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hapter Two:
Psychological Traps. What Are They?

"Even when it no longer makes sense,we may step up our efforts to save a relationship or a career which is yielding diminishing returns. Not knowing when to cut our losses,we continue to pour money into an aging automobile, a risky investment or a doubtful poker hand. Caught in traps of our own devising we can only climb out by understanding how they work".

By: Jeffrey Z. Ruben
Psychology Today
March 1981




You place a phone call and are put on hold. You wait. And then you wait some more. Should you hang up? Perhaps. After all why waste another second of your valuable time? On the other hand if you do hang up you'll only have to call again to accomplish whatever business put you on the phone in the first place. Anyway, you have already spent all of this time on hold so why give up now? You wait some more. At some point you finally resign yourself to the likelihood you have been put on hold forever. Even as you hang up however, your ear remains glued to the receiver hoping to the bitter end you did not spend all of your time waiting in vain.

Almost all of us have spent too much time caught in little traps. Even when it no longer makes sense some of us continue to spend money on a failing automobile or washing machine, a risky stock investment or a dubious relationship. Some of us simply do not know when to cut our losses and get out. The same goes for more serious situations. Some of us remain longer then we should in a marriage or love relationship, a job or career, or a therapy which is yielding diminishing returns. On a larger scale, entrapment is part of the dynamics in political controversies: Iran-Contra, Watergate, the Meech Lake Accord.

A common set of psychological issues and motivations underlies all such situations. A process of entrapment which shares many of the characteristics of animal traps and con games has been studied in a variety of laboratory and natural settings. As researchers we are attempting to describe the properties of psychological traps; what they have in common, where they lurk, whom they tend to snare and how they can be avoided.

To grasp psychological entrapment we must first comprehend the simplest traps of all physical traps for animals. Animal traps are ingenious devices devilishly clever and efficient, and utterly sinister in their effect on their victims. What properties then make animal traps work?

First of all an effective animal trap must be able to lure or to distract the quarry into behaving in ways which threaten its self-preservation. Second, an effective animal trap permits traffic in one direction only. Third, an effective trap is often engineered so the quarry's very efforts to escape entrap it all the more. Finally, an effective trap must be suited to the particular attributes of the quarry it is designed to capture.

Some types of personal interactions are psychological traps for capturing people; they are remarkably similar to self-entrapment. Like animal traps, their effectiveness lies in the trapper's ability to lure the quarry into a course of action that leads to entrapment. The human motives leading to entrapment include greed, excessive ambition and the need to save face or to punish an adversary. Similarly, when our personal or professional life disappoints us and our efforts to achieve a turn-around do not pay off quickly enough, we may decide to justify the high cost by renewing our commitment and remain on the treadmill.



In summary, the following are forms of advice on how to avoid entrapment:

  • Set limits on your involvement and commitment in advance.
  • Once you have set a limit, stick with it.
  • Avoid looking to other people to see what you should do.
  • Beware of your need to impress others.
  • Remind yourself of the costs involved.
  • Remain vigilant.



One sure-fire way to avoid entrapment is to comprehend you may never obtain something without retribution. For every gift received, some will pay tenfold more than what they believe. The amount of psychological stress we endure whilst floating through conundrum circumstances can infrequently be revitalized. But, this defunct energy if used constructively, and if one knows exactly how to use this seemingly wasted energy, could reap great psychological profits in self-satisfaction and self-respect at a later period in time.

After we distinguish which of the emotions we are aggravating during actual conflict situations, we should cover our losses by retreating. Retreating allows our minds to rejuvenate and creates a new mental energy level which is needed to proceed in future rational thought processes. Few people like another who quits every time the going gets rough, but at the same time very few enjoy socializing with those who are gluttons for punishment.

One of the essential rules to remember is never allow ourselves to lose our independence and become a puppet on another's string. Allowing another to control our thoughts, ideas or decisions interferes with our natural creativity. If our creativity is hampered, subsequently we cannot complete our ongoing projects or associations. It would be comprehensible than to acknowledge that our inability to deal with external emotions could be the cause of our downfalls.

Throughout the ages mankind has been forced to make decisions: some rational; some spontaneous; some intuitive; and, some logical. How do we make decisions? The question has been asked throughout the centuries. The answer to the question can be described as such; every decision, no matter how crucial or frivolous is based on a combination of personal emotions.

Personal emotions contribute to each and every decision we are obligated to make. Detractors will state this is not so, chiefly when decisions are allegedly based on logical information. Yet do we truly grasp on what logical information is based? Consider for a moment that logical information is derived from the input of anotheršs thoughts, ideas or the collection of anotheršs mental data. The accumulated information is then compiled by the organizers of the information who knowingly or not place their own perceptive ideas into the final physical conclusions.

To fully comprehend the aforementioned we must try to accept the theory that even logical decisions are assuredly the emotional decision of the individual who is interpreting the logical material. The final decision rests with the authoritative figure who is intuitively responsible for the final observation of the intuitively enhanced material. As well, we must recognize that a good majority of the logical information could possibly be wrong or incomplete. The actual decision lies therefore on the intuition of the decision maker.

Some of us cannot always place total faith in logical information received because of the possibility of unintentional errors within the supposed logical data. With the possibility of potential errors in mind, we cannot dispute the fact that some other force plays a role in the formation of decisions. Doctor Wilder Penfield cited this force as spirit. The spirit force is none other than our own personal emotional states. We either agree with the data or dispute it. The ultimate end-results rely on our ability to interpret the data. Interpreting the data can be explained by simply asking what our emotional feelings were at the time an intrinsic question was asked. We may then presume all decisions that each one of us make are therefore interpretations of our internal personal feelings about the data.

To simplify the above, quite frankly logical information is only as good as the emotional and psychological make-up of the individual who compiled the logical information. Even calculations can be considered in this evaluation. Emotional upheavals can cause another to inadvertently transpose numbers and ultimately emotionally unstable individuals are prone to error.

What are emotions? How do they affect our decisions? What are their purposes? How do they affect our life? Even questions such as those can only be answered by our internal or subconscious emotional beliefs. Emotions are as much a part of us as seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling, the five known senses of existence. The sixth and most often down played sense is our emotions.

Some have called this sixth sense intuition and as we will ascertain this is partially the truth. Before interpreting the true definitions of both emotions and intuition it is primarily necessary to understand exactly what triggers emotional feelings within each of us.

Some of us are often contaminated by information which is invalid or manipulated. How many times have we found ourselves in positions where we knew full well we were reacting to certain situations against our normal behavior patterns, yet we proceeded to follow invalid or manipulated patterns knowing we were feeling uncomfortable? Invalid or manipulated patterns are called psychological traps: traps which lead us down the proverbial garden path and eventually distract us from making the proper decisions.

Psychological traps are common experiences for those who are easily manipulated by others. The actual manipulators are usually in control. Our downfall begins when we feel manipulating individuals are being wronged as we believe we may have been wronged in the past. Temporarily we find ourselves accustomed to attempting to protect them. The coined definition of the protective event is called the "Florence Nightingale Syndrome". For example; let us assume on one occasion or the other our life has been disrupted by a certain emotional upheaval. The turmoil is embedded within our conscious mind. If at a later time we find ourselves subject to another's equally similar experience, technically paralleling our past negative or positive emotions, we will surely take a position of either supporting their position or pretending it doesn't exist.

Our emotional feelings are learned from our previous experiences, be they positive or negative. Our decisions will therefore be based on the outcome of past observations or feelings. Although one may try to present a positive outlook during confusing occurrences, there is a tendency to forget the purpose of life is to assuredly base all our decisions on the positive emotions retained from our past experiences and not base our decisions on the retained negative emotions of life.

In Esoteric teachings, the message mankind receives is to live our life in a true spiritual and positive manner. We all know however that at times some of us have a tendency to lose emotional control. To control our emotional responses we sometimes may feel as if we are having our teeth pulled without pain killers. May we then conclude Esoteric teachings also consist of lessons and knowledge of emotional pain killers?

Emotional pain killers are our natural abilities to deal with stress. But, what exactly is stress? Stress simply is the inability to make a decision. Many times throughout our life all of us are forced to make decisions. When we are faced with decisions we are not emotionally prepared to make then our decision making capabilities are thwarted.

Learning to overcome stress-related decisions requires the ability to first conclude which emotions we are experiencing at the time of indecision, which emotions are stopping us from making decisions, and which emotion is required to overcome our procrastinations.

Once we have understood which emotions are governing our indecision we can then overcome problematic situations.

But, what constitutes a problem? We all encounter difficult situations. When we find ourselves in situations which are emotionally trying, some of us tend to procrastinate. Thus continuous interaction potentially produces further procrastination. As we learn to rule all of our emotions within our natural boundaries of observation, we can accurately decide the proper path to follow.

However, what actually causes our emotional upheavals? Our interactions with other human beings bring emotions to the forefront. Depending on the circumstances, emotions can either be buried deep within our conscious minds or totally denied. Once we have experienced certain personal emotions, instead of heeding the emotional internal advice attributed to past experience, some of us tend to relate to anothers emotional situation thereby denying our own true feelings . To clarify the point, if one does undergo a traumatic experience there could be a tendency to try and block the emotional ramifications of that experience and, without being aware, the person will operate in the same negative mode in the future in similar circumstances.

Let us suppose that the experience is satisfactory. One should then be retaining the experience for future recall. Needless to say however, retaining memorable experiences is rarely adhered to. We all have a tendency to remember the bad times; very rarely do we remember all our good experiences.

The questions raised must be answered. To find out the answers we must first discern what emotions are and what are their ramifications. Establishing balance in our learning experiences and utilizing each and every emotion may sometimes lead us down that garden path toward destruction, especially if we are not prepared or we do not understand how important emotions are to our life. We all have a tendency to be emotional, yet if we can conceive we are the masters of our own realities and all problems are of our own making, we will be able to overcome all barriers and live a more constructive life.

The lessons to be ascertained are momentous. We seek out problems to understand how to overcome them. Therefore we may then conclude that problems lead us to the principal question of how are our decisions based on emotions? Consider for a moment a major decision one might encounter. What was the emotional reaction? Was it positive or negative? Was there agitation by the outcome or a feeling of being uninjured about what happened? Did they walk away feeling guilty or did they perceive another negative emotion? It is mandatory to define our feelings in relationship to the outcome.

How many times have we considered what is paramount to us? Have we ever placed ourselves above others? Have we ever considered ourselves to be equal to our peers? If the answer is a "no" to any of the above questions than we are presently allowing ourselves to make decisions based on our negative emotions and not our positive emotions.

The next question to ask is, "What are emotions?" Do we comprehend or have we ever experienced all the emotions which we force upon ourselves? Do we chronologically experience emotions of which we are not aware? The answer is a "yes" to all of the above. Yes, we do experience emotions which we tend to isolate. Yes, we do understand and seek out emotions which we wish to learn. Yes, we know what each and every emotion is but we have a tendency to block one or more of the emotions from our conscious minds. The above actions normally give us the excuse that others are responsible for our downfalls.

We are all unique individuals, but we are all emotionally equal.. We all experience multiple emotions at any given time. Combinations of both positive and negative emotions interact with our decisions. Decisions are the culmination of all learning experiences. Devising the right decision allows each and every one of us to function in a constructive and viable manner. An improper or negative decision brings the puss of our emotional sores to the surface and festers in a manner which brings on infections or emotional stress.

Intuitively we know what is right and what is wrong. Knowing when to make a decision or when not to is formulated by our intuition. To remedy our personal self-made problems, we must start trusting our intuitive feelings.



THE 21 EMOTIONS EXERCISE
Library No EGC-2-811992-B

Copyright Š Earl Gordon Curley 1981.


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FIRST EDITION August 1981.


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