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News

Mental traps contribute to stress of modern life: Professor

University Of Toronto At Scarborough : 06 March, 2007  (Technical Article)
Modern life is rife with
Modern life is rife with “mental traps”, modes of thinking we fall into that cause us anxiety and stress, according to Professor Emeritus André Kukla of the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

His new book, Mental Traps, is a handbook for identifying and overcoming such mental traps. For instance, “persistence” can be a mental trap when you continue to work on projects that have lost their value, he says. Finishing a book that you’re not enjoying or that is not proving useful is an example of a trap caused by persistence, Kukla says.

“Reversion” is another example, which means continuing to occupy ourselves with the past (fretting about a movie we couldn’t see because it was sold out when we arrived.)

Most of us unwittingly spend most of our time caught in these traps of our own making, he says, because we’ve lost the ability to switch between thinking rationally and prescriptively when it’s called for, and being spontaneous, which is a more liberating way of being. Our prescriptive selves are “on” all the time, running nowhere like hamsters on a wheel. The result? Suffering.

Readers familiar with the 11 mental traps he identifies are invited to practice an exercise called “thought-watching.” Thought-watchers don’t try to think about anything, but they also don’t try to block or deflect thoughts that do arise, they just watch these thoughts.
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