Exploring the Life Traps - Center For Healing & Change

By: Kelly Johnson, MA, LPC
Exploring The
Life Traps That
Prevent Us From
Living In The
Fullness of Christ
Anybody struggle with believing the
truth of who we are in Christ?
John 1:12
I am God's child.
John 15:15
As a disciple, I am a friend of
Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1
I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17
I am united with the Lord, and I
am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I have been bought with a price
and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27
I am a member of Christ's body.
Ephesians 1:3-8
I have been chosen by God and
adopted as His child.
Ephesians 3:12
I may approach God with freedom
and confidence.
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ,
who strengthens me.
Our Identity is in Christ…
 However,
often times we struggle with
emotions such as inadequacy, shame, self
hatred, loneliness, abandonment, fear,
etc. Where is the JOY, CONTENTMENT,
Wounds and Life Traps
When our needs in childhood are not met, we
don’t thrive as children and we develop life
traps that hinder us from functioning in a
healthy manner.
The reality is everybody has life traps and
there are no perfect parents either! 
Eliminate ALL or NOTHING thinking in your
perspective of your parents and also of
yourself as a parent!
Basic Needs of a Child
 Security
and Safety
 Connection to Others
 Independent Functioning
 Self Esteem
 Self Expression
 Limit Setting
Life Traps 101
 When
our basic needs are not met in
childhood we develop a life trap.
 Life Traps are patterns that start in
childhood and recreate themselves
through out our whole lives.
 life traps are very resistant to change and
we view the world through our Life Traps
Basic Safety
1. abandonment
2. mistrust and abuse
Connection to others
3. Emotional Deprivation
4. Social Exclusion
5. Dependence
6. Vulnerability to harm or illness
Self Esteem
7. Defectiveness /Shame
8. Failure
Self Expression
9. Subjugation
10. Unrelenting Standards
Realistic Limits
11. Entitlement/Narcissism
The perceived unreliability of those available for support and
connection. Involves the sense that significant others will not be able to
continue providing emotional support, connection, strength, or practical
protection because they are emotionally unstable and unpredictable
(e.g., angry outbursts), unreliable, or erratically present; because they
will die imminently; or because they will abandon the patient in favor of
someone better.
The expectation that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie,
manipulate, or take advantage. Usually involves the perception that
the harm is intentional or the result of unjustified and extreme
negligence. May include the sense that one always ends up being
cheated relative to others or "getting the short end of the stick.
Expectation that one's desire for a normal degree of emotional
support will not be adequately met by others. The three major forms
of deprivation are:
A. Deprivation of Nurturance: Absence of attention, affection,
warmth, or companionship.
B. Deprivation of Empathy: Absence of understanding, listening,
self-disclosure, or mutual sharing of feelings from others.
C. Deprivation of Protection: Absence of strength, direction, or
guidance from others.
The feeling that one is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, or that one
would be unlovable to significant others if exposed. May involve
hypersensitivity to criticism, rejection, and blame; self-consciousness,
comparisons, and insecurity around others; or a sense of shame
regarding one's perceived flaws
The feeling that one is isolated from the rest of the world, different from
other people, and/or not part of any group or community.
Belief that one is unable to handle one's everyday responsibilities in a
competent manner, without considerable help from others (e.g., take
care of oneself, solve daily problems, exercise good judgment, tackle
new tasks, make good decisions).
Exaggerated fear that imminent catastrophe will strike at any time and
that one will be unable to prevent it. Fears focus on one or more of the
following: (A) Medical Catastrophes, (B) Emotional Catastrophes: e.g.,
going crazy; (C): External Catastrophes: e.g., elevators collapsing,
victimized by criminals, airplane crashes, earthquakes.
The belief that one has failed, will inevitably fail, or is fundamentally
inadequate relative to one's peers, in areas of achievement (school,
career, sports, etc.). Often involves beliefs that one is stupid, inept,
untalented, ignorant, lower in status, less successful than others, etc.
The belief that one is superior to other people, these people are
typically selfish, narcissistic, struggle with empathy, and resist admitting
wrongs or apologizing.
Excessive surrendering of control to others because one feels coerced
usually to avoid anger, retaliation, or abandonment. The two major
forms of subjugation are:
A. Subjugation of Needs: Suppression of one's preferences,
decisions, and desires.
B. Subjugation of Emotions: Suppression of emotional expression,
especially anger.
Usually involves the perception that one's own desires, opinions, and
feelings are not valid or important to others. Frequently presents as
excessive compliance, combined with hypersensitivity to feeling
The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized
standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism.
Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in
hypocriticalness toward oneself and others.
1. Identify your top Life Traps and pick one life trap you
would like to work on.
2. Understand the Childhood Origins of Your Life Trap.
3. Write letters to the parent, sibling, or peer who helped
caused your life trap. (no need to mail  )
4. Examine your life trap pattern in DETAIL in the present!
5. Create Flash Cards
6. Start Pattern Breaking in your Thoughts and Behaviors
Thoughts and Behaviors
All Behaviors and Thoughts either:
Example- if my life trap is social isolation, the more I isolate
from other people, the more different I feel and my fear of
people grows. When I conquer my fears, connect with
others, go to events, and calm the bully in my head that
tells me how different I am, I am healing my life trap.
Self awareness is power, be AWARE!
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Remedies used with the permission of Dr. John Barletta)
Utilize flash cards to help when life trap gets activated (see
learn to stop catastrophizing about temporary separation
from others
use cognitive strategies focus on altering the unrealistic
expectation that others should be endlessly available and
totally consistent
learn to accept that other people have the right to set
limits and establish separate space
stop pushing partners away with behaviors that are too
jealous, clinging, angry or controlling
Gradually learn to tolerate being alone and walk away
from unstable relationships quickly, and become more
comfortable in stable relationships.
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Mistrust and Abuse)
learn to recognize a spectrum of trustworthiness
alter your view of worthlessness/self blame—stop making
excuses for the abuser; place blame where it belongs
venting anger is of primary importance
gradually learn to trust honest people—share the secrets
and memories with a partner or friend
join a support group
choose non-abusive partners—stop mistreating others and
set limits with abusive people
be less punitive when other people make mistakes
allow people to get close and get intimate
stop gathering evidence and keeping score about the
things people have done to hurt you
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Emotional Deprivation)
antidote to the deprivation is a warm, empathic, and
protective environment where you can get many of your
emotional needs met
choose good quality partners and friends, identify your own
needs, and ask to have these needs met in appropriate
change exaggerated sense that others are acting selfishly
or depriving you
choose nurturing partners and friends and actively seek
stop responding with excessive anger to mild levels of
deprivation, or withdrawing or isolating when you feel
neglected by others.
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Defectiveness and Shame)
highlight your assets and reduce the significance assigned to your flaws
rather than being inherent, flaws are behaviors learned in childhood that can
be changed or they are not flaws at all, but over-criticalness
reattribute feelings of defectiveness to the criticalness of significant others
flash cards listing good qualities are very helpful
work on choosing others who are supportive rather than critical—select
partners who love and accept you
learn to stop over-reacting to criticism—when it is valid criticism accept it and
try to change; when it is not valid, simply state your point of view and affirm
internally that the criticism is false
self-disclose more to significant others whom you trust—the more you share
and are accepted, the more you will overcome your life trap
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Social Exclusion and Isolation)
group therapy may be useful, especially if you avoid
you are not as different from other people as you think—
you share many qualities with all people, and some of the
qualities you regard as distinguishing you are in fact
focus on your similarities with other people as well as your
differences—learn to identify subgroups of people who are
like you
challenge automatic negative thoughts that block you
from joining groups and connecting to people
anxiety management can help you cope with social
social skills training can assist you to learn important
interpersonal and group skills.
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
there is a need to alter the view that you need
constant assistance to function
use flash cards, problem solving to make decisions
and challenge negative thoughts
explore the view that depending on others is a
desirable way to live
excessive dependence on others has a cost i.e.,
unfulfilled autonomy and self-expression
learn relaxation, meditation, or other anxietyreducing techniques
there is need to confront anxiety-arousing situations
via graded tasks e.g., rehearsals, rewards.
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Vulnerability to harm or illness)
stay focused on the long-term consequence of living a phobic
lifestyle, such as lost opportunities for fun and self-exploration
focus on the positive benefits of moving more freely in the world,
such as a richer, fuller life
overcoming anxiety and avoidance are a central focus of
lower your estimation of the probability of catastrophic events &
raise your estimation of your capacity to cope
de-catastrophising helps you to manage anxiety symptoms and
panic attacks
develop strategies to help give up magical rituals and safety
signals, and face situations you fear
explore non-phobic ways of viewing and handling acceptable
levels of risk.
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
challenge the view that you are inherently inept and
reattribute failure to inadvertently acting to defeat your
attempts to succeed (it is the lifetrap that has caused the
highlight your success and skills, and do not ignore your
accomplishments and accentuate the failures (Success
set realistic, long-term goals—lower any unrealistically high
Its healthy to express you anger at others for not
recognizing and accepting your strengths and limitations.
This is an important part of the process of letting go
emotionally of this lifetrap ( this can be done with letter
writing or in person if the person is trustworthy)
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
remind yourself what the consequences will be if you’re not willing
to change your sense of entitlement
working on your interpersonal relationships is very important—you
need to develop empathy and concern for others.
Work on your defensiveness, listen to people when their talking or
upset with you.
Apologize when you have done wrong, instead of manipulating
situations so you are never at fault.
Admit your Flaws in the moment, everybody has them.
you may have spent your life selectively focusing on your assets
and minimizing flaws and may not have a realistic view of your
strengths and weaknesses, so there is a need to develop a more
realistically balanced view of yourself
you have to follow the same rules as everyone else—you do not
have special rights
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
(Unrelenting Standards)
learn to view performance as lying on a spectrum from “poor to
perfect,” with many gradations in between rather than as an all-ornothing phenomenon
explore the advantages of lowering your standards—the benefits
that would accrue to you health and happiness, all the ways you
are suffering as a result of unrelenting standards, and the ways the
lifetrap is damaging your enjoyment of life and relationships with
the cost of the lifetrap is greater than the benefits—this conclusion
is the leverage that can motivate you to change
reduce the perceived risks of imperfection—imperfection is not a
crime—making mistakes does not have the extreme negative
consequences you anticipate design experiments to help rein in
the perfectionism—to do less and to do it less well—schedule how
much time you are going to spend working versus doing other
things, such as playing or connecting to others,
Rx: Remedies for Lifetraps
Realize your negative expectations about the
consequences of expressing your needs and feelings
to significant others are exaggerated—you need to
learn that you are acting in a healthy manner when
you express your needs and feelings appropriately
it is vital to select relatively non-controlling partners
and friends
assertiveness techniques can help you learn to assert
your needs and feelings with others—you can work
to individuate from others
you need to identify your natural inclinations and
practice acting on them—use imagery and role-play,
and then express these preferences for real as a
homework assignment.
Relationships and Life traps
Life traps cause significant miscommunication
and misunderstanding in relationships.
Identify when your life traps are being
activated vs. taking it out on your significant
other. Also realize that your partners reaction
might be based off of you activating their life
Bring defenses down, take feedback and
criticism with grace and love when an
individual is speaking truth.
Participate in active listening
Healing our Life Traps
When we heal our life traps, we can start to believe
the truth about who we are in Christ.
 We are his daughter
 We are his beloved
 We sin, we fall short, and we need him. (for the
entitlement folks!)
 We are worthy
 We are valuable, our weaknesses make us need him,
they do not make us inadequate.
 We belong
 We are enough
“And The Truth Came to Set You Free!”
God really does LOVE us as much as he says he does!
Favorite Quotes!
“fail your way to success. Failure is not
about failing, failure is when we fail and we
don’t get back up again afterwards”
“Healing is all about taking two steps back
and one step forward, but the goal is we
are still taking steps moving forward!”
Grace, grace, grace!
Resources/Works Cited
Reinventing Your Life: How to Break Free from Negative Life
Patterns and Feel Good Again. Author: Jeffrey Young
www.schematherapy.org (summaries)
http://www.johnbarletta.com (remedies)
Online Test to identify your schema’s/life traps.
Therapy Referrals for further exploration of issues if needed 
 Redimere Group-DTC
 Front Range Counseling Center
 Center for Healing and Change (my practice )

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