No one size fits all in dependency treatment


Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts.

Last week, I wrote about dealing with lifetraps as they relate to chemical dependency. A lifetrap is a pattern that starts in childhood and reverberates throughout life. It began with something that was done to us by our families or other children.

Six of 11 were presented in the first column. Here are the other five:

¯ Defectiveness — With defectiveness, people feel inwardly flawed and defective. They believe that they would be fundamentally unlovable to anyone who got close enough to know them. As a child in your family, you were criticized for your “flaws.” You blamed yourself – you felt unworthy of love. You find it difficult to believe that people close to you value you, so you expect rejection.

¯ Failure — Failure is the belief that you are inadequate in areas of achievement such as school, work, sports. You believe you have failed relative to your peers. As a child you were made to feel inferior in terms of achievement. You may have had a learning disability or a lack of discipline interfered with mastering important skills such as reading. You were called “stupid,” “untalented,” or “lazy.” As an adult you maintain your lifetrap by exaggerating the degree of your failure.

¯ Subjugation — With subjugation, you sacrifice your own needs and desires for the sake of pleasing others or meeting their needs. You allow others to control you, either out of guilt or fear that you will be punished or abandoned if you disobey. As a child, someone close to you, probably a parent, subjugated you. As an adult, you repeatedly enter relationships with dominant, controlling people and subjugate yourself to them. Or you enter relationships with needy people who are too damaged to give back to you in return.

¯ Unrelenting standards — In unrelenting standards, people strive relentlessly to meet extremely high expectations that you place on yourself. People in this lifetrap place excessive emphasis on status, money, achievement, beauty, order or recognition at the expense of happiness, pleasure, health, a sense of accomplishment and satisfying relationships. These people are usually rigid, demanding and judgmental. When they were children, they were expected to be the best, and they were taught that anything else was failure. They learned that nothing they did was quite good enough.

¯ Entitlement — People with the entitlement lifetrap feel special and have a problem accepting realistic limits in life. They insist that they are able to do, say, or have whatever they want immediately. Many of the people with this lifetrap were spoiled as children. They were not required to show self control or accept restrictions placed on other children. As adults, they will get angry when they don’t get what they want. They disregard what others think and consequently they have difficulty with self discipline and impulse control. They don’t read self-help books and usually don’t last in treatment.

Thus, as you can see, we in treatment have our work cut out for us. In chemical dependency, the nice part for us counselors is that no one size fits all. Over the years, I’ve used Gestalt therapists, family therapists, Freudian therapists and behavioral therapists. I believe that integrating the best components of several therapies is far more effective than any one alone. In many severe cases, trauma therapists have been tremendous. As the saying goes ” it takes a village.” We in the CD field are lucky to have so many options in the mental health field such as psychoanalytical, experiential, cognitive, pharmacological and behavioral to assist us in helping our clients manage addiction.

As I stated, we spend a lot of time on lifetraps. If you are interested in learning more besides the REBT group, I do “Life Coaching” on an individual basis. For more on the topic, call 983-1592,

Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for more than 30 years and currently runs the REBT program on Thursday nights at the Holy Trinity Parish Center from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Call 983-1592 for more information.


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