Want to trap a monkey?
(1) Find a heavy bottle with a narrow neck.
(2) Drop a banana into it.
(3) Leave the bottle where a monkey can find it.
The monkey will do the rest.
He’ll come along, smell the banana, reach in to grab it.
Then find he can’t pull it out, because the bottleneck is too small.
He can free himself easily. He just has to let go.
But he really, really wants that banana.
So he hangs on.
He’s still hanging on when you come to collect him.
And that’s how you trap a monkey.
Want to trap a human?
(1) Place the human in an uncomfortable situation.
The human will do the rest.
He or she will try to reduce their discomfort by controlling the situation.
The harder they work to reduce their discomfort, the more uncomfortable they’ll get.
The harder they try to escape their discomfort, the more trapped they’ll feel.
And that’s how you trap a human.
This is a book about control in general, and psychological monkeytraps in particular.
A psychological monkeytrap is any situation that temps us to hold on when we should let go — to control what either can’t or shouldn’t be controlled.
The world is filled with monkeytraps.
As is the emotional life of every human being.
I learned this from practicing psychotherapy.
Therapy also taught me four truths:
1. We are all addicted to control.
2. This addiction causes most (maybe all) our emotional problems.
3. Behind this addiction lies our wish to control feelings.
4. There are better ways to manage feelings than control.
I call these the Four Laws of control, and they structure the four parts that follow:
Part 1: Addiction is about the idea of control, and how it structures our lives and choices.
Part 2: Dysfunction is about the most common ways control addiction makes us (and those we love) sick and miserable.
Part 3: Emotion is about the real reason we try to control people, places, things, and ourselves.
Part 4: Alternatives is about moving beyond control addiction to healthier ways of responding to discomfort.
I plan to publish the first two parts online for free. Then I’ll offer the entire book for sale in spring 2015.
Since this is a new way of looking at people and their problems, chapters will be kept bite-sized and spaced out, to give you a chance to chew on each idea as it emerges.
Chapters you want to reread will be archived on the page titled Monkeytraps (The Book).
Feedback and questions are always welcome.