..~ imagine a perfect life (one that meets all our needs and makes us perfectly happy), and then
..~ try to make those imaginings come true.
The word controlling covers all forms of this imagining and trying.
Our trying may be large (building a skyscraper) or small (killing crabgrass), complex (winning a war) or simple (salting my soup).
It may be important (curing cancer) or petty (trimming toenails), public (getting elected) or private (losing weight), essential (avoiding a car crash) or incidental (matching socks).
I may inflict my trying on other people (get you to stop drinking, kiss me, wash the dishes, give me a raise) or on myself (raise my self-esteem, lose weight, hide my anger, learn French).
All this involves seeking some form of control.
We’re controlling nearly all of the time.
We control automatically and unconsciously, waking and sleeping, out in the world and in the privacy of our thoughts.
From birth until death.
The only time we’re not controlling is when we can relax, and do nothing, and trust that things will work out just fine anyway.
How often can you do that?
We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time. One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work. Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested? Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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: Addictionis about the idea of control, and how it structures our lives and choices.
Part 2: Dysfunctionis about the most common ways control addiction makes us (and those we love) sick and miserable.
Part 3: Emotionis about the real reason we try to control people, places, things, and ourselves.
Part 4: Alternativesis 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.
You may be used to thinking of control as a solution, not a problem.
Fine. Read on.
You may not think of yourself as a controlling person.
Also fine. Read on.
You may never have tried redefining your emotional problems as rooted in your wish for control.
Terrific. Read on.
A client once described his first Al-Anon meeting as “like a light coming on in a dark room. Suddenly I could see all the furniture I’ve been tripping over all my life.”
That’s just what we’re going for here.
Welcome to the light switch.
* * *
We’re planning an online study/support group for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time. Also coming, a group for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work. Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per 90-minute session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested? Write me: email@example.com.