Interpersonal problems often occur across multiple relationships and areas of your life (friends, family, work, partner, and so on). These problems can trigger intense suffering for you and those you care for. If you are reading this book, you are likely struggling in some of your relationships, perhaps reacting in damaging ways to interpersonal stress. You may also have primary concerns such as anxiety, depression, or trauma coupled with relationship problems. You have probably found that treatments targeting your anxiety, depression, or trauma have not been very helpful in solving your interpersonal struggles.
We have combined ideas from schema-focused therapy with methods from acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) to help you identify and change hurtful interpersonal patterns. This book focuses on ten schemas—abandonment/instability, mistrust/abuse, emotional deprivation, defectiveness/shame, social isolation/alienation, dependence, failure, entitlement/grandiosity, self- sacrifice/subjugation, and unrelenting standards/hypercriticalness—that are the deeply ingrained patterns of thought driving problematic coping behaviors. When situations or conversations trigger your schemas, your reaction is to protect yourself—avoid painful emotions. Unfortunately, your schema coping behaviors often make your relationships worse and increase your suffering.
This book provides you with an empirically-validated protocol—based on ACT—for addressing your interpersonal problems. You will learn to deal with schema-triggered pain differently, and to replace ineffective schema coping with responses based on your deepest values. Be warned: this is a “work” book—you must do the exercises in the book to make progress. At times, the process will be challenging and emotional, but it can result in greatly improved relationships. We all thrive when we are in loving, healthy relationships. Now, let’s get started.