A Sex Coach and Mental Health Therapist’s Take on the new Netflix show “Sex/Life” (spoiler alert)

A Sex Coach and Mental Health Therapist’s Take on the new Netflix show “Sex/Life” (spoiler alert)

Trigger warning: this article mentions rape/assault. If you are struggling with the aftermath of rape or assault, contact a qualified therapist to help you! You are not alone, and recovery from this type of trauma is possible!* If you are like most Americans living through the pandemic, you have probably spent a lot more time watching Netflix and other media streaming services in the past two years. The numbers confirm this: at the height of the pandemic, Netflix had more than doubled their price per share due to most people being stuck at home watching TV. One of the most popular shows in 2021 has been “Sex/Life”, with over 67 million views since it was released this past May. While the show was entertaining and albeit, titillating at times, this therapist is somewhat troubled that a show this popular potentially spread such a negative view of sex, marriage, and the kink/fetish/polyam community. Let’s take a look at what the show got right and what the show got very very wrong.

What the show got right: To its credit, the writers of this show did attempt to address some pretty difficult topics about love, marriage, and sexuality. These topics are rarely talked about in broader society, although they are far from foreign. The show highlights some of the difficulties of maintaining one’s sexuality while child rearing. For example, Billie, the main character, struggles with boredom in her marriage and then one day runs into her ex, who she still has unfinished business with. This leads Billie to try to escape the demands of her life (kids, judgmental friends, lackluster sex with her husband) by fantasizing about the sex she used to have with her ex. According to the Gottman’s in their book “Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for A Lifetime of Love” it is normal for couples to experience their greatest period of relationship dissatisfaction when they begin to have children. With each subsequent child, studies have shown that the unhappiness grows. It is understandable and quite normal for people to fantasize about times when it was easier to prioritize sex. It is also normal to experience lack of sexual interest, or low desire from time to time in a marriage regardless of whether or not you have children. It is just too easy to get caught up in the day to day and forget to incorporate sexuality. Think about it: when you were dating your spouse, you spent a lot of time pampering yourself and getting ready to impress them on dates. You maybe spent more time apart, adding fuel to the excitement about seeing them. These are the types of behaviors that foster the relational climate that leads to sex. Part of recapturing that sexy relational climate is to start taking care of yourself in the same ways you did when you were dating. Unfortunately, our culture does not do very well at encouraging couples to have separate time, as we are not overly community oriented as a society. Our community is our spouse, especially since being quarantined due to the pandemic. It is a lot of pressure for ONE person to meet all of our needs, and yet this is becoming more and more how our society is.

What the show got wrong: Do a quick google search about this show. Most reviews from professionals are negative. Why? The first thing that came out of my mouth after I finished the season was, “Wow, this is probably going to cause a lot of marital fights!” The show attempts to suggest polyamory or non traditional monogamy as an alternative option to getting stuck in the hum drum of a marriage with kids. In the show, Billie wants the stability and safety that her husband and family provide, but she also wants the excitement and chemistry that her unstable relationship with her ex had. This is a common issue that comes up with the couples I work with. First off, this CAN be a great option for some couples, but both partners have to be on board. There has to be something in this type of arrangement that BOTH partners can see themselves benefitting from. Second, this type of arrangement needs to move slowly. There needs to be deliberate research done by all parties involved, and there needs to be a lot of communication. There also needs to be a willingness by both partners to express their true feelings and desires, and this can take time and therapy to cultivate. In the show, Billie fantasizes about the type of life in which she has her cake and eats it too, and ultimately she chooses it for herself without first having a conversation with her husband. The show ends on that note, which gives viewers who may have similar ideals a bad example.

The second issue with the show is its handling (or mishandling) over the topic of consent. Granted, this is a loaded topic and one that is difficult to do well on television, however more responsibility clearly could have been taken by the writers of the show. One example occurs when Billie is trying to rekindle things with her husband. They are attempting to have sex in the car, but Billie isn’t feeling it. She tells her husband that she would like him to stop, or that she is uncomfortable, and he keeps going, saying “I’m almost done.” The writers of the show don’t address the non consent, and then the show goes on to show even more nonconsensual experiences! This is troubling because many women have been raised, particularly in religious cultures, that they are to please their husbands sexually, no matter what. Women are trained to keep men sexually satisfied in order to avoid abandonment, but never are they taught to value their own pleasure. Furthermore, the show missed a teachable moment about how consent must be ENTHUSIASTIC. This means that both partners engaging in sexual activity are looking for emotional queues in their partner that may indicate if the sex is being enjoyed or not. This enjoyment (or lack thereof) may be verbal or nonverbal, but it is important that those engaging in sex are are aware that consent is not just the absence of a “no”.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of rape or assault, reach out to a therapist today. Going through this can be so isolating, but you don’t have to do this alone! Send me an e-mail to start our conversation about your recovery! julia@moorevulnerabilitycounseling.com

Let’s Talk About Sexual Desire

Let’s Talk About Sexual Desire

In light of my recent move to Las Vegas, I wanted to talk about something that is near and dear to Sin City: SEX! Starting in October, I will be hosting an online women’s sexual health group (with potential to move to in-person once I secure a location, and once things are less Covid-y). To kick off the launch of this group I want to talk about one of the issues that frequently comes up when it comes to women’s sexuality: sexual desire. Before we talk about desire, it is important to define some key terms. Desire is the mental WANTING to have sex. Many women often lament about having low sexual desire. Those afflicted say things to me like, “I want to WANT to have sex” or “my partner doesn’t understand the art of foreplay, and I am not about it.” By contrast, arousal is the physical response we may (or may not!) experience in response to sexual stimuli. It is vitally important that we understand that physical arousal does NOT equal sexual desire. In this article we will break down just some of the possible culprits of low sexual desire, and we will discuss some possible solutions so you can get back to enjoying your sex life.

Culprit #1: There is no foreplay. The reason this is important comes down to what is known as Responsive versus Spontaneous sexual desire. Spontaneous sexual desire is what you see all of the time in popular media such as movies, TV shows, porn, etc. Spontaneous desire is what happens when you’re walking down the street and suddenly-BAM-you feel like having sex. This type of desire, according to top sex researcher Emily Nagoski, PhD. is like being struck by lighting. Spontaneous desire comes on quickly and for seemingly no reason (there are reasons, but they often fly under the radar, and we will get to that in a second). This is most often experienced by biological males, according to research, although there are definitely some women who fit this description as well. By contrast, responsive desire comes on much more slowly. This type of sexual desire is most commonly associated with biological females. The most common metaphor used likens responsive desire to a convection oven, whereas spontaneous desire is more like a microwave. Responsive desire is slower to warm up, and various stimuli (such as a crying baby, a bad smell, or feeling anxious about the way your body looks) can shut this type of desire down quickly.

Solution: The first solution is to communicate turn ons and turn offs with your partner as honestly as possible. Does it bother you that your partner is sweaty from working outside when trying to initiate sex? Talk to your partner about cleaning up before sex. Does deep/stimulating conversation get you in the mood? Try starting with the article “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” and discuss these over dinner multiple nights a week. Do you need more clitoral stimulation before having penetrative sex? Try noticing what creates a sexual response in you, no matter how small. Keep a list of these things and communicate them to your partner and brainstorm ideas of increasing these turn ons in your relationship. Keep a list of turn offs, and try to reduce these as much as possible. It is about “turning off the offs” and “turning on the ons”. Remember, foreplay can look different to each couple, and it is often a combination of mental, physical, and emotional stimulation when it comes to responsive sexual desire.

Culprit #2: You have unresolved (sexual) trauma. Trauma impacts every facet of our lives: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. You might be in a safe and loving relationship but experiencing flashbacks or trauma reminders with your current partner. This can be quite distressing, and even more so when we don’t understand why this is happening to us! We might be trying to get our sexy groove on with our current partner, only to be triggered moments later. The most common scenario I see in my practice is individuals being triggered by the way their partner initiates sex. It feels like pressure to the previously traumatized person, and this reminds that traumatized individual of a time they were perhaps coerced. Optimal sexual functioning understandably shuts down at that point.

Solution: Couples/sex and trauma therapy is the first line of defense here. Trauma can be so complex and affect us in so many ways that it is nearly impossible to resolve sexual trauma without the help of a therapist. In addition to this, work on slowing things waaaaay down with your partner. Not all sexual and intimate contact must involve penetration. Focus on touch/cuddling/caressing and notice what feels good. At no point should there be any pressure from the non-traumatized person to move forward. Look up sensate focus. This is a somatic, or bodily approach to help individuals heal from sexual trauma.

Culprit #3: Your emotional relationship with your partner has been neglected. This can happen for a number of reasons. Perhaps you or your partner is not well versed in talking about feelings. Maybe talking about feelings growing up was discouraged. Perhaps you or your partner have been through something traumatic, and you don’t know how to talk about it. Maybe one or both of you copes by shutting down emotionally. Maybe your emotional energy is being occupied by stress or major life changes. Whatever the reason, it is important to learn to communicate about feelings, regardless of what our culture may tell you. Our BRAIN is actually the largest sex organ in the body. Arousal starts there, and if emotional needs are not being met or communicated, it makes sense that sexual arousal might be hard to come by.

Solution: Check out the emotions wheel, a quick google search will do. The emotions wheel is modeled off of the color wheel. Each emotion correlates to a different “shade” of color. For example, deep crimson is rage, whereas a light orangey red might be annoyance. It is important to learn to accurately communicate these emotions, because this helps others be able to accurately identify and empathize with our emotional experience. For many responsive desire types, feeling seen and understood is an important piece of the puzzle to sexual desire.

Culprit #4: You and/or your partner are not comfortable discussing sex. This is understandable given the culture we live in. We live in a culture that are “perverts in private and saints in public”. Everyone is seemingly obsessed with sex, but nobody talks about it in ways that are helpful and informative. If you are like me, your sex education may have even sounded like, “Abstinence is the only way. If you have sex, God will strike you down and you’ll have a horrible and broken marriage. And you will get chlamydia and die! But if you have to be a failure and have sex, don’t forget to use a condom.” This message is obviously problematic for reasons that are too many to list in this article, AND it fails to talk about how sex can be a pleasurable, fun, and bonding experience.

Solution: First, get comfortable naming your body parts. So many people are uncomfortable just saying the words “penis” or “vagina”, even with their long term partners! Being able to describe what you like or dislike in explicit detail is essential to having increased sexual desire. How can your partner know that you want him to “lick your clitoris” if you can’t get the words out? Often times, people will wait until the heat of the moment to talk about what they like or dislike, and this can lead to disaster and even trauma. As a society and as individuals we HAVE to get comfortable talking about this stuff.

The Bottom Line: Human sexuality is much more complex than media, porn, and your friends may have you to believe. Low desire is multi-faceted and often takes a relationship with a trained sexuality and mental health professional to help uncover your reasons for low sexual desire. If you are reading this, I want you to know that your sexual desire CAN increase, and you CAN enjoy the sexual part of yourself. If you or someone you know is struggling with low desire, reach out to me at julia@moorevulnerabilitycounseling.com to schedule an individual appointment. Inquiries about the women’s sexual health group can also be sent to the same e-mail.

How Childhood Neglect Can Lead to Commitment Issues in Adulthood

How Childhood Neglect Can Lead to Commitment Issues in Adulthood

We have all heard the saying: “Once a cheater, always a cheater”. Commitment issues can come in many forms. For some, they avoid intimacy by breaking things off before the relationship’s honeymoon phase ends. Some only date and hookup casually and make that known on their Tinder accounts. Others have simultaneous affairs once married. According to renowned sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel, affairs are more common than one might think: one third of marriages end in divorce because of an affair. As harsh as these figures may seem, how many of us take the time to understand what causes these commitment issues? As a culture we are quick to write these people off as “monsters”; but what if the problem is much more complex than that? Esther Perel writes that an affair is “a window into the crevices of the human heart”. As we all know, each human heart is unique, and understanding the nuance in each affair takes a willingness to listen and understand for which most individuals do not have the patience. The same is true for the commitment-phobic; we write them off as “players” or “f*ckboys” for men, and the ever popular “slut” for women. People are so much more than the labels we ascribe to them. As it turns out, trauma is often the answer for the plethora of human behaviors that cause us to scratch our heads.

In childhood, we gain much of our understanding about love from observing our parents. Our minds are little sponges soaking in information such as: Will my needs get met? Who is responsible for taking care of me? Are my parents happy? What is love? Do my parents love me? Do my parents love each other? Am I safe? Are Mom and Dad safe? From a young age, our minds are creating a template of the answers to these questions. How these questions are answered determine how we view love as adults.

If we experienced emotional neglect, our needs for love, protection, guidance, affection, and so on were not met. We either take a detached view such as: “Whatever. I can fend for myself. This is just how it is.” This view is commonly seen in those with avoidant attachment styles. In these individuals, the need for connection is still there; however, avoidantly attached individuals downplay the importance of these connections and play up the importance of independence. Alternatively, some people become anxious as a result of their upbringing, with views like: “What if I’m forever alone? What if my relationship becomes like what I saw with Mom and Dad? What if my partner neglects me or doesn’t meet my needs and I get stuck in an unhappy marriage?” Anxiously attached individuals become preoccupied with making sure that their needs get met. They are sensitive to the slightest change in their connection to others, and they magnify their dependence on their partners. Some individuals have what is called anxious-avoidant attachment. These individuals are rare, and the combination of these two attachment styles can cause the afflicted to lash out violently against their partners. For a good example of how this plays out, watch the scene in “Good Will Hunting” with Robin Williams and Matt Damon where Will (Damon) lashes out at his girlfriend (played by Minnie Driver) for asking him to move cross country with her. She declares her love, and Damon shoves her violently against the wall and yells in her face. He sabotages the relationship because he wants to prove to his girlfriend (and to himself) how unworthy of love he is. While not all examples are as extreme as Will’s these are some of the questions and attitudes that prevail amongst the unfaithful and the commitment phobic, and they are a direct result of how we were raised, if our needs were met, and if we saw our parents’ needs being met.

It is possible to fear being loved. We fear what we do not understand, and if we were severely neglected in childhood, being loved is so unfamiliar that it can seem scary. While not everyone reacts in as extreme of a fashion as Will (Damon) when they fear being loved, people do sabotage relationships in a number of ways. In addition to the examples I listed in the first paragraph, people self-sabotage by only being the most attracted to partners who are unavailable or uninterested in them. This insures that they never have to face the fear of the closeness they desire. Some will become anxious and leave a relationship when it seems too similar to their parents’ marriage. Others will stay locked in a marriage where it is clear that they will never get their needs met; “It’s just how relationships are” they will tell themselves.

While what I am writing may seem quite bleak, there are a number of solutions for individuals who seek to rectify this problem for themselves and their loved ones. Experiencing a positive and empathetic relationship with a therapist can be the first step in healing some of these childhood wounds. From there, individuals are free to explore what relationship structures might work for them. Some are able, with much trepidation, to commit to a secure and loving relationship with their partners, while talking through their fears first with a therapist, and then with their loved one. Others choose a more open-structured relationship while working through these fears in therapy. One of my greatest joys is helping individuals and couples find the love they truly seek and deserve. Over time, I have seen individuals learn to embrace intimacy and vulnerability with all the messy things that entails. People eventually learn different messages from those they were raised to believe. They learn: I am worthy of love. I can have the love I seek. Connection is important. Vulnerability is strength. There are people who will meet my needs if only I am brave enough to discover what those are and ask.

If you or a loved one struggles to form and maintain secure attachments, shoot me an e-mail at julia@moorevulnerabilitycounseling.com. I would love to hear your story! From there we can schedule an initial appointment to see how therapy can help you find the love you seek. Alternatively, I am offering an e-course on all things relationship (click here). If you struggle with commitment, I highly recommend the Early Stages of Dating and Next Level mini courses. These courses will help you attract healthy partners, build trust with others, have vulnerable conversations, and help you learn set boundaries.

A List of Ten Odd Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Help Fight Seasonal Depression

A List of Ten Odd Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Help Fight Seasonal Depression

1. Put non-alcoholic beverages in your fanciest glasses at home. I recently started doing this after getting home from work at night, and let me tell you…this little act brings me so much joy. It combines my need to be creative with my desire to stuff my face. Also, being sober is cool. Alcohol makes depression worse, and this is a fun way to sip a beverage and stay happy. You can do coke with cherry grenadine, seltzer water with lemon slices, an Airborne tablet with water and a rosemary sprig, whatever excites you the most and feels the fanciest. Win and WIN!

2. Watch a movie that is an old favorite. It can be just about as comforting as meeting up with an old friend. Warm fuzzies abound. Pop some popcorn, get into your comfy clothes and relax. Escape to a faraway imaginary world; bonus points if you watch something tropical, sunny, or beachy!

3. Build a pillow fort or tent in your living room. Decorate with twinkle lights and get in touch with your inner child (he/she/they will thank you)! It’s uplifting to feel a little silly and childlike every now and then.

4. Play hide and seek in your house. Seriously try this with your partner or a friend. So many laughs to be had. Document it using Snapchat or your phone’s video recorder so that you can come back to watch your partner/friend hunting for you for you in hilarity.

5. Sing along to an upbeat song…or a sad song, whatever is your jam. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer; singing heals the soul.

6. Phone an old friend or family member and ask them about their day. Ask more probing questions like, “what thoughts have been rattling around in your mind today” or “what’s your post-Covid travel agenda?”

7. Grab a journal or some paper and write about your thoughts and feelings. Put it all out there. You’d be surprised at how much journaling can give you mental clarity and a mood boost. Maybe burn what you’ve written and have a bonfire with it in your back yard (assuming it is safe to do so) if the mood so requires.

8. Ask for a hug from a loved one. If you are alone, give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Massage your own hands. Physical touch can boost mood as well, as it releases oxytocin, the chemical responsible for assisting in creating attachments.

9. Make and eat your favorite meal. Cooking can bring out your inner creative, and food lowers cortisol, the stress hormone, almost instantaneously. Just remember to do so in moderation.

10. Try your HAND (hah) at drawing or painting. Try drawing your dog, your television, your coffee table, or anything you see in front of you. Alternatively. You could go a more abstract route and draw a dream you had, some scribbles, or try to copy some modern art.

If all else fails, contact your local mental health professionals (Moore Vulnerability Counseling is a good place…or so I hear)! Sometimes we need an outside perspective. Perhaps more is going on than just seasonal depression, and that’s okay! We all have tough times, and we all need a mental health check up every now and again. Take care out there; seasonal depression affects between 50-70 percent of those of us who live in the Midwest. Being prepared with your preferred and healthy mood boosters can help you make friends with the darker half of the year.

5 Ways to Deal with a Narcissist (if you have to)

5 Ways to Deal with a Narcissist (if you have to)

A few weeks ago, I made a post about how to recognize a emotional abuse (here). Often times these are the tactics used by narcissists in order to keep their victims/lovers stuck and dependent on them. While many people choose to permanently “social distance” from a narcissist, in many cases, this is not possible due to co-parenting, work, or familial ties for example. In this post, I will give you some tools that you can use to disarm a narcissist, if you must. Here are the top 5 ways you can de-escalate interactions with a narcissist.

#1-Gray Rock/Safe Detachment: When you think about gray rocks, what comes to mind? For me, I think of smooth, round stones clustered together on a beach. Just like no one stone stands out among the others, uniformity is the goal of the gray rocking technique with a narcissist. Simply put, you are trying to make yourself appear as bland and un-special as possible in both mood, personality, and appearance. Neutrality is your new friend. Did your narcissist love the way you looked in jeans? Time to get comfy in sweat pants. Your sparkling, bubbly personality? Time to act flat and depressed, and the reality is that your depression “act” may not be an act at all. This tactic is good to use if you are trying to safely end a relationship with a narcissist without them trying to suck you back in. Narcissists love having exciting people around who sing their praises, and if you are no longer that person, they move on to greener pastures. Keep your social media private, block them, or don’t post any updates for a while. Take some much needed time to move on, and don’t let them see when you do.

#2-The Medium Chill: this technique is most effective when having to frequently be in contact with a narcissist due to employment, children, family, etc. The goal of medium chill is to be assertive in the most non-confrontational way. If the narcissist tries to draw you into their drama, simply come up with the most bland, uninteresting, or neutral responses possible, and say them in a flat or unemotional tone. Do not volunteer any personal information about yourself. Some examples of phrases might be: that’s too bad, that’s nice, I can’t do anything about that, you should talk to your doctor/lawyer/dentist about that, that’s up to you, I don’t know about that, let me get back to you, I don’t know what to tell you, that’s a shame, I’m sorry you feel that way, I can’t be there, that doesn’t work for me, that is none of your business, etc. For a full list of phrasing suggestions, visit outofthefog.com The important things to remember are to monitor your tone, keep a calm demeanor, and neutral responses. If you find yourself angry, exit stage left or hang up the phone. The goal is to give them nothing.

#3-Broken Record: this technique is best when your narcissist is arguing with you about a decision you have made, or when you find yourself in a circular argument with them. When this happens, it is best to repeat the same phrase over and over again. This combines both the gray rocking and medium chill techniques. For example, Narc: can I drop off our kid early? I want to go to the bar with some of my buddies. You: That’s too bad. I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you’re so selfish! I thought this was a 50/50 split. You: I’m sorry, I won’t be home until 8pm. Narc: you aren’t even going to consider my needs? You: No, I won’t be home until 8pm. And so on and so forth. Again, the most important part is to keep your tone calm and neutral. Practice it a hundred times if you need to!

#4-Boundaries/Your Stuff, Their Stuff/The Clean Up Rule: much of dealing with a narcissist is mental in nature. Many selfless and loving people are drawn to narcissists because they want to see them healed; however, it is important to realize that YOU cannot be the one to do the healing. The narcissist must heal him/herself. The narcissist will keep you hooked by making you believe that only you can save them. They are exploiting your kindness through manipulation. A good rule of thumb: everyone is responsible for their own feelings. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up their own messes. You have your stuff to take care of, they have their stuff to take care of.

#5-Personal Safety: personal safety refers to not only your physical safety, but also your mental and emotional wellbeing. Your safety and the safety of your dependents is your highest concern. If your narcissist threatens to harm you physically, your child(ren), themselves, or anyone else, call the appropriate authorities immediately, and perhaps from a safe distance away. This is a manipulative tactic used by the narcissist in order to avoid abandonment. Do not be fooled, but take it seriously. Remember, it is not your job to save the narcissist if they are suicidal. Only they can do that with the help of professionals. If you are being insulted or verbally attacked, try politely ending the conversation. If your boundaries are not respected, calmly leave the room/area. Protecting your emotional health is vital to your wellbeing.

I hope that this article has given you some tips on how to handle dealing with a narcissist if you must. Find support for yourself and your dependents. Outofthefog.com is also a great resource for understanding and coping with relationships with personality disordered individuals. Check out the Amazon link below to the book Out of the Fog.


Recognizing and Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Recognizing and Dealing with Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is often difficult for us to identify. How many times have we heard the story of a jealous girlfriend (or boyfriend, because no gender discrimination here) demanding that her man be available 24/7, lest he be accused of cheating? How about this one: a child is told that they will remain in custody of his or her parents, even though they are being verbally berated daily, because there is “no physical evidence of abuse”? Or there is the more subtle classic of a child’s parent wishing the child were “less emotional” regardless of gender. This parent may tell their child to “just get over it” or use a plethora of tactics to invalidate the child’s emotions. Are these instances of emotional and psychological abuse? You bet! Unfortunately, due to our culture downplaying the importance of emotion, it makes sense that emotional abuse is harder to recognize to the untrained observer. More tragically, those who are abused even have a difficult time recognizing it as well, which sets them up to be abused over and over again in their adult relationships. Alternatively, you might find that you yourself have used these tactics in the past in order to get your needs met. This is not meant to be a judgmental post if you fall into this camp, but a self-check and hopefully a catalyst for self-reflection and change.

I am writing this post to help us all be better able to recognize emotional and psychological abuse. (Side note: One of my favorite Instagram artists @blessingmanifesting posted a cool infographic about recognizing emotional abuse. It inspired me to write this post, so look over at the sidebar to get a full list of emotional abuse tactics abusers use.) Some of the most common emotional abuse tactics that I see when working with victims of narcissistic abuse are:

  • Gaslighting (rewriting events to convince you they happened a different way than what you remember). This is one of the most devastating tactics used, because it causes the recipient to doubt their own perception of reality. Victims quite literally feel crazy. They want to believe their abuser’s often more positive spin on what really happened because they want to continue to love and get their needs met by the abuser. Example: “No I didn’t hit you. You are remembering it wrong. I simply shoved you out of the way because I was starting to get mad.”
  • Your boundaries don’t matter. Examples: You tell your boyfriend or spouse you are not comfortable being physically intimate, and they pressure you despite your attempts to say no as firmly as you can. You tell your friend that you can’t do one more favor for them, but they beg and plead despite you continuing to tell all the reasons you cannot help right now.
  • Using your empathy against you. Example: “I really need your help, especially after what Sheila did to me. You know how I don’t handle breakups well.”
  • Threatening to harm or kill themselves in an attempt to get you to comply. This is one of the most extreme examples, and if you have ever been on the receiving end of this, I am terribly sorry. Please know that another’s life is NEVER in your hands in this scenario. If someone kills themselves (often after a breakup) it is NEVER your fault! Their decision to live or die is theirs alone. They are responsible for how they handle their emotions, and it is not your job to make them feel better.
  • Shaming you into not talking about it. Examples: “Everyone will think you are __________.” “If you talk about it, your friends will think you’re a real drag.”
  • Nothing you say or do is good enough. This one causes its victims to become either rebellious in nature, overly compliant, or it causes individuals to adopt ridiculously high standards for themselves. Victims never feel satisfied with themselves or other people. Their inner self-voice is very critical of even minor mistakes.
  • They idealize you, then discard you. This is a pattern very typical of narcissists during dating. They will come on very strong in the beginning, and will pursue their mates very intensely. To someone with low self-esteem, this can be like water to a dry well. One the victim is hooked, the narcissist will either a) become very critical of the flaws in their partner, insisting that they change constantly, b) find an arbitrary reason to break up with their partner, often very suddenly, or c) a combination of a) and b).

If you are currently the victim of emotional or psychological abuse, please seek help. There is no abuse too small to address in therapy. It also may be helpful to bolster yourself with additional reading materials. A book I recommend for dealing with abuse recovery is “Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse” by Jackson MacKenzie. Click the link to purchase from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3i78l1d

There is truly a plethora of reading material on healing from emotional abuse. Here are some additional books and resources to help you on your journey. (Side note: a percentage of purchases from clicking these links will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling and will help me stay afloat during these difficult times. Thank you.) Some will have pictures posted next to them, and some will not. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss my next post about how to disarm an abuser!

https://amzn.to/2Ps0BdO<<<“You Can Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse” by by Melanie Tonia Evans and Christiane Northrup M.D.
https://amzn.to/3idqDOF<<<Narcissistic Abuse Survival Guide; a book for dealing with more subtle forms of narcissistic/borderline abuse, abusive parents and family members
https://amzn.to/3gvrLMV<<<7 Steps to Recovery by Eric Monroe
https://amzn.to/30rYFIR<<<My Soulmate, My Love, My Narcissist
https://amzn.to/3fseTpu<<<Co-Parenting With A Narcissist
https://amzn.to/2XseAVL<<<Emotional Abuse Recovery Workbook
https://amzn.to/39XwkNr<<The Gaslighting Recovery Workbook

What Is Schema Therapy and How Can YOU Benefit From It

What Is Schema Therapy and How Can YOU Benefit From It

Simply put, “schemas” can be referred to as “life traps”. Life traps are self-defeating patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that keep us stuck. Do we all have life traps? Yes, and here is why: none of us get out of childhood unscathed. Try as they may have, none of our parents ever peaked at perfection. We have all experienced trauma in our lives, believe it or not. Whether that be “trauma” with a lowercase “t”, “Trauma” with a capital “T”, or all caps “TRAUMA”, we have all had our needs neglected at some point or another, or terrible things have happened to us in varying degrees. The bottom line is, life traps are unfortunately easy to develop.

Life traps are easy to develop because when we are young, we need these 6 core emotional needs to be met in just the goldilocks right amount in order to thrive and become well-adjusted adults: basic safetyconnection to othersautonomyself-esteemself-expression, and realistic limits. To the degree that the child is denied or given in excess any of these core needs, that is the degree to which he or she will struggle with a particular life trap. There are a variety of factors that influence if we get too little or too much of these core emotional needs. These factors can include mental illness of a parent, lack of structure, environmental disasters such as hurricanes, financial stressors, lack of education on the parents’ part, political unrest, and so on and so forth.

Regardless of whatever it may be that the child is lacking, one hundred percent of these factors are out of the child’s control; however, children are perceptive creatures. It is highly unlikely that a child perceives a traumatic event correctly. This is because when we are young, we tend to view things in black and white or simplified terms. For example, if a child’s parents get divorced, without proper and very delicate communication from the family regarding this divorce (the core emotional need of connection to others), the child may incorrectly assume that he or she was the cause of the divorce. They may have thoughts such as “Daddy left because I was hard to deal with”. This child will then take on undue shame and guilt, and develop what is known as the Defectiveness life trap. That child may be fearful of entering romantic or platonic relationships for fear that they may “screw them up” or that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. As an adult, the child with the dependence life trap will avoid intimacy for fear that their flaws are terrible; they believe that nobody could ever love them once their flaws were found out.

Conversely, another child experiencing the same situation of their parents divorcing may have a different reaction. This other child may develop the life trap known as the Abandonment life trap. Sufferers of this life trap tend to be preoccupied with keeping loved ones close to them. They may cling out of fear of being abandoned. Tragically, their clinging often drives people away, and the life trap becomes somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The negative reactions of others are the consequence of their clinging behavior, and thus the person continues to believe that they will always be abandoned.

It is often not until this person enters therapy that this life trap is exposed. More importantly, therapy gives this person the chance to experience an emotionally corrective relationship with the therapist. That is, the therapist responds in ways that help heal the original attachment wounds of the person. For example, if a client frantically and excessively e-mails their therapist for extra sessions, the therapist does not judge the client for this. The therapist has unconditional positive regard and care for the client. The client with the abandonment life trap picks up on this and learns that their needs for connection are good, and that others want to meet their needs. The therapist can then train the client on how to appropriately ask for their (very valid !) needs to be met.

At this point, you are probably wondering, “So what ARE the various life traps?! Which ones do I have?!” The answers to these questions are probably best answered between client and therapist, as life traps and how they manifest in your life can be quite complex to explain in this short amount of space. The answers to these questions are also going to be highly personal depending on the individual, which is why it is important to discuss in the “safe space” of therapy. I will list the names of the life traps here, but for more information, the book “Reinventing Your Life” by Dr. Klosko and Dr. Young is an extremely helpful start. Click the link at the bottom to purchase this book on Amazon! And now, without further ado, the 18 Life Traps in brief:

  • Abandonment
  • Mistrust/Abuse
  • Emotional Deprivation
  • Defectiveness/Shame
  • Social Isolation
  • Dependence/Incompetence
  • Vulnerability to Harm or Illness
  • Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self
  • Failure
  • Entitlement/Grandiosity
  • Insufficient Self-Control
  • Subjugation
  • Self-Sacrifice
  • Approval/Recognition Seeking
  • Negativity/Pessimism
  • Emotional Inhibition
  • Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness
  • Punitiveness


CLICK HERE ^^^ to purchase Reinventing Your Life! A portion of the proceeds will go to Moore Vulnerability Counseling. Thank you!