be going.  Though we can hint:

 

 

Anyway, there in that lonely spot they will mull, muse, meditate, ponder, consult, bicker, fuss and fret until they choose the winner.

So if you haven’t sent us your entry yet, it’s now or never. 

Merely…

(1) Join the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email at fritzfreud@aol.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. Include your name too, so we know who to credit.

(2) In the same email, suggest a caption about control addiction for the Bert Mug.

I mean, come on. 

Can you really stand not to be part of this?  


Four. New. Pages.

ALRIGHT ALREADY.

 

By popular demand,
and for the browsing convenience
of its loyal readers,
Monkeytraps has begun reorganizing its archives
by creating four new pages
of links and excerpts.

 

So if you’re a new friend of Monkeytraps,
you can now catch up on
what you’ve been missing
about these absolutely vital topics:

The idea of control
Control & feelings
Control & relationships
Control & self-care

 

 

And if you’re an old friend,
you can refresh your memory
(and strengthen your recovery)
by revisiting these favorites:

The Talk
The idea of control
How to spot monkeytraps
Bert’s mission
Bert’s Plan A
What we mean when we talk about control
Can we talk? No, damn it
Me first. / Yes, dear.
Scratch a codependent, find a narcissist
Control isn’t power
Bert’s strawberry
Gas in California


Among others.

 

More to come in the future, including our new

Control & Parenting page. 

 

To start exploring, just click on the NEW PAGE headings.


Bert’s therapy: Dancing

So, I did what you suggested.

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With Felicia?

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Yes.  I stopped trying to appease her.

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And I asked what she’s really angry about.

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How did she react?

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She stopped talking to me.

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Oh.  How’s that feel?

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Not sure yet.  I don’t miss the criticism.  But the silence scares me.

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Why?

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It makes me think she’s even angrier at me than she was.

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Maybe.  But probably you just confused her.

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Confused her how?

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You stopped dancing.

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Come again?

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Like most couples, you two have developed a predictable way of coping with conflict.  I call it your dance.

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And you know this how?

You described it to me last time.  Apparently it starts when she’s unhappy about something, and expresses it with a complaint or a demand.

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To which you respond by trying to appease her. To which she responds with a new complaint or demand. And so on.

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That does sound familiar.

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How long does this dance usually last?

 

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Two, three days.  Sometimes a week. 

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And how many times have you done it?

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Hundreds.  Thousands.  It never accomplishes anything.

Well, in a way it does.  It keeps things predictable.  Discharges the tension, gives you a sense of control. 

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But doesn’t solve the problem.

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True.  Dancing just maintains the status quo. 

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I’m sick of the status quo.  What do I do now?

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You already did it.  You interrupted the dance.  Now it’s her move.

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And I just wait?

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Right.

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And do nothing?

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Right.  See what happens.

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How do you feel about that?

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Like dancing.

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* * *

 

 

 

 

 

It all boils down to how you view what goes on within your relationships, specifically your significant ones.

First and foremost, marriage is designed to help you grow up. 

It’s not about happiness.

It’s not about becoming more complete, despite what Hollywood and popular press would like you to believe.

Marriage is about growing. Happiness will accompany you at times along the way, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

And second: your growth – your responsibility; your spouse’s – theirs.

When you keep this in mind you realize that all you can control in a relationship is yourself.

 ~ Corey Allan, Relationships are easy

 

* * *

No Oscar?

No Emmy?

No Tony?

Cheer up.

 You can still win a Bert.

 

Join the hundreds (well, dozens) who’ve already entered the Bert Mug contest.

Not only will you get a chance to own an authentic Bert Mug (isn’t it lovely?), but you’ll be the first to hear of all our new Monkeytraps projects — like the forthcoming, breathtaking, heartwarming, mindblowing Monkeytraps 101: Bert’s Crash Course in Control.

To enter, just

(1) Join the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email at fritzfreud@aol.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. Include your name too, so we know who to credit with such cleverness.

(2) In the same email, suggest a caption about control addiction for the Bert Mug.   

If you’ve already sent us a caption, send another.  (It gets easier with practice.)

And remember: 

Nobody in Hollywood has one.

 


Bert’s therapy: Gorilla warfare

Felicia’s pissed at me.

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What about?

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I’m not really sure.

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Monday she said I don’t make enough money.

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Tuesday she complained I’m not home enough.

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Wednesday she called me an “uninvolved father.”

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Thursday she called me a slob.

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Sounds confusing.

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Bet your ass.

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How did you respond?

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Well, let’s see. Tuesday I went in and asked my boss for a raise.

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Wednesday I came home early with flowers.

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Thursday I helped Junior with his science project.

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And Friday I did two loads of laundry and cleaned the bathroom.

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Did it work?

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No.  Now she tells me I’m fat.  What’s going on here?

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Gorilla warfare.

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Don’t you mean “guerilla” warfare?

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No, gorilla.  It’s a control thing.  Your two inner monkeys are battling it out. 

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Happens all the time in split-level relationships.*

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One partner seeks satisfaction by complaining or making endless demands on the other.

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The other seeks relief by trying to appease the first.  But it never works.

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Why not?

Because they’re ignoring the real problem, whatever that is.  Pretty common in couples who haven’t learned to talk to each other.

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Well, I hate feeling beat up.  What can I do?

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Less.

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Meaning…

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Give up control.  Stop appeasing her. 

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She’ll get angry.

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She’s already angry.  Same result, less work. 

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Okay.  Anything else?

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Give up control in another way.  Ask what she’s really angry about. 

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She may not know at first. That’s fine. Be patient.  Be curious.  Be brave.  Keep asking.

 

 

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That I can’t do.

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Why not?

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She might actually tell me.

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Oh.  Well, in that case…

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There’s always Weight Watchers.

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* * *

 

The term control has come to have a negative connotation. 

People are not supposed to control, dominate, exploit, or manipulate each other.  We are told to accept others and to take responsibility for our own needs. 

This popular philosophy, although having a certain validity, violates an important human truth. 

People require a certain minimum of staisfaction to make a relationship tolerable.  They also require a certain minumum of control. 

Individuals need to have a way of asserting their needs, making complaints, bringing issues of concern to their partners’ attention, correcting problems, and in general getting through to and having an effect on their partners if their relationships are to be viable.

~ Daniel B. Wile, Couples therapy: A nontraditional approach (John Wiley & Sons, 1981).

 * * *

Hey.  You.  We’re waiting.

The first-ever Bert Mug Contest is completing its second week..

And we’ve collected some pretty cool entries so far.

But we’re still waiting for yours.

Come on, already. 

Send us your caption about control addiction.

Not only will all entrants get a chance to own a Bert Mug, but they’ll also be the first to hear of all new Monkeytraps projects — like the forthcoming 6-part Monkeytraps 101: Bert’s Crash Course in Control.

To enter the contest, just

(1) Join the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email at fritzfreud@aol.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line. Include your name too, so we know who to credit with such cleverness.

(2) In the same email, suggest a caption for the Bert Mug.

If you’ve already sent us a caption, well, send another. 

Stop pretending you have more important stuff to do. 


Bert’s therapy: Controlapy

Okay, I give up.  You’ve convinced me.

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Of what?

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That control addiction is my biggest problem.

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What did it?

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Last session.

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Afterwards I realized that I really do feel like I’m always walking six dogs at once.

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Good.

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So what do we do now?

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Controlapy.

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What’s that?

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Control therapy.  My nickname for it.

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“Controlapy”?  That’s stupid.

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Yes.  But catchy.

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And I suppose that makes you a…

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Controlapist.

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(Sigh.)

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therapist

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And what does “controlapy” involve?

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Learning three things.

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First, what control addiction is and how it infects all of us.

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Second, where you personally have problems with compulsive controlling.

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And finally, how to replace control addiction with healthier coping methods.

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And you set the agenda?

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Mostly I react to what you bring in.  But I decide which sort of learning we need to focus on.

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Isn’t that, well, controlling of you?

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I suppose.

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But also controlapeutic.

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* * *

 

 

 

 

 

The idea of control controls the controllers; we are not in control of the power of control.

~ James Hillman, Kinds of power: A guide to its intelligent uses (Doubleday, 1995).

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Addiction, to anything, is always searingly narcissistically injurious. Something else has power over the self; feelings of shame, humiliation,and guilt are ineluctable. That’s saying too little. The self-hatred of the addict is the essence of his problem. Feeling powerless, he or she can only recover through a paradoxical admission of powerlessness — powerlessness over the addictive substance or activity.

~ Jerome David Levin, Slings and arrows: Narcissistic injury and its treatment. (Jason Aronson, 1993).

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We want to be more alive and feel more, but we are afraid of it. Our fear of life is seen in the way we keep busy so as not to feel, keep running so as not to face ourselves, or get high on liquor or drugs so as not to sense our being. Because we are afraid of life, we seek to control or master it.

~ Alexander Lowen, Fear of life (Collier Books, 1980).

 

* * *

 

“Should I worry?”

 

Concerned about someone’s drinking, but not sure if you should be?

Check out Crossing the Line:

 

And what is this “line?”

It represents the three stages of drinking briefly described below:

• Alcohol Use = “low-risk” or moderate drinking [Myth 1]
• Alcohol Abuse = repeated binge drinking and/or routine heavy social drinking [Myth 9]
• Alcohol Dependence = alcoholism, one of the brain diseases of addiction [Myth 10]

Most people are unaware there is a line comprised of these three stages of drinking, believing instead that drinking is either “normal” or “alcoholic.”

Most people are unaware there are increments along the line itself, that 35% of American adults never drink alcohol, or that 37% of American adults always drink within “low-risk” drinking limits.

Thus examining and challenging the common myths from a scientific perspective can help readers recognize what it takes to cross the line from alcohol use to abuse to dependence and what it takes to stop the progression.

~ Lisa Frederiksen, Crossing the Line

 
Author of nine books, including Loved One In Treatment? Now What! and If You Loved Me, You’d Stop!, Lisa Frederiksen is a national keynote speaker with 25 years experience. She has been consulting, researching, writing and speaking on substance abuse, addiction, education, prevention, intervention, treatment, dual diagnosis, underage drinking, and help for the family centered around 21st century brain and addiction-related research since 2003.  Check out her website Breaking the Cycles. 

The Kindle version of CROSSING THE LINE ($3.99) is available now on Amazon.com (click here).
Other eReader versions coming soon.

 

 

* * *

What do you mean, you haven’t entered yet?

The first-ever Bert Mug Contest is rip-roaring along.

And you haven’t entered yet?

What the hell?

Send us your caption about control addiction, please. 

It can be wise or stupid, healthy or neurotic, conservative or radical, we don’t care.

Not only will all entrants get a chance to own an authentic Bert Mug, but they’ll also be the first to hear of all new Monkeytraps projects — like the forthcoming 6-part Monkeytraps 101: Bert’s Crash Course in Control.

To enter the contest, merely

(1) Sign up for the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email at fritzfreud@aol.com with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.  Include your name too, so we know who to credit with such cleverness.

(2) In the same email, suggest a caption for the Bert Mug. If at all possible, make it adorable.

Multiple submission permitted.  Encouraged, even.  Knock yourself out.

Please. 


Bert’s therapy: Leashed

There’s something I don’t understand about control addiction.

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What’s that?

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You say everyone is addicted to control?

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Right.

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Doesn’t that mean this “addiction” is really just human nature?

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Well, I’m not sure what “human nature” means.  So I’d put it differently.

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bert

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It’s perfectly normal for human beings to be addicted to control.  It just isn’t healthy. 

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“Normal” and “healthy” aren’t the same thing?

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Oh no.  How many normal people do you know?

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Lots.

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And how many healthy people do you know?

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Hm.  I take your point.

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But I still don’t see what’s “normal” about being a control addict.

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Do you ever worry about the future?

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Of course.

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You’re addicted.  Do you ever fret over the past? 

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Sure.

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You’re addicted.  Ever hide your feelings for fear of how others might react? 

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All the time.

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You’re addicted.  Ever worry about whether people will like or love or accept you?

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Constantly.

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You’re addicted.  Ever lie, or manipulate, or distort the truth to get what you want? 

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Okay, I get it.

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Ever avoid annoying people or uncomfortable situations? 

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I said, I get it.

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Ever plan?  Strategize?  Analyze?  Fantasize?  Agonize?  Dream?  Ruminate?  Obsess? 

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You can stop now.

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Just making my point.  Controlling is so utterly ordinary that most of the time we barely notice we’re doing it. 

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Until it traps us, that is. 

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And how does it trap us?

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Have you ever walked six dogs at the same time?

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No.

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You set out thinking that you’re walking them.  But before long you realize the dogs are walking you.

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Meaning…

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Whatever we try to control controls us.  And the more controlling you are, the more out of control you feel.

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35

* * *

 

 

 

 

Make other people do what you want them to do. 

Make them behave as you think they should.  Don’t let them behave in ways you think they shouldn’t, but probably would without your “assistance.”  Force life’s events to unravel and unfold in the manner and at such times as you have designated.  Do not let what’s happening, or what might happen, occur.  Hold on tightly and don’t let go.  We have written the play, and we will see to it that the actors behave and the scenes unfold exactly as we have decided they should.  Never mind that we continue to buck reality.  If we charge ahead insistently enough, we can (we believe) stop the flow of life, transform people, and change things to our liking.

We are fooling ourselves.

~ Melody Beattie, Codependent no more

* * *

Not recommended.

Enter yet?

The first-ever Bert Mug Contest is in full swing.

So send us your caption already.

Funny, philosophical, profound, superficial, silly, salacious, we don’t care.

Not only will all entrants get a chance to own an authentic Bert Mug, but they’ll also be the very first we notify of all new Monkeytraps projects — like (TA DA) the forthcoming 6-part Monkeytraps 101: Bert’s Crash Course in Control.

To enter the contest, merely

(1) Sign up for the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email at fritzfreud@aol.com with  the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

(2) In the same email, suggest a caption for the Bert Mug.  Make it cute.

Submit once.  Submit twice.  Hell, submit daily.   We’ve cleared our schedule for this.


Win a BERT MUG!

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This blog was launched

on March 30, 2011.

 

Happy birthday to us.

 

To celebrate,

Monkeytraps

announces its first

BERT MUG

contest.

The Bert mug. Striking, no?

*

A classic collector’s item in toilet-bowl white with the iconic visage of the inimitable Bert etched in jungle-rot green.  Oh, okay.  It’s an ordinary coffee mug with a monkey cartoon on it.  But it’s free.  And we promise you’ll be the only person you know who has one.

*

 

*

The Bert Mug has many uses:

One use.

Another use.

Not recommended.

 

 

*

 To enter the contest, just:

(1) Sign up for the Monkeytraps mailing list by sending us an email to fritzfreud@aol.com.   Include your name and the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

(2) In that same email, suggest a caption for the Bert Mug having something to do with control addiction. 

It can be serious or funny, poignant or pungent, clean or dirty, silly or profound.   For example:

*

All I want is total control. 

 

Is that a banana in your pocket?   

 

I control, therefore I am. 

  

Hey, that’s not the reality I ordered. 

 

Like that. 

Entries will be judged according to what makes the judges laugh loudest, cry hardest, think deepest, or experience instant remission of all codependent symptoms. 

Just kidding.  Send whatever you think sounds cute. 

*

CONTEST JUDGES:

STEVE

Therapist, writer, cartoonist, codependency theorist, and co-author of Monkeytraps.

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3

BERT

Inner monkey, career codependent, co-author of Monkeytraps, and the mug’s poster boy.

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3

FELICIA

Bert’s wife, soon to appear in a series of “Bert’s Therapy” couples sessions. She asked to participate in this contest, and Bert can’t say no to her.  (Should give you an idea of what the couples sessions will be like.)  Refused to be sketched for this post (“With this hair?  Are you insane?”).

 

COME ONE!!

COME ALL!!

 TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

TELL YOUR FAMILY!!

(MOM ESPECIALLY!!)

GET THE LEAD OUT!!

THIS MEANS YOU!!

YES, YOU!!


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