a 7 minute read that could change your life…

I listened to the SAVVY PSYCHOLOGIST: 18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life by Dr. Monica Johnson on the Quick and Dirty Tips podcast. She talks about schemas, which I knew little about. I found her descriptions empowering and worthy of sharing. For more details on each one, I’ve provided the links below.

A schema is a stable and enduring negative pattern that develops during childhood or adolescence. It persists and expands throughout our lives. —Dr. Monica Johnson

Read it one more time, I’ll wait…

I now have a better understanding of the well-worn grooves in my brain and how they affect the way I interpret and respond to everything. I noted the schemas I thought most applicable to me now.

18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life/Part One

NOTE: There are three main not-so-helpful responses to schemas: surrender, avoidance, and overcompensation. Keeping these in mind when you read this list is helpful.

1. Emotional Deprivation

This schema refers to the belief that your primary emotional needs will never be met by others. These needs can typically be described in three categories: nurturance, empathy, and protection. Nurturance relates to needs for closeness, affection, or love.

This schema can arise due to having parents who are more distant and don’t adequately attend to the emotional needs of their child. Parents can be well-meaning but have a child who has a more sensitive temperament and the parents aren’t equipped with the skills necessary to support them.

2. Abandonment/Instability

If you have fears of abandonment, this is one of your predominant schemas. Typically, people with this schema believe that they will soon lose anyone with whom an emotional attachment is formed.

3. Mistrust/Abuse

This schema refers to the expectation that others will intentionally take advantage of you in some way.

4. Social Isolation/Alienation

Do you experience life as the black sheep? This schema refers to the belief that one is isolated from the world, different from other people, and/or not part of any community.

5. Defectiveness/Shame

Are you afraid that if someone got too emotionally close to you, they’d find out how awful you really are?

6. Failure   

I think many of us have a fear of failure to some degree, but perhaps in your case, it’s more debilitating. Did you grow up in a family where anything less than an A was a failure?

7. Dependence/Incompetence

This schema refers to the belief that you’re not capable of handling daily responsibilities competently and independently.

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”  —Pema Chödrön 

8. Vulnerability to Harm and Illness

Do you always feel like your own personal doomsday clock is ticking away? This schema refers to the belief that the next major catastrophe is right around the corner, whether it be medical, financial, environmental, etc.

9. Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self

Are you too involved with your family or romantic partners? People who struggle with enmeshment often have little-to-no boundaries and are too emotionally involved in their relationships.

AVOIDANCE: Damn, this is a new schema, not from my childhood. With too much focus on my kids and their lives, I often neglect my own growth. It comes from a loving & well-meaning place but it’s actually detrimental to my whole family. More focus on my own needs will give my brood the much-deserved space to do the same.

18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life/Part Two

10. Entitlement/Grandiosity

The belief that you’re superior to others. Some may have an exaggerated focus on aspects that they believe display this superiority (e.g. being amongst the most wealthy or successful). …we might call them clout chasers; however, individuals with this schema are engaging in these behaviors to achieve power and control, and not primarily seeking approval or attention.

11. Insufficient Self-Control or Self-Discipline

This schema refers to the inability to tolerate any frustration in reaching your goals, as well as an inability to restrain the expression of your impulses or feelings. In its milder form, you may have an exaggerated emphasis on discomfort avoidance: avoiding pain, conflict, confrontation, responsibility, or overexertion at the expense of personal fulfillment, commitment, or integrity. When lack of self-control is extreme, criminal or addictive behavior may rule your life. …it’s impossible to have a healthy existence and avoid all discomfort.

SURRENDER: This is what I thought of myself as a child. I was disciplined in sports, but not school, and I lacked self-control over my eating habits. To this day I often think of myself as lazy, lacking direction, and terribly disorganized. These attributes are sometimes true of me but are no longer dominant. However, I still have many internal battles regarding this hardwired schema. It’s time to UNSURRENDER to this negative thought pattern.

12. Subjugation

This is the excessive surrendering of control to others because you feel coerced. This behavior is usually done to avoid things like conflict, anger, or abandonment.

13. Self-Sacrifice

This schema refers to the excessive sacrifice of your own needs in order to help others. The most common reasons are: to prevent causing pain to others; to avoid guilt from feeling selfish; or to maintain the connection with others perceived as needy. 

OVERCOMPENSATION: Although well-intentioned on my part there’s a downside: 1) self-sacrifice can build resentment 2) makes those I’m making sacrifices for feel incapable when they haven’t even asked me for help in the first place. This schema is overcompensation on my part to avoid being seen as selfish.

14. Emotional Inhibition

This schema involves the belief that you must suppress spontaneous action, feeling or communication. This is usually to avoid disapproval by others, feelings of shame, or losing control of your impulses. 

15. Approval Seeking/Recognition Seeking

This schema refers to placing excessive emphasis on gaining the approval and recognition of others at the expense of your own genuine needs and sense of self.

16. Negativity/Pessimism

This schema refers to a pervasive, lifelong focus on the negative aspects of life while minimizing, ignoring, or discounting the positive aspects.

“Schemas tend to be easier to change during childhood but can become increasingly rigid and difficult to modify as people grow older. Schemas will often persist even when people are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs.” —Dr. Christine Padesky/Verywell Mind

17. Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness

This schema refers to a belief that you have to meet extremely high standards of performance or behavior. The person with this belief pattern is usually doing this to avoid criticism.

18. Punitiveness  

This is the belief that people should be harshly punished for making mistakes. People with this schema tend to be critical and unforgiving of themselves and others.

Thank you, Dr. Johnson…you’re a savvy psychologist indeed.

are we frayed beyond repair?

“Once the fabric of a just society is undone, it takes generations to weave it back together.” —Deepak Chopra

karmic shadows…

No one can entirely escape their inherited genetics, the often told family stories, or emotional baggage of our ancestors.

Often, the burden of our family karma, or ancestral grief can feel far more like a cumbersome steamer trunk than a convenient carry-on bag. Thankfully, we actually don’t have to drag the damn steamer trunk around for the rest of our lives. Sometimes these are simply stories told through generations, held too closely and past their expiration date of relevance.

Recognizing that I actually had a choice took a very long time. This has provided a certain emotional liberation that I don’t yet entirely understand. However, I do know that I feel much lighter and have freed up some emotional bandwidth for matters in the here and now requiring my heart and energy.

heading north on I93, some rest stop wisdom…

This post-it note was visible through a garbage bag while I waited for my tank to fill. I had to tear a little hole to fish it out (and scrape off some gum). It was worth it to me.

Was it written and then discarded or received by the person who cleaned out their car? I’ll never know. I will always wonder.

This message works for a lot of different occasions and situations throughout in my life.

You?

on perspective…

PERSPECTIVE noun

:the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

I don’t always want to see things from other points of view or walk a mile in another woman or man’s shoes. I don’t have to first feel empathetic or sympathetic before I actually understand my own thoughts.

Maybe it’s best to let our perspectives have their way with us, initially anyway, keep what’s informative and then get curious about how other people view things.

The key I suppose, is not waiting so long that rigidity sets in and we become unable to change course, even as we acquire additional information.

My Perspective

“Shoulda taken a break, not an oxford comma Take what I want when I wanna”

—Billie Eilish lyrics from my strange addiction

Instead of rushing in to validate someone else’s perspective the way I’ve been conditioned to do, understanding what’s happening to my own nervous system regarding an event or circumstance seems well worth practicing.

I’m gonna take a break…more than an oxford comma. After all, I’m not often being chased by giant predators as my lizard brain endlessly tries to trick me into believing. I usually have the time to take a minute.

Thank you Willa, Lucy and Ellis for introducing me to Billie Eilish. Damn she’s really something.

Hillbilly Elegy & interior geography

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHumans are an intricate system of bones, nerves, blood and memories.  We all have a unique internal map that shaped us.  Interior geography is the exploration of our inner world and the hardwired routes from our childhoods that guide our dispositions and chosen paths.  Exploring our interior geography honors the wisdom we possess from our journey and provides an opportunity to discover new territories we want to explore, but haven’t quite found a path toward yet.

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Hillbilly Elegy is all about J. D. Vance’s interior geography. In this brave memoir about growing up in a poor American Appalachian town, Vance shares the heartbreak of constant childhood disruption and the deep love of the people who were rooting for his success.  He tries to write without judgement and this allows him some generosity (and a little distance) to try to understand the people and the landscaped that shaped him.  To me this book was an invitation to look back at my childhood and take a look at my interior geography—both the chosen paths I’m proud of and the well worn paths I now need to block access to going forward.

My husband, Jeff and I listened to “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance over Christmas.  The author is the reader which lends a certain intimacy to the audible version.  Here are a few thoughts that surfaced for me.

1.  I think a lot of us can recognize “Hillbilly” qualities in our upbringing regardless of our social class. Even though I was raised relatively affluent in a small, South Dakota farm town I can easily relate to many of the themes J. D. Vance references in this memoir.  As we listened to the book, Jeff observed that it could’ve been titled: Reactive or Judgemental Household Elegy—I would guess that most of us grew up with some judgement in our homes.  “Hillbilly” in the title might make you think it will be hard to relate to.  It’s not.  J. D.’s honesty about his childhood—poverty, abuse, clan loyalty, secrets, addiction and his family’s response to all of it are profound.

I was also struck by the way we tend to identify poverty only in financial terms. I believe a poverty of the mind can manifest in ways that deeply affect our lives too. J. D. Vance describes this as well as he does financial poverty. When social, cultural, political or religious views challenge our ability to see the bigger picture of things around us—outside influences are perceived as threatening and we’re left with even less understanding of our differences.  I’m optimistic that if we focus more on our similarities we will be more unified.

Like the author, I’m trying to not be judgemental here and look through a more sociological lens.  I know I’m guilty at times of not seeking more understanding of the world around me.  For heaven’s sake, I’m a liberal and I live in Vermont. I get it.  If you’re familiar with the Hunger Games series, I’ve been joking that Vermont is like living in District 12.  I’m willing to admit that I’m living in a bubble and Hillbilly Elegy helped burst it a little bit.

By examining our childhoods, we can gain some insight and are given an opportunity for self-correction if necessary.  This brings me to the second reason this book was so important to me and well-timed.

2. The shadow side of our personality traits.  I’ve always been really proud of my independent spirit.  It’s my nature and was well-honed during my childhood.  I had a lot of freedom growing up in a small town in South Dakota and it allowed me to exist “under the radar” in a sense. My whole adult life I thought it served me quite well.  However, while listening to this book, as my tears flowed, I realized that my fierce independence has not always been an asset to my parenting or my marriage. memories-lisa-lillibridge-burke-south-dakotaAny perceived threat (big or small) to my independence or sovereign self can set me off—my own reactivity or judgement.  That’s the shadow side of my independence and it ain’t pretty.  Here’s the upside; now that I’ve recognized this in myself, well shit, I can’t unsee it now.

Thank you J. D. Vance, oh and Jeff too.

This insight gives me an opportunity to take a moment and see if what’s being asked of me is truly a threat to my independent, sovereign self (probably not) and I can try to respond like a grown-up and not be reactive. I’m writing this for me, for accountability regarding something I’ve learned and cannot unlearn now.  J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy gave me a little more courage to write about my life and for that I’m grateful.

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FROM GOODREADS  “From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love.” They got married and moved north from Kentucky to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. Their grandchild (the author) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving upward mobility for their family. But Vance cautions that is only the short version. The slightly longer version is that his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and mother struggled to varying degrees with the demands of their new middle class life and they, and Vance himself, still carry around the demons of their chaotic family history.” 

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27161156-hillbilly-elegy

NEW VAGUS—my planet.

Yesterday my son asked me, “If you had your own planet, what would it be like, Mom?” Sometimes I rush these kinds of discussions and don’t want to play the game.  But, yesterday thinking about MY OWN PLANET entertained my brain all day. What would it be like? I needed to do something creative and playing with my photographs while thinking about my planet really sparked my imagination, thanks Ellis. The images I created are a very different direction for me. I finally went to bed at 1am still thinking about my planet.  It’s magnificent. I’ll be working on more images to convey NEW VAGUS…perhaps a recruiting  brochure, a psychological test, a song or a movie…I like options.

It’s called NEW VAGUS after my favorite nerve.  The vagus nerve wanders like a vagabond (I love that).  It’s also the captain of your inner nerve center.  If you get off course, your captain can get you heading back in the right direction.  There are some relatively easy ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. I found this fascinating.  Gargling.  Cold showers.  Prayer.  Deep breathing.  Making some of these things a regular practice can help with inflammation, migraines, anxiety, addiction and so much more.  See link below for more options and information and share broadly.  It might really help someone you love.

How to stimulate your vagus nerve. This is your nerve captain speaking.

vagus-nerve-benjamin-cummings

“What happens in the vagus nerve, it turns out, doesn’t stay in the vagus nerve. The longest of the cranial nerves, the vagus nerve is so named because it “wanders” like a vagabond, sending out fibers from your brain stem to your visceral organs. The vagus nerve is literally the captain of your inner nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system, to be specific. And like a good captain, it does a great job of overseeing a vast range of crucial functions, communicating nerve impulses to every organ in your body. New research has revealed that it may also be the missing link to treating chronic inflammation, and the beginning of an exciting new field of treatment that leaves medications behind.”

http://mentalfloss.com/article/65710/9-nervy-facts-about-vagus-nerve

la-chapel-world-lillibridge

firenze-planet-lillibridge

ireland-planet-lillibridge

packard-plant-detroit-lillibridge

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sd-farmhouse-planet-lillibridge

cape-code-shed-upside-down  nolo-world-lillibridge-dakota

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dominican-planet-lillibridge

new-orleans-cemetery-lillibridge

Here’s the key to the photos:

Los Angeles
Florence, Italy
Kenmare, Ireland
Packard Plant, Detroit, Michigan
NYC on the High Line
Burke, South Dakota
New Orleans, Louisiana
Cape Cod, Sandwich, Massachusetts
Florence, Italy
NYC near Grand Central Station
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
New Orleans in a cemetery near a famous restaurant I can’t remember the name of.

I guess the prairie is on my mind today…

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Shawn Colvin’s “Steady On”

…Cause he seemed like a miracle
I ate it up like cereal
But it was something like shrapnel

Steady on!

It’s like ten miles of a two-lane
On a South Dakota wheat plain
In the middle of a hard rain
A slow boat or a fast train
I am gonna keep my head on straight
I’m gonna keep my head on straight

Steady on!