Monthly Focus

September 2020

The following is taken from Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program To End Negative Behaviour And Feel Great Again” by Jeffrey E. Young, Ph.D, founder of Schema Therapy.


What are Lifetraps?

A lifetrap (Schema) is a pattern that starts in childhood and reverberates throughout life. It began with something that was done to us by our families or by othe children. We are abandoned, criticized, overprotected, abused, excluded, or deprived—we were damaged in some way. Eventually the lifetrap becomes part of us. Long after we leave the home we grew up in, we continue to create situations in which we are mistreated, ignored, put down, or controlled and in which we fail to reach our most desired goals.

Lifetraps determine how we feel think, feel, act, and relate to others. They trigger strong feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety. Even when we appear to have everything—social status, an ideal marriage, the respect of people close to us, career success—we are often unable to savor life or believe in our accomplishments. 


This month’s focus is the Defectiveness Schema.


Table of Contents



The Defectiveness Questionnaire


If you have any 5’s or 6’s on this questionnaire, this lifetrap may still apply to you, even if your score is in the low range. 

  1. No man or woman could love me if he/she really knew me.
  2. I am inherently flawed and defective. I am unworthy of love.
  3. I have secrets that I do not want to share, even with the people closest to me.
  4. It was my fault that my parents could not love me.
  5. I hide the real me. The real me is unacceptable. The self I show is a false self.
  6. I am often drawn to people—parents, friends, and lovers—who are critical and reject me.
  7. I am often critical and rejecting myself, especially of people who seem to love me.
  8. I devalue my positive qualities
  9. I live with a great deal of shame about myself.
  10. One of my greatest fears is that my faults will be exposed.


Add your scores together for questions 1-10, and interpret your answers with the following:

10-19 Very Low. This lifetrap probably does not apply to you.

20-29 Fairly low. This lifetrap may only apply occasionally.

30-39 Moderate. This lifetrap is an issue in your life.

40-49 High. This is definitely an important lifetrap for you.

50-60 Very high. This is definitely one of your core lifetraps.



The Experience of Defectiveness


The emotion that is most connected to the defectiveness lifetrap is shame. Shame is what you feel when your defects are exposed. You will do almost anything to avoid this feeling of shame. Consequently you go to great lengths to keep your defectiveness hidden. 

       You feel that your defectiveness is inside you. It is not immediately observable. Rather, it is something in the essence of your being—you feel completely unworthy of love. In contrast to the Social Exclusion lifetrap, which concerns superficial or observable characteristics, Defectiveness is an inner state. While we usually know fairly quickly whether someone has a Social Exclusion lifetrap, Defectiveness is not so obvious. Certainly it is one of the most common lifetraps, but it is often hard to detect. Because your imagined defect is internal—unseen—you suffer even more from the terror of being exposed. 

      Almost half our patients have Defectiveness as one of their primary lifetraps. However, on the surface, these patients look very different. Each copes with feelings of shame in different ways. Some lack confidence and look insecure (Surrender). Some look normal (Escape). And some look so good you would never believe they had the lifetrap (Counterattack).

      Alison is an example of someone who surrenders to her sense of defectiveness. She is in touch with feelings of being inherently flawed.

ALISON: I have always felt there is something wrong with me, deep inside where no one can see. And that I would live my whole life without anyone loving me.

THERAPIST: When you think of someone loving you, how does it feel?

ALISON: It makes me cringe.



The Origins of the Defectiveness Lifetrap


  1. Someone in your family was extremely critical, demeaning, or punitive toward you. You were repeatedly criticized or punished for how you looked, how you behaved, or what you said.
  2. You were made to feel like a disappointment by a parent.
  3. You were rejected or unloved by one or both of your parents.
  4. You were sexually, physically, or emotionally abused by a family member.
  5. You were blamed all the time for things that went wrong in your family.
  6. Your parent told you repeatedly that you were bad, worthless, or good-for-nothing.
  7. You were repeatedly compared in an unfavourable way with your brothers or sisters, or they were preferred over you.
  8. One of your parents left home, and you blamed yourself.


The Defectiveness lifetrap comes from feeling unlovable or not respected as a child. You were repeatedly rejected or criticized by one or both of your parents.


Defectiveness is a global feeling. It is the sense of being unworthy of love. You felt so flawed or inadequate that even your parent could not love you or value you for who you are.


You almost certainly felt that your parent was right to criticize you, devalue you, reject you, or not give you love. You felt that you deserved it. As a child, you blamed yourself. Everything happened because you were so worthless, inadequate, flawed, and defective. For this reason, you probably did not feeling angry about the way you were treated. Rather, you felt ashamed and sad.


Parents who give rise to the Defectiveness lifetrap are usually punitive and critical. There may be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Defectiveness and Abuse often go hand-in-hand. While it is possible for a child who is abused to feel that it is unfair and to be angry without feeling defective, that is seldom the case. Far more often, the child accepts responsibility. The child feels guilt and shame. 


Many children find some way to make up for their feelings of defectiveness. This is where the lifetrap starts to blend with Entitlement and Unrelenting Standards. Many people who have grown up being criticized and made to feel defective compensate by trying to be superior in some area. They set high standards and strive for success and status. They may act arrogant and entitled. With money and recognition, they try to allay that inner feeling of defectiveness.

It is very important to realize that the Defectiveness liferap is not usually based on a real defect. Even people who have serious physical or mental handicaps do not necessarily develop this lifetrap. The crucial factor is not the presence of a defect, but rather how you are made to feel about yourself by your parents and the other members of your family. If you are loved, valued, and respected by your family members—regardless of your actual strengths and weaknesses—you will almost certainly not feel worthless, ashamed, or defective.



Danger Signals While Dating


  1. You avoid dating altogether.
  2. You tend to have a series of short, intense affairs, or several affairs simultaneously. 
  3. You are drawn to partners who are critical of you and put you down all the time.
  4. You are drawn to partners who are physically or emotionally abusive toward you.
  5. You are most attracted to partners who are not interested in you, hoping you can win their love.
  6. You are only drawn to the most attractive and desirable partners, even when it is obvious that you will not be able to attain them.
  7. You are most comfortable with partners who do not want to know you very deeply.
  8. You only date people you feel are below you, whom you do not really love.
  9. You are drawn to partners who are unable to commit to you or to spend time with you on a regular basis. They may be married, insist on simultaneously dating other people, travel regularly, or live in another city.
  10. You get into relationships in which you put down, abuse, or neglect your partners.



Defectiveness Lifetraps


  1. You  become very critical of your partner once you feel accepted and your romantic feelings disappear. You then act in a demeaning or critical manner.
  2. You hide your true self so you never really feel that your partner knows you.
  3. You are jealous and possessive of your partner.
  4. You constantly compare  yourself unfavourably with other people and feel envious and inadequate. 
  5. You constantly need or demand reassurance that your partner still values you.
  6. You put yourself down around your partner.
  7. You allow your partner to criticize you, put you down, or mistreat you.
  8. You have difficulty accepting valid criticism; you become defensive or hostile.
  9. You are extremely critical of your children.
  10. You feel like an impostor when you are successful. You feel extremely anxious that you cannot maintain your success. 
  11. You become despondent or deeply depressed over career setbacks or rejections in relationships.
  12. You feel extremely nervous when speaking in public.



Changing your Defectiveness Lifetrap


  1. Understand your childhood feelings of defectiveness and shame. Feel the wounded child within you.
  2. List signs that you might be coping with Defectiveness through Escape or Counterattack (i.e., avoiding or compensating).
  3. Try to stop these behaviours designed to Escape or Counterattack.
  4. Monitor your feelings of defectiveness and shame.
  5. List the men/women who have attracted you most and the ones who have attracted you least.
  6. List your defects and assets as a child and teenager. The list your current defects and assets. 
  7. Evaluate the seriousness of your current defects.
  8. Start a program to change the defects that changeable.
  9. Write a letter your critical parent(s).
  10. Write a flashcard for yourself.
  11. Try to be more genuine in close relationships.
  12. Accept love from the people close to you.
  13. stop allowing people to treat you badly.
  14. If you are in a relationship where you are the critical partner, try to stop putting your partner down. Do the same in other close relationships.





“Having a secret is isolating.” Try, as much as possible, not to hide your flaws or perceived differences.” 
― Jeffrey E. Young, Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthough Program to End Negative Behavior…and Feel Great Again


“Once you can open yourself up to the idea that your defectiveness is not a fact, the healing process can begin to work.” 
― Jeffrey E. Young, Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthough Program to End Negative Behavior…and Feel Great Again