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.


The Defectiveness Schema

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.



“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