This continues a new series of posts excerpted from Monkeytraps in Everyday Life: A Guide for Control Addicts (in press). It’s 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 4: Approval
Step 1: I experience discomfort
As a child I don’t get enough approval.
Step 2: I misread the discomfort.
“There must be something wrong with me.”
Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.
I work hard to win the approval of others, by trying to be who they want me to be.
Step 4: My attempt fails.
Whatever approval I win feels meaningless, since it’s a response to my trying, not to the real me.
Step 5: I misread the failure.
“I must try harder to win others’ approval.”
Step 6: I experience discomfort.
As an adult I don’t get enough approval.
Approval & control
When we urgently aim to please other people, we’re seeking approval of self from outside sources. And whenever we reach for something in the outside world to give us what we should be giving ourselves, we set ourselves up for disappointment. We set ourselves up to live a life we don’t particularly want, but will fit with what other people expect of us. We don’t dare take a chance on something that may bring on a disapproving stare or rank low on the social status meter. We do what’s expected of us. We do what others want for us and from us. In return, we get their approval. You might be thinking, “Why not seek approval?” Well, the reason is that we only get it at the expense of knowing what we want and being our true selves. When we seek others’ approval, we miss opportunities to learn how to approve of ourselves — even if others don’t.
~ Ilene Strauss Cohen, Ph.D., “How to let go of the need for approval”
Trap 5: Avoidance
Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop
is available here.