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.

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.

fear, obligation, and guilt…

The acronym FOG—Fear, Obligation, and Guilt, was first coined by Susan Forward & Donna Frazier in Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You.

I have loved fog since I was a child, my favorite weather phenomenon by far. What I find so alluring and mysterious about fog is what’s UNSEEN. That’s precisely why I find this the perfect acronym for these complex and often confusing emotions.

We don’t know what’s happening around us until the sun burns away what’s obscured from our vision and then we’re able to gain more clarity.

Fear is a mental process that that triggers a physical response in humans when confronted by a threat.

Obligation comes from an innate sense of community responsibility. We are born with an instinctive sense of obligation to those around us.

Guilt comes from the same root as obligation. Most of us feel guilt when we do something that we think hurts others or disappoints of others.

Emotional blackmail is a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They can be our parents or partners, bosses or coworkers, friends or lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to win the pay-off they want: our compliance.”

Source: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You

When someone is trapped in the FOG of an unhealthy relationship, a common method of control is the use of gaslighting.

Gaslighting deploys often repeated phrases and makes us doubt our own beliefs, even when there’s overwhelming and well-documented information to the contrary.

Here’s an example of gaslighting: The world-wide virus, Covid19 is a Hoax, a Plandemic designed to make this administration look bad before the 2020 election.

This can’t possibly be true—173,000 people in America have died so far from the virus and 1000 Americans are dying every day. Being told repeatedly that the US is managing the virus better than most other countries is false, often repeated, and done deliberately to make people doubt the well-documented reality that the virus is ravaging our nation on so many levels. There were protocols in place for how to manage a likely pandemic. They have been ignored by the Trump administration.

NOTE: Eleven people were treated for Ebola in the United States during the 2014-2016 epidemic. https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/history/2014-2016-outbreak/index.html

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

―Plato

Clearing away the FOG will allow more visibility into the reality of your relationships and how they may be affecting your health and quality of life. No one should live in a constant state of FEAR, OBLIGATION, and GUILT.

If you find yourself in a challenging relationship of any kind, the OUT of the FOG website provides very help information. There are tips about how to take care of yourself, respond with compassion to difficult circumstances, put appropriate (and loving) boundaries in place, and when to seek professional guidance to navigate turbulent emotional waters.

https://outofthefog.website/traits

https://outofthefog.website/toolbox-1/2015/11/17/fog-fear-obligation-guilt

Merriam Webster is the source for all definitions.

beach trash in 50 words…

August beach trash somehow seems oddly different to me than a few weeks ago—lacking the playful carefreeness possessed earlier in the summer. The recent items left behind seem more like the oversight of COVID foggy, tired August parents & teenagers just so done with home, social distancing & rules.

noticing your energy suckers…

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” –Eleanor Roosevelt 

our unique hearts…

“Go to you bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know.”

—William Shakespeare

some days require a micro view…

micro: very small

view: extent or range of vision

macro:  intended for use with relatively large quantities or on a large scale

A constant macro view can be exhausting—wasting our time and talents. Most days require us to narrow our focus, take a micro view, and determine where & how we can make the most difference to the people and circumstances we face in our lives.

Notice a difference in your perspective?

Source: Merriam Webster

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