Jeffery E. Young and Janet S. Klosko researched and developed the following schemes they called “lifetraps” or negative behavior patterns. Although awareness is the first step in understanding our behavior, the solutions in this book ran along traditional lines of psychotherapy and only recommended potential solutions. So this book is about recognizing the traps that may be causing suffering.

In their 1993 book Reinventing Your Life and Feel Great Again they identified 11 lifetraps. These are:

a. Abandonment

b. Mistrust/Abused

c. Emotional Deprivation

d. Social Exclusion

e. Dependence

f. Vulnerability

g. Defectiveness

h. Failure

i. Subjugation

j. Unrelenting Standards

K. Entitlement

Lifetraps begin in childhood and these patterns follow us into adult life. They influence our thoughts, feelings and actions much more than we consciously understand. Successful people, who have all the usual signs of fulfillment, will not be able to be happy if their life is controlled by one or more of these traps.

Recognizing your lifetrap

Childhood is a truly amazing time in life. Those first seven or so years are the most formative mentally and the most impressionable.  The subconscious mind is essentially unguarded during a time when we have little rational ability.  The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between truth and falsehood.  The “guardian at the gate” is the job of the conscious mind. Yet, in these pre-adolescence the conscious mind doesn’t possess the ability to distinguish between true and false and accepts what is given to it as truth.

This means that the child is taking what it perceives in the immediate environment as true.  Whatever comes from our mother, father or real guardian is assumed to be true. The child has needs that are instinctive: safety and connection, self-expression, autonomy, self-esteem as it experiences the environment, according to Young and Klosko.


Abandonment and or abuse by a parent, guardian and sometimes sibling causes the most damage to the child. There reality is that “nowhere” is safe and they trust no one.


There are two levels of connection: intimate and social. The intimate level provides the deepest connection usually this is with mother or father. The social connection is about belonging. In these two traps there is a true feeling of disconnection.  Sometimes these traps are hard to identify because everything appears normal.


In childhood of we are taught to create relationships outside the home, exercise good judgment, be as self-sufficient as anyone in that age group, then we develop a sense of independence. The other is also true, that if our parents worried a lot about disasters, poverty, being harmed that these teach us to feel vulnerable. Dependent people’s identities will often merge with another, such as a partner in a relationship.


If we are loved and appreciated as a child we will most likely develop good self-esteem. But if you had a parent that was overly critical, didn’t like anything you did or didn’t appreciate you.  If you feel the closer someone comes to you the less likely they are to love you it may be due to a feeling that somehow you are defective. Whereas if you feel inadequate in what you do or feel you can’t be successful because you aren’t smart enough or are less talented you may develop a feeling of failure.


Absents of freedom to express yourself implies that your needs and expression don’t count or you’re made to feel guilty about expressing your emotions. If you feel the need to just say “yes” to whatever someone else wants or are extremely accommodating to other people you might be subjugating yourself to someone else’s control. It indicates being overly controlled.  If you feel you have to live up to standards that are beyond your reach or to the standards of a perfectionist parent then you might have a feeling that life has no joy or is empty.


This trap is created from parents that were overly indulgent and permissive.  If you got whatever you wanted or were “spoiled” you will most likely be selfish, demanding, controlling or self-centered. This kind of behavior is damaging because people will lose interest in you or get angry and leave or they may retaliate.

“Lifetraps actively organize our experiences. They operate in overt and subtle ways to influence how we think, feel and act,” says Young and Klosko.

About The Author:

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