Monthly Archives: March 2015
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was recently interviewed
about this book you’ve been reading
by Dwight Hurst
on his podcast
“The Broken Brain.”
And you can hear this
(I knew you’d want to know.)
You have completed Chapters 1 – 20, comprising
which is archived here.
This chapter begins
In the end there’s only one reason anyone goes to therapy:
Plan A has broken down.
Plan A is my label for everything we learn as children about life and how to live it.
We each have a Plan A. And we all pretty much learn it in the same place and in the same way.
The place is our family, and the way is unconsciously.
Nobody sits us down at the kitchen table and says, “Listen up. Here’s how you do Life.” No, they just do Life themselves, and we watch and listen and soak it all up like little sponges. Which explains why our Plan A tends to look so much like that of our family members.
And it works okay for a while. Especially while we’re still living in the family. We’re all following the same unwritten, unspoken rule book.
But Plan A always breaks down.
Eventually we move beyond the family into the larger world, filled with new people and new challenges. And we discover that what worked at home doesn’t always work out there.
At which point we have, in theory at least, a choice.
We can tell ourselves, “Oh, I see. I guess I need a Plan B.”
Or we can tell ourselves, “I must be doing it wrong. I better try harder at implementing Plan A.”
Guess which we choose?
Right. Plan A.
Always Plan A.
Two reasons for this. First, we may not even know there’s such a thing as Plan B. Childhood trained us to see Plan A as normal. (Why would anyone do Life in any other way?)
Second, even when we suspect there are other options, we cling to Plan A because it’s familiar. We already know how to do it. We can do it in our sleep.
And change is scary.
So we keep following Plan A even despite mounting evidence that it no longer works.
And that’s when we begin to develop symptoms — anxiety, depression, addictions, communication problems, bad relationships.
Those symptoms are what drive us into therapy.
Seeking, whether we know it not, a Plan B.
By now you may have noticed the most interesting thing about monkeytraps:
They’re not really traps at all.
They’re just invitations to trap yourself.
They succeed because of a part of the human personality I call the inner monkey.
This is the part dominated by monkeymind, the addicted part, the compulsive part. The scared part that grabs on, and panics, and then can’t let go.
I have an inner monkey.
We grew up together.
I call him Bert.
It was my lifelong relationship with Bert that led me to create Monkeytraps: A blog about control.
In one of my first blog posts I invited Bert to introduce himself to my readers.
He wrote this:
I entered Steve’s life early, probably well before kindergarten. 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 feelings and emotional risks. And relationship tricks, like hiding who he really was and pretending to like people he hated. Even perceptual tricks, like selective memory and trying to guess the future or read other people’s minds
None of these works over time. But they gave him temporary 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 adapt to it.
And because, instead of making him feel safer and accepted by other people, my controlling left him scared and disconnected.
It’s like that with us inner monkeys.
We mean well. We really do.
But we’re also, well, kind of stupid.
Some of you already know that the title of this blog refers to a method used 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 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 can’t help myself.
One last word:
I’m betting you have one of my brothers or sisters inside you.
You have it as surely as you have fears, and a monkeymind that whispers and worries and scares you.
You may not have noticed this secret tenant before.
But look anyway.
Because monkeytraps are just invitations.
They work only because of what monkeyminded humans do:
Set traps, then reach into them.
Build cages, then move in and set up housekeeping.