Mental Traps: A Field Guide to the Stupid Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Life.


245 pages
ISBN 978-0-385-66249-1
DDC 158.1





Reviewed by Lori A. Dunn

Lori A. Dunn is a ESL teacher, instructional designer, and freelance
writer in New Westminster, B.C.


André Kukla has written a delightfully pompous field guide to the lapses everyone falls victim to—those moments of not doing “the best thing at the best time and in the best way.” By providing this “naturalist’s guide to a certain order of mental flora,” Kukla plans to out these insidious mental traps.


With an amusing tone of antiquated stiltedness, Kukla expounds the virtues of a type of Epicureanism, where any action is acceptable, as long as it is a desired one. The goal of recognizing and defeating these mental traps is to free your mind’s energy for more worthy tasks.


One example is the trap of “persistence,” where energy is wasted on what is no longer of value, to continue an activity merely because it has been begun, such as continuing to read a book that you are not enjoying. Another is “anticipation,” or doing too much ahead of time, when in the end your energy may be wasted when situations change and the work becomes unnecessary. This is the trap of starting too soon—and may lead to the dreaded overwork, or worse yet, working in vain.


Yet another example is “fixation”: waiting for that one necessary thing, either negatively (in worry) or positively (in hope), but just the same potentially throwing away “the gift of the empty moment.” The temporal opposite of fixation is “reversion,” where the trap is the “I-should-have disease,” miring us in guilt or shame.


But when all of the traps are defined, the final message is simple: if the activity you are engaged in is one that you truly enjoy or see value in, then continue it. But always keep in mind that even an activity that brings in pleasure can compel you against your will to finish it, out of sheer habit.


Kukla, Audré., “Mental Traps: A Field Guide to the Stupid Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Life.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,