I listened to the SAVVY PSYCHOLOGIST: 18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life by Dr. Monica Johnson on the Quick and Dirty Tips podcast. She talks about schemas, which I knew little about. I found her descriptions empowering and worthy of sharing. For more details on each one, I’ve provided the links below.
A schema is a stable and enduring negative pattern that develops during childhood or adolescence. It persists and expands throughout our lives. —Dr. Monica Johnson
Read it one more time, I’ll wait…
I now have a better understanding of the well-worn grooves in my brain and how they affect the way I interpret and respond to everything. I noted the schemas I thought most applicable to me now.
18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life/Part One
NOTE: There are three main not-so-helpful responses to schemas: surrender, avoidance, and overcompensation. Keeping these in mind when you read this list is helpful.
1. Emotional Deprivation
This schema refers to the belief that your primary emotional needs will never be met by others. These needs can typically be described in three categories: nurturance, empathy, and protection. Nurturance relates to needs for closeness, affection, or love.
This schema can arise due to having parents who are more distant and don’t adequately attend to the emotional needs of their child. Parents can be well-meaning but have a child who has a more sensitive temperament and the parents aren’t equipped with the skills necessary to support them.
If you have fears of abandonment, this is one of your predominant schemas. Typically, people with this schema believe that they will soon lose anyone with whom an emotional attachment is formed.
This schema refers to the expectation that others will intentionally take advantage of you in some way.
4. Social Isolation/Alienation
Do you experience life as the black sheep? This schema refers to the belief that one is isolated from the world, different from other people, and/or not part of any community.
Are you afraid that if someone got too emotionally close to you, they’d find out how awful you really are?
I think many of us have a fear of failure to some degree, but perhaps in your case, it’s more debilitating. Did you grow up in a family where anything less than an A was a failure?
This schema refers to the belief that you’re not capable of handling daily responsibilities competently and independently.
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” —Pema Chödrön
8. Vulnerability to Harm and Illness
Do you always feel like your own personal doomsday clock is ticking away? This schema refers to the belief that the next major catastrophe is right around the corner, whether it be medical, financial, environmental, etc.
9. Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self
Are you too involved with your family or romantic partners? People who struggle with enmeshment often have little-to-no boundaries and are too emotionally involved in their relationships.
AVOIDANCE: Damn, this is a new schema, not from my childhood. With too much focus on my kids and their lives, I often neglect my own growth. It comes from a loving & well-meaning place but it’s actually detrimental to my whole family. More focus on my own needs will give my brood the much-deserved space to do the same.
18 Beliefs That Are Ruining Your Life/Part Two
The belief that you’re superior to others. Some may have an exaggerated focus on aspects that they believe display this superiority (e.g. being amongst the most wealthy or successful). …we might call them clout chasers; however, individuals with this schema are engaging in these behaviors to achieve power and control, and not primarily seeking approval or attention.
11. Insufficient Self-Control or Self-Discipline
This schema refers to the inability to tolerate any frustration in reaching your goals, as well as an inability to restrain the expression of your impulses or feelings. In its milder form, you may have an exaggerated emphasis on discomfort avoidance: avoiding pain, conflict, confrontation, responsibility, or overexertion at the expense of personal fulfillment, commitment, or integrity. When lack of self-control is extreme, criminal or addictive behavior may rule your life. …it’s impossible to have a healthy existence and avoid all discomfort.
SURRENDER: This is what I thought of myself as a child. I was disciplined in sports, but not school, and I lacked self-control over my eating habits. To this day I often think of myself as lazy, lacking direction, and terribly disorganized. These attributes are sometimes true of me but are no longer dominant. However, I still have many internal battles regarding this hardwired schema. It’s time to UNSURRENDER to this negative thought pattern.
This is the excessive surrendering of control to others because you feel coerced. This behavior is usually done to avoid things like conflict, anger, or abandonment.
This schema refers to the excessive sacrifice of your own needs in order to help others. The most common reasons are: to prevent causing pain to others; to avoid guilt from feeling selfish; or to maintain the connection with others perceived as needy.
OVERCOMPENSATION: Although well-intentioned on my part there’s a downside: 1) self-sacrifice can build resentment 2) makes those I’m making sacrifices for feel incapable when they haven’t even asked me for help in the first place. This schema is overcompensation on my part to avoid being seen as selfish.
14. Emotional Inhibition
This schema involves the belief that you must suppress spontaneous action, feeling or communication. This is usually to avoid disapproval by others, feelings of shame, or losing control of your impulses.
15. Approval Seeking/Recognition Seeking
This schema refers to placing excessive emphasis on gaining the approval and recognition of others at the expense of your own genuine needs and sense of self.
This schema refers to a pervasive, lifelong focus on the negative aspects of life while minimizing, ignoring, or discounting the positive aspects.
“Schemas tend to be easier to change during childhood but can become increasingly rigid and difficult to modify as people grow older. Schemas will often persist even when people are presented with evidence that contradicts their beliefs.” —Dr. Christine Padesky/Verywell Mind
17. Unrelenting Standards/Hypercriticalness
This schema refers to a belief that you have to meet extremely high standards of performance or behavior. The person with this belief pattern is usually doing this to avoid criticism.
This is the belief that people should be harshly punished for making mistakes. People with this schema tend to be critical and unforgiving of themselves and others.
Thank you, Dr. Johnson…you’re a savvy psychologist indeed.