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Mental Traps: The Overthinker's Guide to a…

Mental Traps: The Overthinker's Guide to a Happier Life (2007)

by Andre Kukla

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Showing 4 of 4
Very entertaining read. Explores two handfuls of mental schemes we fall for... for instance, why do we keep playing a game “just to get it over with“ even though the game lost its fun 20 minutes ago? How can we lose so much energy forecasting events and replaying old battles?

Gets to the bottom of each trap while keeping a neutral point-of-view; does not preach values but pushes the reader to simply _notice_ when caught in a trap. Concludes with tricks (meditation!) as a way to free up our minds from the traps. ( )
  ptaff | Dec 26, 2012 |
The content of this book is drawn from many sources, including philosophy, psychology, religion, science, and most importantly, the self. And, the lessons learned from those sources are synthesized well to produce something that has practical uses/applications for developing the self. The book contains sound and practical lessons on learning to recognize "mental traps" that so burden the modern man. There are eleven mental traps outlined and discussed in great detail. Some of the mental traps are familiar to us: anticipation, resistance, and procrastination (my favorite!) Others aren't so well-recognized, and it would do well to learn and recognize all of 'em. I almost procrastinated in writing this review, but being mindful of that particular trap enabled me to write the review without further delay!

The book doesn't discuss "tips/strategies" for dealing with mental traps, for doing so would have defeated the very purpose of writing it. The point is not to treat ourselves as automaton that is fed a set of prescriptive rules, which, if followed, supposedly would liberate us from mental traps. Toward the end of the book, there is a chapter on why such a prescription would, in fact, lead us into mental traps and not away from them. I won't spoil the fun. You will have to read the book yourself to know what I mean.

This book has the potential to change lives radically. All in all, a must read. ( )
  vishallama | Nov 26, 2011 |
I don't think I'm an overthinker, really. And I would have organized the book into chapters that presented the problem, then the proposed solution, rather than describing all the problems and having one 'solution' chapter at the end. ( )
  lacurieuse | Dec 3, 2009 |
This was an interesting book, describing the bad mental habits that are slowing us down and stopping us from being happy. Kukla uses fun examples to make the material come alive - and that made the difference between this book being enjoyable and being a dry piece. Most of the traps are so easy to fall into that you don't even notice you are doing them! But this book will help you make an effort to avoid those traps and be more productive. ( )
  janeycanuck | Jun 24, 2008 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Mental traps are habitual modes of thinking that disturb our ease, take up enormous amounts of our time, and deplete our energy, without accomplishing anything of value for us or anyone else in return.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385662505, Paperback)

Mental Traps is André Kukla’s immensely enjoyable and down-to-earth catalogue of the everyday blunders we make in our thinking habits, how these traps can affect our entire lives, and what we can do about it.

Ever find yourself putting off even relatively minor tasks because of the many other little jobs that you’d have to tackle first? Or spending far too much time worrying about things you can’t change? Or living for the future, not for today? Truth is, we all do — and we all recognize that sometimes our ways of thinking just aren’t productive. When it comes to our daily lives, we often laugh off habits like procrastination as being human nature and just resolve to approach things differently next time. Or, when the issues facing us are enormous or traumatic, we might recognize that we’re dwelling on our problems, or otherwise spending our time on fruitless thinking, but have no idea how to get out of that miserable rut. Either way, it takes up a lot of our mental energy.

But as André Kukla makes clear in Mental Traps, what we don’t recognize — or at least admit to ourselves! — is how thinking unproductively about even the smallest elements of everyday life can mount up and keep us from being happy, from living life to the fullest. For what appear to be minor lapses are actually “habitual modes of thinking that disturb our ease, waste enormous amounts of our time, and deplete our energy without accomplishing anything of value for us or anyone else.” So whether we’re dealing with how to attain our major career goals or deciding when to serve the salad course at dinnertime, the end results can be much the same: readily identifiable patterns of wasteful thinking. These, in Kukla’s view, are the mental traps.

In his introduction, Kukla compares his method to that of naturalist’s guides, which take a very matter-of-fact approach to providing practical information. He then outlines eleven common mental traps, such as persistence, fixation, acceleration, procrastination and regulation. Devoting a chapter to each, he provides simple examples to help us to identify mental traps in our own thinking — and to recognize why it would be beneficial to change our ways. Our anxiety, our dissatisfaction, our disappointment — these are often the consequences of thinking about the world the wrong way. And it’s in the parallels he draws between the major and minor events of our lives that he truly brings his point home: How is refusing to eat olives like toiling at a job that has long ago lost all satisfaction? How is arriving at the airport too early a symptom of a life never fully lived? Again, what can seem to be a very inconsequential habit can actually signal bigger, more detrimental problems in our ways of thinking.

Kukla’s goal — one that we should share, in the end — is to help us realize how much more enjoyable our lives would be if we were a little more attentive to our thought processes. Just as Buddhism, from which the author has drawn many of his ideas, teaches that we should perform all of our acts mindfully, Kukla suggests that we make a conscious effort to step back, clear our minds, and simply observe how our thoughts develop. By doing so, we will begin to recognize unproductive patterns in our own thinking, and then we can try to avoid them. Ultimately, Kukla hopes that Mental Traps will help readers move towards what he calls a “liberated consciousness” — a state in which we no longer allow mental traps to inhibit our experiences. From having more energy to being able to act impulsively, we’d realize the benefits of living in the moment and feel truly free.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:35 -0400)

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