The Journal of Mortifying Moments: Detecting PatternsDuring one of my routine trips to the library — I haven’t adopted the Kindle groove yet and still enjoy the physical act of turning pages — I was perusing the women’s fiction section to get my chick-lit fix, and landed on Robyn Harding’s refreshingly funny novel, The Journal of Mortifying Moments.

Kerry Spence, the protagonist in Harding’s novel, is quirky and kind of lovable, though she emits an aura of low self-esteem as a result of past rejections.

Her therapist recommends that she keep a journal of all of her painfully embarrassing and hurtful incidents involving the opposite sex, in the hopes that she can detect an ongoing pattern in her romantic relationships.

Kerry decides to take the advice and start writing; after all, she’s currently invested in a dysfunctional relationship with on-again/ off-again boyfriend, Sam, who puts his career on the very top of his list and surely takes Kerry for granted. One of her entries comprises a cringe-worthy account of Sam breaking up with her while she was in searing pain, post-wisdom teeth removal. Adding insult to literal injury, Sam hinted that he had taken an interest in another woman.

After reading several “mortifying moments,” Kerry’s complex regarding men is thoroughly understandable. Some of the more humiliating experiences include a sixth-grade truth or dare game gone wrong (where one of the boys opted to tell a hard truth rather than kiss Kerry); an awkward ski trip with a crush, where she got an uncontrollable nosebleed that warranted paramedic attention; and a visit to her father’s family in London, only to discover that she had romantic feelings for her first cousin the night prior.

Then there are the more devastating moments: certain relationships that once spawned promise will no longer be able to last. This was true when she walked in on her fiancé immersed in a threesome with his old pals from Belize, or when her high school boyfriend broke up with her on prom night.

Toward the end of the novel, it’s great to witness Kerry’s growth as she pinpoints exactly why she emotionally attached her heart to Sam, whom she’s always held on a pedestal.

“There were three entries that I actually had to accept responsibility for: the disastrous attempt at devirgining in high school, Hugh’s diving instructor orgy, and Sam’s unceremonious dumping of me. And here’s where the real pattern emerged. In every relationship, I had been trying desperately to be someone that I wasn’t. If you’re not being true to yourself in a relationship, then it is not meant to be.”

Kerry surmised that her whole time spent with Sam incorporated a sense of self-deprecation, truly believing that she was so lucky to be with a gorgeous, charming man who drives a Mercedes — but with that came insecurity, jealousy, and a tainted body image. She learned that there are other men who will appreciate her authentic self and that’s what really matters.



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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Nov 2012
    Published on All rights reserved.

APA Reference
Suval, L. (2012). The Journal of Mortifying Moments: Detecting Patterns. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2015, from


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