The Raccoon Trap

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 21, 2011

My home in the hills of north Georgia lies somewhere in the twilight between civilization and the wilds of the untamed woods. Although the front of the house faces a conventional street lined with homes, the backyard is filled with hundred-foot oaks and is divided by a creek inhabited by a family of beavers. Last night I disturbed a family of deer snacking on the salt lick and the corn that my soft-hearted wife had left out for them. Periodically, raccoons and possums supplement their natural diet by raiding our garbage, and when they become persistent, I trap them and transport them far away.

On one occasion, when I was studying the humane ways to catch a raccoon, I read a book written long ago by a trapper. He used the natural curiosity of raccoons to catch them. He began by boring a hole eight inches deep in a log that had fallen across a stream. Then he pounded small, sharp nails around the edge of the hole at a downward angle, so that the nail points emerged in the hole and created a circular opening just large enough to allow the entry of a raccoon's hand. A shiny object--like a piece of tin foil--was dropped into the bottom of the hole, and the trapper left until the next day.

The raccoon would walk across the log to cross the stream and, ever curious, would peak inside the hole looking for grubs or other sustenance. Seeing the bright object, he would immediately reach through the circular opening created by the nails to grab the object. Upon pulling back his hand, however, he would discover that with his fist doubled up, his hand was much too large to get past the nails, which were now digging into his skin as he pulled against them. The harder he pulled, the more it hurt. The next day, the raccoon would still be there, stubbornly refusing to let go of the foil, and the trapper claimed his prize.

As we picture this scene in our minds—the trapper approaching the frantic raccoon with raised club in his hand—we almost want to cry out, "Let go! Just let go, and you'll be free!" What a simple solution to a literally deadly problem, and yet most of us face similarly serious problems every day and fail to see the solutions that are just as simple.

Every day we see shiny objects that entice us. We see pieces of Imitation Love that glitter like gold and invite us to grab hold of them and experience their temporary satisfaction. The world is filled with shouted invitations for us to enjoy the exciting seductions of praise, approval, sex, control, entertainment, money, and so on. And most of us—at various times—reach out with one or both hands and grab hold for all we're worth.

But now we're trapped. We're completely occupied by all the behaviors—lying, attacking, acting like victims, running, and clinging—that are required to earn those bright, shiny objects we enjoy, and until we're willing to simply let the shiny objects go, we can never experience the genuine nourishment and real joy we need. But we stay there on the log, clutching the tin foil until we starve to death or a trapper clubs us over the head.

Life is not as complicated as we sometimes pretend. Our choices may be difficult, but they're usually nonetheless simple. We need to clearly see the behaviors that are keeping us trapped. We need to see what we have our hands wrapped around—what is keeping us stuck in the log—and then all we have to do is let go. Once we have the courage to make that choice, finding Real Love and genuine happiness is relatively easy.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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