a 7 minute read that could change your life…

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.

2. Abandonment/Instability

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.

3. Mistrust/Abuse

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.

5. Defectiveness/Shame

Are you afraid that if someone got too emotionally close to you, they’d find out how awful you really are?

6. Failure   

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?

7. Dependence/Incompetence

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

10. Entitlement/Grandiosity

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.

12. Subjugation

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.

13. Self-Sacrifice

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.

16. Negativity/Pessimism

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.

18. Punitiveness  

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.

Thank you Pema, Dusty & Emily…

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, she writes about hope and fear—

“Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something: they come from a sense of poverty.  We can’t simply relax with ourselves.  We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment.”

HOPE verb: to cherish a desire with anticipation, to want something to happen or be true

FEAR verb: to be afraid of, expect with alarm

Hope was on my mind, so this morning Dusty Springfield’s 1964 song—Wishin’ and Hopin’ popped into my head as did Emily Dickinson’s poem—Hope Is A Things With Feathers. Oh you brilliant, creative women…you’ve been homesteading in my psyche the last few days. Thank you, your timing is impeccable.

Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’
Plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms
That won’t get you into his arms
So if you’re lookin’ to find love you can share
All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him that you care

Songwriters: Hal David / Burt Bacharach—Artist: Dusty Springfield

All of this hope talk made me think about parenting, religion, and my childhood. My mother’s prayers for me when I was growing up were that I would eventually become someone or something else—an idealized version of the raw potential she saw in me. Please help Lisa stop picking her fingernails, overeating, cussing, being lazy, not caring about her grades, reading the wrong books, listening to the wrong music, drinking beer, or NOT believing the way I do.

I don’t blame her, this was her programming. I’m sure it felt quite loving hopin’ and prayin’ for my needed improvements. She feared who I might possibly become, and truly believed her prayers could turn things around for me. Her faith then required that she gave the God of her understanding credit whenever my improvements, no matter how barely detectable emerged.

I did the same thing to my children—always hopin’ they would become the best version of themselves. I guess I thought wishin’ for the hidden potential in them to emerge would reflect what a stellar job I’ve done mothering and flatter my ego. Damn, that was my programming too.

Emily Dickinson’s poem, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers reveals the unsettling nature of the never ending loop of constant hope…and never stops – at all -.

Hopin’ I believed would make all of my sleepless nights and heartache worthwhile. However, instead, what I’m finally understanding is that all of that motherly wishin, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ kept me from accepting them as they were/are in the present. I’m truly sorry Ellis, Lucy, and Willa that I did not learn this sooner.

Wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ doesn’t seem to actually be working in any part of my life now that I give it more though...and never stops – at all—thanks Emily for that reminder.

What if I practiced more acceptance in all areas of my life? What would that feel like? Complacent? Uncaring? UnAmerican? Untethered? Unbelievable?

Let’s experiment, take a moment…breathe, just let the word acceptance settle into our soul a bit…repeat it a few times. Thoughts?

What if right now in America we just quit wishin’, hopin’, thinkin’, and prayin’ for things to be different than they are? What if collectively we ACCEPTED that the God of our personal understanding is desperately trying to reveal to us that all of the political division, rage, wounded egos, destruction, inequality, brutality, greed, spiritual aches, righteousness, grief, and suffering requires our heart’s immediate attention right now and we can no longer keep hopin’ and prayin’ for it to magically disappear?

All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and love him
And show him others that you care