Want to trap a monkey?
(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.
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.
Want to trap a human?
(1) Place the human in an uncomfortable situation.
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.
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.
January 31st, 2015 at 12:31 am
YOU AGAIN! You, who seems to know me without ever meeting me. Hmmm…
I’m anxious to buy your book, and work on letting go of that damned banana.
January 31st, 2015 at 12:13 pm
Thanks. I love it when people say they feel I know them. Confirms my suspicion I’m onto something. 🙂
Looking forward to your feedback on the rest of it.
January 31st, 2015 at 11:30 am
Congrats on your book!!!
January 31st, 2015 at 12:10 pm
Looking forward to your feedback as the book emerges. 🙂
February 1st, 2015 at 11:25 am
I’m so excited that this book is becoming a reality!! I love the intro. It will be great to have these ideas at my fingertips. When I first started therapy with you some time ago, I had trouble wrapping my head around your theories about control, but every day I see more how control plays out in my life, for the good and for the not-so-good. Sounds so simple but it’s layered and complex, and so worth the work that goes into healing, understanding self and best of all the FREEDOM that comes with discovering and embracing your truth!! Good luck with the book – I look forward to reading more.
February 1st, 2015 at 11:41 am
Thanks, Susan. I appreciate the encouragement, especially from someone who’s worked so hard and successfully to implement these ideas.
And I love your description:
It does sound simple, but it is layered and complex.
Having stared at this stuff for so long, I sometimes forget the last part.
So I really need you — and everyone who reads these chapters as they emerge — to give me honest feedback on what works for them and what doesn’t.
February 2nd, 2015 at 10:54 am
Can’t wait for the book! Look forward to your posts every day! Have learned a lot from you already and had confirmed what I thought I knew but couldn’t put into words. Keep up the great work…excuse the sentence fragments, comes from too much texting….
February 2nd, 2015 at 10:57 am
I’ll excuse your fragments if you excuse mine. 🙂