Trap 9: Character

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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.

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Trap 9: Character

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Step 1: I experience discomfort.

I feel tired, trapped, and unable to be myself — to be emotionally honest or authentic or spontaneous.

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Step 2: I misread the discomfort.

“This feeling means there’s something wrong with me.”

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Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.

I try to fix myself by trying harder to meet the demands of my circumstances and the expectations of others.

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Step 4: My attempt fails.

My attempt leaves me feeling even more tired and trapped.

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Step 5: I misread the failure.

“I must try harder to fix myself.”

Step 6: I experience discomfort.

I feel tired, trapped, and unable to be myself.

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Footnote:

Character and control

Once you have a character you have developed a rigid system. Your behavior becomes petrified, predictable, and you lose your ability to cope freely with the world with all your resources. You are predetermined just to cope with events in one way, namely, as your character prescribes it to be.  So it seems a paradox when I say that the richest person, the most productive, creative person, is a person who has no character. In our society, we demand a person to have a character, and especially a good character, because then you are predictable, and you can be pigeon-holed, and so on….

The fact that we live only on such a small percentage of our potential is due to the fact that we’re not willing — or society or whatever you want to call it is not willing — to accept myself, yourself, as the organism which you are by birth, constitution, and so on.  You do not allow yourself, or you are not allowed, to be totally yourself…. [So] your power, your energy, becomes smaller and smaller. Your ability to cope with the world becomes less and less — and more and more rigid, more and more allowed only to cope as your character, as your preconceived pattern prescribes it.

~ Frederich S. Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim (Real People Press, 1967)

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Next:

Trap _: __

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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]

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Trap 9: Character

Step 1: I experience discomfort

x

Step 2: I misread the discomfort.

x

Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.

x

Step 4: My attempt fails.

x

Step 5: I misread the failure.

x 

Step 6: I experience discomfort.

x

 

Footnote: Character & control

(Perls on character)

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Next:

* * *

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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]


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