Trap 1: Addiction


This continues a new series of posts excerpted from Monkeytraps in Everyday Life: A Guide for Control Addicts (in press).  It’s a book about psychological monkeytraps: what they are, how they work, and how recovering control addicts can learn to notice when they’ve trapped themselves by trying to control what cannot or should not be controlled. Read the introduction to the series here.




Trap 1: Addiction


Step 1: I experience discomfort

I have a feeling I don’t know what to do with.


Step 2: I misread the discomfort.

“I need to make this feeling go away.”


Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.

I ingest something or perform some behavior that numbs the feeling temporarily.


Step 4: My attempt fails.

When the numbness wears off the feeling comes back (usually stronger).


Step 5: I misread the failure.

“I need to make this feeling go away again.” 


Step 6: I experience discomfort.

I have a feeling I don’t know what to do with.



Addiction and control

Addicts are people who can’t handle feelings.  Usually it’s because they never learned to as kids.  Usually because their parents never taught them.  Usually because they couldn’t teach them, because their parents never taught them.  (Usually.)  In any case, being unable to handle feelings is uncomfortable, since feelings tend to keep coming.  So the kid naturally starts looking around for something to make the damn things go away.  To escape a jungle of unwanted, disagreeable feelings by entering the Garden of Numb. Drugs and alcohol are the most obvious paths to the garden, but anything that alters your mood can be turned into an addiction.  And though some are more dangerous than others, in the end each addiction is the same as all the others, because each has the same goal: to give the addict control over emotional life.  Which is why when I’m asked “What does control have to do with addiction?” I reply: “Everything.”  Because finally every addiction is an addiction to control.

~ From The garden of numb



Trap 2: Annoying.


* * *

Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop

is available here.

Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop by [Steve Hauptman]


2 responses to “Trap 1: Addiction

  • alisonlowrie

    I am really liking the way you are describing these traps as they are easy to relate to and then easy to explain to my clients. Especially the misreading part which is the key in my personal and professional experience. Misreading for me is often about thinking it’s my stuff/problem/responsibility when it is not and this is my key into breaking the control cycle and letting go or handing it over as it’s not my problem to solve. Likewise my clients get stuck here and can believe it’s their job to fix another. The hard part is getting them to let go of the feeling – the discomfort and some like the security of it versus the insect of ‘letting go’!
    Great work Steve…as always

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