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Glossary of Terms

Humans are inherently emotional creatures. To deny our emotions is to deny our humanity. There are core emotions, and then there are more granular iterations of those core feelings. For instance, frustration is an emotion rooted in anger. Relief is an emotion rooted in hope. Tolerance and politeness are emotions rooted in fear. Kindness is an emotion rooted in love.


Dealing with debt in an elevated and strategic manner requires accurately labeling the emotions and psychological behaviors prevalent with such economic patterns. We've created this glossary to help people on both sides of debt identify, validate and better understand how to respond to the circumstances they are facing.

  • Definition: To separate into isolated compartments or categories

    Looks Like: Avoiding you in favor of other tasks

    Sounds Like: “Let me take care of these other things first and then I’ll get to you”

    Feels Like: Anger - Controlled

  • Definition:

    1. Refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as an account statement or fee charge)

    2. Assertion that an allegation is false

    3. Refusal to acknowledge a person or a thing

    Looks Like: Avoidance

    Sounds Like: “I never received that invoice” (meanwhile it’s been viewed multiple times), “You’re lying, I definitely paid that”

    Feels Like: Fear - Threatened, Anger - Annoyed

  • Definition: The redirection of an emotion or impulse from its original object (such as an idea or person) to another

    Looks Like: Blaming everything around them for their mistakes

    Sounds Like: “It’s my accountant’s fault for not paying you” 

    Feels Like: Anger - Powerless

  • Definition: To give rational form or content to

    Looks Like: Making sense of a situation

    Sounds Like: “Once I get a payment from my client, then I can pay you and get back on track”

    Feels Like: Anger - Critical

  • Definition: Attributing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors to another person

    Looks Like: Empathy

    Sounds Like: “I would hate to be in that position so I know that client hates me because I sent them to collections”

    Feels Like: Shame - Victimized

  • Definition: Attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate

    Looks Like: Excuses, excuses, excuses

    Sounds Like: “I couldn’t pay my invoices because inflation has just been crazy”

    Feels Like: Fear - Helpless, Shame - Victimized

  • Definition: Expression of opposite feelings, sometimes to an exaggerated extent

    Looks Like: Doing a complete 180º

    Sounds Like: “I hate when my clients don’t pay me” *proceeds to not pay his own debts*

    Feels Like: Anger - Hypocritical 

  • Definition: A defense mechanism in which people seem to return to an earlier developmental stage

    Looks Like: Throwing a temper tantrum over something, talking to a 6 year old

    Sounds Like: Screaming on the phone because they aren’t getting their way

    Feels Like: Anger - Frustrated

  • Definition: The exclusion of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings from the conscious mind

    Looks Like: Refusing to acknowledge a new lawsuit because she’s already lost one

    Sounds Like: “I will not be talking to you about this because it’s absolutely ridiculous”

    Feels Like: Fear - Anxious, Distrusting - Incredulous

  • Definition: Socially unacceptable impulses or idealizations are transformed into socially acceptable actions or behavior, possibly resulting in a long-term conversion of the initial impulse

    Looks Like: Staying busy to overcome anxiety

    Sounds Like: “I will get to your invoice as soon as I can get these other tasks done at work”

    Feels Like: Lonely - Disconnected

Coping Mechanisms
  • Definition: A pattern characterized by exaggerated feelings of superiority, entitlement, self-importance, an obsessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others

    Looks Like: Blatant disregard for anyone else

    Sounds Like: “I’m too busy to deal with this insignificant matter”

    Feels Like: Anger - Entitled

  • Definition: Someone who craves admiration and importance, lacking empathy toward others but may act in a different way than an overt narcissist

    Looks Like: Needing praise despite their shortcomings

    Sounds Like: “Well I paid you on time before and I gave you a Christmas gift last year so that means I’m a good client! Just let this one slide”

    Feels Like: Lonely - Unseen, Anger - Manipulated

  • Definition: An abusive person who finds pleasure in lying, manipulating, and using other people in order to get the things they want

    Looks Like: Lack of empathy for others, expects to be treated like a superior, blames others for their bad behaviors

    Sounds Like: “You’re just a freelancer, you don’t have the funds to chase this invoice down”

    Feels Like: Anger - Manipulated

  • Definition: Changing the conversation from the subject matter to questioning the victim's thoughts and controlling the conversation

    Looks Like: Not letting you speak and only doing what they want

    Sounds Like: “I’m not going through this again” “Where did you get an idea like that?”

    Feels Like: Anger - Irritated

  • Definition: The technique and putative process by which behavior is modified through a new association with a stimulus of an opposite valence

    Looks Like: Holding off on rewarding until it suits them

    Sounds Like: “I don’t care what the contract says, once we see positive results from this project, then we’ll pay you.”

    Feels Like: Distrusting - Betrayed

  • Definition: Ignoring the reality of a situation to avoid anxiety

    Looks Like: Someone who thinks too highly of themselves

    Sounds Like: “I would never have unpaid invoices because that would mean my business isn’t doing well”

    Feels Like: Distrusting - Doubtful, Shame - Humiliated

  • Definition: Making something seem less important, serious, or complex than it is

    Looks Like: Making you feel insignificant in comparison to them

    Sounds Like: “It’s just a small amount, don’t worry about it”

    Feels Like: Anger - Critical 

  • Definition: Willingly withdrawing affection with the specific goal to hurt or control someone

    Looks Like: Holding something over you to get you to back down

    Sounds Like: “I will not be giving you a good referral if you go through with this”

    Feels Like: Anger - Manipulated

Gaslighting Techniques
  • Definition: A psychological phenomenon in which an individual's judgements or decisions are influenced by a reference point or "anchor" which can be completely irrelevant

    Looks Like: Comparing situations to better suit their needs

    Sounds Like: “Well my friend is only paying this much for her project so that’s all I’m going to pay you”

    Feels Like: Distrusting - Betrayed

  • Definition: The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values

    Looks Like: A client might only look for information that confirms their belief that a debt was paid while ignoring evidence to the contrary; not taking responsibility

    Sounds Like: “I told my secretary to pay the invoice so it certainly was paid”

    Feels Like: Anger - Manipulated, Shame - Disrespected

  • Definition: A pervasive cognitive bias that causes people to see their own behavioral choices and judgments as relatively common and appropriate to existing circumstances

    Looks Like: They assume that their personal qualities, characteristics, beliefs, and actions are relatively widespread through the general population

    Sounds Like: “It’s totally normal to take this long to pay invoices, don’t be ridiculous”

    Feels Like: Pain - Pressured

  • Definition: The common tendency for people to perceive past events as having been more predictable than they were

    Looks Like: Awareness, remorse

    Sounds Like: “I knew that would happen”

    Feels Like: Shame - Embarrassed, Guilt - Regret

  • Definition: Also known as availability bias, is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method, or decision.

    Looks Like: Only believing what they think to be true

    Sounds Like: “I don’t recall agreeing to that so it must not have happened”

    Feels Like: Distrusting - Suspicious

  • Definition: A person's recall of episodic memories becomes less accurate because of post-event information

    Looks Like: Confusion, altered memories

    Sounds Like: “I thought we talked about this already. I thought you said it was taken care of”

    Feels Like: Distrusting - Dubious

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