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.

beach rambles inside & out…

I often have a flood of ideas while walking the beach about what I want to create, write, transform, design and so on. Then I get home and the idea’s intensity subsides. I used to feel quite defeated by this. I don’t anymore.

I can’t possibly create all that I imagine…and there’s some sadness that sometimes accompanies that understanding. However, in this middle school stage of life (I’ll be 55 in October) I finally appreciate (accept maybe) the inevitable ebbing and flowing of my inner creative life, and stop fighting the tide so much.

Here are a few ideas that actually did come to life this week:

I think I’ll give myself a high-five for what I did accomplish. Beating myself up over what I didn’t do this week seems pretty absurd.

wild swimming…

There’s a movement (mostly middle-aged women) in Burlington, Vermont to jump into Lake Champlain regardless of weather conditions. Wild swimming is what they call it in the UK. I love that term, putting “wild” in front of anything makes it more interesting—Wild Netflixing • Wild Potato Chip Eating • Wild Bubble Bathing.

Wild swimming helped me through the pandemic and life’s challenges this year. I took a few dips in Cape Cod Bay as well. Swimming on the north side of Cape Cod didn’t feel all that different in January. Those waters are still cold in July.

I read that it takes roughly six swims in cold water (now the lake is about thirty-nine degrees) for your body to acclimate. I no longer have any hesitation. After a dip I have more clarity and an electric feeling all over. Hey, and a test of bravery that can be completed in about 20 minutes door to door works for me.

Winter swimming would never be something my Dad would’ve considered. However, I often think of him because he appreciated athleticism in any form. I’m quite certain he would’ve loved hearing about my adventures and seeing the photos.

These cold water leaps make me feel athletic, courageous, and a little more capable in other areas of my life too. And now that I’m in what I refer to as the middle-school of adulthood, any way to reduce inflammation seems like a good long-term wellness strategy.

I don’t suffer from diagnosed depression, however, genetically & creatively I do experience more than what I scribbled on a drop cloth many years ago…an episodic hump of the blues. Wild swimming has been a very efficient form of therapy for me.

I’m so grateful for the early swimming adventures with friends that got me hooked. Saturday I took a delightful early morning dip with the friend who got me started in last October. Thank you Parm for introducing me to this crazy sport? activity?

“It brings centering, peace and joy.” —Parm Padgett

Cold water swimming is a mental reset, mad energy and sparkles all over…every single time. —Genevieve Henry, friend & fearless fellow wild swimmer

Thank you to the whole cold water swimming community in Burlington. I’m grateful and proud of maintaining our quirky Vermont reputation. Cheers to many more inspired dips in the future.

Here is a link to a beautiful film by Hannah Maia about womanhood, body image, and the joy of cold water swimming. Thanks for sharing it Katharine.

It’s an incredible endorphin rush. I found that once I had dipped in cold water everyone I met that day looked 10 times more beautiful and the world so much more awesome. It was a real pick me up. —Hannah Maia

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/cold-water-swimming-why-an-icy-dip-is-good-for-your-mental-and-physical-health/

I don’t know what to make of these…

Sometimes I create images and I don’t know what to make of them exactly. Today, is one of those days. I would’ve preferred using images of other people…I wasn’t in the mood to ask for and wait for permission though. Shocking to those of you who know me well, I know.

OK, if I had to guess what sparked these now that I’m about to post them. I think they are about being honest with myself and protecting my heart, even when faced with uncomfortable truths I would rather deny or compartmentalize in some way.

ancient totems of play…

Monday my only objective was to allow myself to play in my studio. I was in need of some soul-settling and spark. I let myself relax, paint, and listen to my book.

There’s something so liberating about entering into a process without a preconceived outcome in mind.

I was listening to Magnificence by Lydia Millett. I would want to know, so I thought you might too. I also read her book, A Children’s Bible, a remarkable story. I love her writing style.

I digress…

I’ve noticed when play is my only stated goal, in many areas of my life, not just painting—something unexpected, and often delightful is given the space to emerge.

The next day I played more by creating mirror images with my photos. They took on a whole other life—an iconic quality, even an odd sort of sacredness.

Perhaps they somehow they reflected their origin story? I looked at them and instantly thought…ancient totems of play.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

my predawn ramble…

Colder temps are arriving tonight, so when I woke up I thought I better take off on one of my predawn rambles. I stepped out into the cold, my only agenda to get some exercise and enjoy the quiet before the relative hustle of COVID life in Burlington, Vermont begins.

pre-dawn icy lights

I got much so more…

I started thinking about how many people in the world are facing some of the same challenges as me right now. I felt an instant expansive kinship with them all. I imagined a middle-aged mom in Tibet taking a walk, coming in from the cold, making a cup of tea, and wondering what her next chapter will bring.

Perhaps she too is struggling to find some grace and acceptance in that endlessly tricky space betwixt & between her intentions, words, & actions.

Next, I thought about my sister-in-law and all of the school administrators/teachers struggling to keep the world’s children engaged and healthy. Then I imagined our planet’s exhausted nurses and doctors working to heal the sick, and be present with folks in their last moments when visitors are no longer allowed. I went down the line thinking about the professions and circumstances of all of the people I know and their cohorts around the world.

As I walked back home thinking about the web of our shared humanity—I felt lighter, less burdened, and more a part of a team.

Funny, just last night my husband said, “You really like being part of a team, don’t you?”.

“Yes, I really do”, I replied.

chapter II—desolation

I recently picked up my great-great-uncle, Will Lillibridge’s book, Ben Blair and landed on a few passages that seemed to fit what i was pondering in the moment.

“Ten miles out on the prairies,—not lands plane as a table, as they are usually pictured, but rolling like the sea with waves of tremendous amplitude—stood a rough shack, called by courtesy a house.”

—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair—Chapter II Desolation

Usually in January I make an annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Burke, South Dakota. This year, because of COVID19, I won’t be traveling. So, on this Winter Solstice 2020, I’m reflecting on the prairie, my ancestors and revisiting my photographs.

I’ve always assumed that my love of stark landscapes was simply due to where I grew up. However, as I age I’m increasingly aware that it’s far more complex than that alone. I’m drawn to spaciousness in any form. In paintings, film, photographs, literature it’s what’s NOT there that I love and am so drawn to. Oh, and when there’s a well-placed pause in a song—damn, I swoon.

There’s a duality of growing up in rural America that I understand now at fifty-four and having lived out east for thirty years. There’s on one hand, a fiercely independent streak born out of generations of hardscrabble pioneer and homestead life, but there’s also what’s in the negative space everywhere that I’m more curious about lately.

For that pioneer spirit to survive on such isolated terrain, there’s often a high need for conformity. To me there can be a false sense of security that comes from conformity. When we conform too much, we might be leaving some of the best parts of ourselves hidden in the negative space.

INDEPENDENCE + CONFORMITY = ?

While being around the like-minded often puts folks at ease, the opposite can be quite true as well. When people are different, or deemed outsiders, it might be natural to fear that they might upset the social order in some way. Is this really true,or does it just FEEL true?

The psychology of geography, interesting enough in the year of a world-wide pandemic, is rooted in outsiders potentially bringing disease to a region. Of course illness was greatly feared when folks were trying to populate a new territory…all lives certainly mattered back then just as they do now.

To honor that fierce independence it seems to me that different skills, ideas, and perspectives should be exceptionally valued, hell, even celebrated—now more than ever regardless of one’s geography.

We really need all types of thinkers and doers to face the world’s many challenges. Perhaps this first day of winter is well-timed for some quiet contemplation on what seems likely to be an isolated, and potentially sorrow-filled season before the light returns.

“To-night, for the first time, and with a wonder we all feel when the obvious but long unseen suddenly becomes apparent, the primary fact of human brotherhood, irrespective of caste, came home to him.”

—Will Lillibridge—Ben Blair, Chapter XXII Two Friends Have it Out

a mug shot collaboration…

This morning my coffee-fueled internet meanderings landed me a famous mugshots site. They’re quite remarkable, raw, and they all seem to just dare you to learn more about the arrests. I’m a true crime junkie.

https://www.history101.com/30-famous-mugshots-youve-never-seen-before/

David Bowie was arrested in Rochester, NY for marijuana possession on March 21st, 1976. He was held for three hours and released on bail. He pleaded guilty and the grand jury later decided to pass on his case. Even his mugshot is classy, of course.

With some regret, I’ve never been arrested. So, with the help of my daughter, Willa Govoni’s photography and highly intuitive stylist skills I now have my very own menopausal mugshots. Perhaps a protest arrest is in my future? #2021goals #resist #goodtrouble

I thought about my characteristics that feel like crimes sometimes. They came to mind quite quickly…judgment, regret, and procrastination.

Willa, you’ve got a good eye kid. Let’s do lunch and discuss more projects.

Thank you.

be here now…

It’s uniquely warm in northern Vermont today. In the predawn hour, I made coffee then sat out on my deck for a while listening to the honking of geese, early morning traffic sounds, and autumn leaves rustling. I felt a slight breeze on my face…so lovely.

All we have is here and now

The lyrics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warner’s 1980s hit Up Where We Belong have been camping out in my psyche for the last few days. I thought I better explore them further…turns out they have a pretty good message.

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

I know my thoughts of the past (or the stories I attach to them anyway) sometimes make me feel like a victim of sorts. And when I’m feeling anxious (fearful) about the future, those jangly thoughts will gleefully swoop in with a dizzying amount of bullshit that can affect every aspect of my life. Presence makes me calmer. That calm makes me a better human, partner, parent, and friend.

All I have is here and now...

Up Where We Belong is the theme song to the 1982 film, An Officer and A Gentleman. I just had to share a short memory with you. When I was in high school, my newly married sister and I took our grandmother to see the matinee after a day of shopping in Sioux Falls. I had never seen a movie with my grandmother before, let alone one with sex scenes…good grief. My grandmother covered her eyes with a sneaky, slightly open hand during those scenes hoping we wouldn’t notice. 😃 After the movie, we had to stop for gas on the way home. Laurie got out to pump, my grandmother was flabbergasted, she turned and said, “Your grandfather would be so disappointed if he saw that his granddaughter pumping her own gas.”. Cheers to those memories that make us giggle.

Now that I’m fifty-four and finally growing up, I’m trying to make a daily, or hell hourly grand bargain with myself of more presence. I’m discovering that staying in the moment gives me some emotional agility that helps me better handle whatever’s thrown my way…grandma was really onto something while we watched An Officer and A Gentleman. She was a very anxious woman, but in that moment she chose presence with her granddaughters and it was just wonderful.

My memories will forever come and go, shifting in both context and intensity as the years roll by. I don’t want to live in a constant state of regret, longing, or fear. I want to live in the fullness of the present. I know I will often fail and let my mind race. My grand bargain to myself is to keep trying to stay more in the moment.

Up Where We Belong

Joe CockerJennifer Warnes

Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow

Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find

The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Time goes by
No time to cry
Life’s you and I
Alive today

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Jack Nitzsche / Buffy Saint-Marie / Will Jennings

the space betwixt & between…

As I age, it seems much of life is experienced within the gray areas of uncertainty. Thankfully, now at fifty-three, I’m finding not knowing is sort of interesting, perhaps even a bit wonderfully mysterious.

study in grays, June 18th, 2020