Schemas are deep seated self-defeating patterns usually developed in childhood or adolescence in response to trauma, adverse events, difficulty or neglect. These patterns helped you to survive and be safe at the time they were developed. However in adulthood, these patterns show up as negative or dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviour. They interfere with creating a positive and successful adult life. Dr Jeffrey Young developed Schema Therapy and labelled these patterns as unhelpful life-traps which sabotage your life.
Examples of schemas patterns include:
- Mistrust following chronic abuse and danger in early life – You are always on the lookout for where people can take advantage of you
- Self sacrifice or approval seeking, if you had to avoid being rejected by adults when you were growing up – You tend to look after other people’s needs and then feel resentful because your needs are neglected
- Unrelenting standards as compensation for hidden self doubt or feelings of not being good enough in some significant area – This typically manifests as perfectionism.
- Negativity/pessimism – You feel as if the glass is usually empty, or have a pervading feeling of “What’s the point of trying, it never turns out right for me”.
Advanced Schema Therapy considers modes of functioning or states of being which maintain your problems. For example, an Inner Critic may be constantly undermining you and your efforts to change. A Detached Self-Soother may numb you out from feeling difficult emotions by using food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping and other addictions. An Angry Child state may explode at people when you face too many frustrations and challenges, making things worse in your important relationships.
Schema Therapy has been found to be effective for improving chronic relationship problems and shifting long-term emotional and psychological distress. This includes anxiety, depression, substance abuse and personality disorders. Schema Therapy replaces tenacious negative patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving with healthier alternatives.
You might like this introductory video clip from USA