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Mental Traps Hardcover – International Edition, October 31, 2006

4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“I always suspected I had few bad habits of mind. Thanks to André Kukla, I am now certain I have many. If that makes reading Mental Traps sound like a dispiriting experience, it shouldn’t. Kukla has a light touch with weighty ideas. Readers will be enlightened and entertained, as well as improved.”
— Jamie Whyte, author of  Crimes Against Logic

“While it may be unlikely that any single person will have fallen into all mental traps so cunningly described by André Kukla in this exhilarating book, it is absolutely certain that every person will have fallen into some of them. That’s why it will ring loud bells and switch on bright lights in the minds of all who read it. Which means, of course, that everyone ought to.”
— Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh, author of Godless Morality

“Ever looked TWICE for your lost keys in an EMPTY bowl? Returned more than once to check you’d locked the door? Ever spoiled a moment by niggling with your partner over trivia? Ever been unable to get yourself to do something you really know you should? EVER LOST OUT because you couldn’t decide between two great lovers, or two great investments? OF COURSE YOU HAVE! André Kukla shows us how to think about these Mental Traps. If you want out of the big sandtraps and onto the green, read his book. KUKLA IS RIGHT! We could all be bopping along much more comfortably towards our goals. His nice, clear, straightforward examples steer us past the trap horizons. He helps us out of dark mental ditches into which we have fallen. His stories give us insights we need to talk about to those who know us INTIMATELY — or over the watercooler, in the coffeehouse, or at our bookclub.”
— John M. Kennedy, FRSC

From the Back Cover

"Mental Traps will ring loud bells and switch on bright lights in the minds of all who read it."
--Richard Holloway, former BBC host and author of Godless Morality

The antidote to twisted logic, fuzzy thinking, and self-defeating behaviors that mess up your mind

They sap your energy, undermine your productivity, cloud your thinking, and generally take all the fun out of life. They're mental traps, and even the most clear-headed Einsteins among us fall victim to them from time to time. But that doesn't mean you should resign yourself to doing their bidding. Avoid these drains on pleasure and personal performance with guidance from Mental Traps.

Psychologist and philosopher André Kukla opens your eyes to the eleven most common mental traps, including persistence--the refusal to abandon a useless task or course of action; amplification--the "killing a fly with a sledgehammer" syndrome; reversion--the "coulda-woulda-shoulda" disease; and resistance--the "let-me-just" disorder. With Kukla's proven tactics, you can free yourself from time-wasting mental traffic jams and be more productive in your everyday life.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385662491
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385662499
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,441,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in Belgium in 1942, an inauspicious location in space-time to begin a life. I made it through the war, only to be moved in 1950 to Brooklyn, where gentrification was decades away. Going by the name of Andr' perceptibly diminished my chances for survival on the gladiatoral field of the schoolyard---I might as well have been called Romeo. So I did everything I could to change my name to Andy. Now 'Andy Kukla' is a fine name for a standup comedian or a rodeo clown, but it isn't suitable for the august, professorial persona that I was destined to adopt. Yet the new name became so entrenched'on driver's licenses, social security cards, etc.'that I was well into my thirties before the return to Andr' could be engineered.

I was moved Los Angeles when I was 13, and lived there until the age of 28. For better and for worse, LA feels like my home town. The LA period of my life was broken up in 1965-66 by a seminal year in Berkeley during which I became an anarchist, a Buddhist, a druggie, an anti-Vietnam-war protester, and an advocate for the rights of schizophrenics to their own version of reality. I also stopped getting haircuts. In other words, I was a stereotypical member of my generation.

Both before and after the year in Berkeley, I attended UCLA. I was unable to settle on a major, and ended up getting a BA in mathematics, an MA in philosophy, and a PhD in psychology. If there were a fourth degree to obtain, I'm sure I would have gotten it in yet another field. I've been on the facultty of the Psychology Department at the University of Toronto simce 1970. I'm also cross-appointed to the Philosophy Department. I don't attach much importance to the distinction between philosophy and psychology: most of the questions that grab my attention belong to the fuzzy boundary between them. Looking back over several decades of work, it seems that the issues that I've worked on the most have to do with the scope and limits of rationality.

Freud said that the only things that really matter in life are 'Liebe und Arbeit'love and work. I've said a few words about my Arbeit; what about my Liebe? My Liebe is Kaila, who is, in ascending order of importance, a writer,a yoga teacher, a healer, and a devotee of the goddess Tara. It's a mystery to me why this strong, beautiful, and talented woman has consented to be my partner on life's journey. But if she hadn't done so, I would probably be dead.

I have two precocious and adorable daughters. Rebecca, the older one, is also a philosopher. She's married to Richard Manning, who is yet another philosopher. They have a son'Eli Kukla-Manning, my grandson, constructed entirely out of philosophers. The grandson, Eli K-M, is not to be confused with Eli Kukla tout court, who is my younger daughter. This Eli has just been ordained as a rabbi. Going by the Library of Congress classification system, the whole family gets shelved together under category B'Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion'.

Freud notwithstanding, there is a third dimension of life that's almost as important as love and work. I'm talking about location. Three places loom large in my affections. One is Toronto, a bastion of culture, intelligence, and liberality, and home to a multitude of delicious, cheap ethnic restaurants (if only the winters weren't so long!) Another special spot is the Big Island of Hawaii, where it was our fortunate fate to manifest a hand-built house in the Tolkienesque village of Volcano'we've spent many magical summers and sabbaticals there, immersed in a lush rain forest and surrrounded by old friends. Finally there's India, Kaila's spiritual home and everybody's ultimate travel adventure. A major unsolved problem of our life is how to spend 6 months a year in each of our three special places.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Prof. Kukla has written one of the kind of "self-help" books that were common-place a hundred years ago, but have largely passed out of existence more recently. This book is, believe you me, of more value than most of the psycho-babble seen on "Self-Help" book shelves. The thesis Prof Kukla offers is simple yet very persuasive: Most of us are prone to compulsive thinking patterns, which pre-occupy our minds, drain our energies, and waste our time, and all to no point.

A couple of examples:

* Persistence - we get locked-in to tasks that, quite obviously, are "going nowhere" and yet we over-commit, won't see or admit the futility of more effort, and so persist with no reasonable chance of completion or enjoyment.

* Amplification - we expand the activity to fill the available time, or to avoid taking the next step in a process - more research is done, more information gathered, more assurance is sought, but to not avail except stalling.

The book is plainly written, a pleasant read, and very topical for most of us. With each chapter it is likely the reader will wince in recognition and vow to do better - fortunately André gives good advice on exactly how to avoid or overcome these mental traps. The bottom line is that most of us are prone to foolishness or stupidity in our thought processes, but if the thinking that goes on when we're trapped remains below the level of consciousness, we can't even begin to change it. This book is a guide to a more productive form of self-analysis than most psycho-therapy is ever likely to provide.
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Format: Paperback
This little book will knock you on the head to wake you up from ignorance. Ignorance of your own thoughts, which makes you less productive and redundant.

Just to give you a taste of whats in store, one of the many useful mental traps enlisted in the book is "Amplification". The metaphor is "Killing a fly with a Sledge hammer". Which is putting in extra effort than what is required to get a job done.

Towards the last chapters you are being introduced to "Thought watching", which enable you to identify and dodge the pitfalls of your own consciousness. Overall this is a good read with outspoken examples which makes it both educational and entertaining.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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.
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Format: Paperback
I hated this book. I started reading it a while ago, and could not stop reading it. I hate when a book makes this type of demand on me. Other books are different. I have many that are on my nightstand with several bookmarks in them. They will be read, but the mood has to be there. Kukla's book is much different.

Having finished the book, I hated it some more by packing it along this Chrismas vacation. Loaded down with many of the mental traps illustrated in this book, I finally made time this Christmas holiday to re-read the work, but this time with my pen and paper nearby. Sure, Kukla has a light hearted approach to his writing, and it is easy to read, but his meaning is idea-dense and exceptionally easy - both at the same time.

But, taking the time to write down a few things, the meaning was there, and then my "formulation" of what was meant, was sadly gone. This is a seductively easy read, there is more than a hint of meaning, followed by considerable time making sense of the work. I have found the appendix to be exceptionally useful, but do not jump to it first. The reading prioir is essential. There are no short cuts to this.

I hate this book so much, I am going to re-read it again before school starts. There is considerable information in the first two-thirds that I will employ in my classroom. The mental traps should be made aware to anyone with an academic leaning. But this is simply the immense utility of the work. The message is only clear at the end.

In passing, I must also relate that I have a much better understanding of the Martial Arts dictum, "no mind". There is much mystery in the Martial Arts, and at this moment in time, I am rather convinced that this book is an excellent flashlight, and will help in my search there too.
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