Breaking the jar

~~~ hammer jar3Once upon a time I wrote a post explaining where I got this blog’s title.  I described how in the East they put fruit in a weighted jar with a narrow neck and leave the jar where a monkey will find it.  The monkey smells the fruit, reaches in to grab it, and traps himself by refusing to let go.   I explained that I use this as a metaphor for psychological monkeytraps: situations that trigger us into compulsive controlling, into holding on when we should be letting go.

One reader replied,

Why didn’t the monkeys just break the jar? I get that it was weighted down, but monkeys use tools. Weren’t there rocks laying around?

This led to a conversation with Bert, which is reported below verbatim.

Bert: 

Shit.  Why didn’t I think of that?

Steve: 

Just the comment I’d expect from a control addict.

Bert: 

Why?  What did I say?

Steve: 

You misread the problem.

Bert: 

How?

Steve: 

You think the jar is what traps the monkey.

Bert: 

Sure.

Steve:  

But he could escape the jar just by opening his paw.   

Bert: 

Oh.  Yeah.

Steve: 

Except he wants the banana more than anything.

Bert: 

Wanting the banana is what traps him.

Steve: 

Correct.  Just as control addicts get trapped by wanting control.

Bert: 

How did I miss that?

Steve: 

You’re an addict.  Addicts respond to a loss of control by thinking, “But I want control.  I need control.  There must be some way to get it.”  That craving distorts their thinking.

Bert: 

So instead of letting go we try breaking the jar.

Steve: 

Yes.  Breaking the jar is a metaphor for seeing life as something we can control.  A dangerous illusion.

Bert: 

Tell me this part again.  It’s an illusion because…

Steve: 

There are some bananas we’re not meant to have.

Bert: 

Such as?

Steve: 

Oh, all sorts of things. 

Immortality, for example.  We want to live forever, and we can’t.

And control of emotions.  We want to feel only happy, safe and contented, and life forces us to feel sad, scared and needy.

And then there’s relationships.  Which never go as planned.

Bert: 

I noticed.  Why is that?

Steve: 

Because relationships involve people, and people tend to be hard to control.

Bert: 

So there’s no breaking the jar.

Steve: 

There’s no breaking the jar.  Life’s just what it is.  Messy, painful, unpredictable, inconvenient.  We have to find some way of making peace with that.

Bert: 

And there’s a way to?

Steve: 

There are three, actually.

Bert: 

What are they?

Steve: 

I’ll post about them here tomorrow.

Bert: 

No, now.

Steve:  

It would take too long.

Bert: 

But I want it now.  I need it now.  There must be some way to get it now.

Steve: 

Very funny.

 

 ~~~ s&B framed green

 

 

 

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7 responses to “Breaking the jar

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