- Why am I always choosing partners who are no good for me?
- Why can’t I say no without feeling guilty?
- Why do I always feel like what I do is never good enough?
Questions like these and the problems they cause are often the result of stable beliefs that repeatedly move us to do some things and not others, even when doing so causes pain and unhappiness. Psychologists Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko call these beliefs ‘lifetraps’ and created the workbook Reinventing Your Life to help people identify and change these destructive patterns. Also known as schemas (pronounced ‘skee-mas’), lifetraps are deep-rooted beliefs about ourselves and the world that we learn in childhood and gradually come to view as ‘Me.’
A good example of this is your own name. When you were born into the world someone gave you that name and, over time, told you and showed you what kind of person you were. ‘Good people do this but not that’ they might have said, or perhaps someone yelled at you when they were stressed out. Over time, your young brain took all of those hundreds of thousands of experiences and cobbled together a complex model that gave you a sense of your identity and your worth as a person. Over your lifetime that sense felt increasingly familiar and you lived as if it was ‘You.’
Using understandable language and case studies as examples, the authors explain how all children have basic needs for safety, connection, self-esteem and self-expression. When the environment allows for those needs to be met, most children develop well enough. However, when a child’s environment is consistently lacking lifetraps can take root. For example, some children don’t have the experience of feeling precious and special; they grow up without a sense of being loved or valued. Some of these children may develop what Young and Klosko call the Emotional Deprivation lifetrap and come to believe that no matter what they do, they will never get the love they need. As adults people with this lifetrap may find themselves being distant in close relationships, not telling partners what they need, and blaming partners for not knowing.
Other lifetraps cause people to consistently believe that they can never truly trust another person, that they are a failure no matter how many successes they experience, that nothing they do is ever good enough, and that the needs of others are always more important than their own.
The real value of this workbook comes in the many tools the authors provide to help readers identify and change their own lifetraps. Each lifetrap is given its own chapter and a questionnaire to determine its applicability. Each chapter also contains useful information readers can use to help change behaviour to change beliefs.
The psychologists at Shift Cognitive Therapy are skilled in working with lifetraps and schemas, and may recommend this book to you as a useful part of your treatment.
Shift Cognitive Therapy Oakville is a psychology practice with a focus on change.