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Mental Schemas #11: Lack of Self-Control

Handling negative emotions

This is the eleventh in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

A person with the Lack of Self-Control Schema has trouble with facing anything difficult or holding back impulses. Such a person might tend to avoid difficulty, pain, or responsibility even when the consequences are much worse than what’s being avoided. They might act out, choose rashly, react without thinking, or follow any desire that takes hold. Another common expression of this schema is having trouble putting up with boredom or frustration long enough to get something done.

To put it another way, the burden of the Lack of Self-Control Schema is that it prevents a person from working toward lasting happiness by sometimes keeping their focus on immediate gratification.

People with this schema generally don’t feel like they’re acting the way they want to: the impulsive actions feel (not surprisingly) out of their control.

Often, a person with a Lack of Self-Control Schema grew up in an environment where parents weren’t around enough or didn’t put enough effort into helping the child learn self-control. This schema can also arise when parents themselves have self-control issues, leaving a child with no ideal of self-control to follow.

Overcoming a Lack of Self-Control Schema
Unlike other schemas, Lack of Self-Control isn’t closely linked with specific broken ideas, but the approach to overcoming it is similar: the important skill to learn here is to recognize when the schema is kicking in and insert conscious thought between the impulse and the action. The key understanding to have along with that skill is that lasting happiness is different from immediate gratification–that doing exactly what we want whenever we want can actually be pretty miserable sometimes. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for light-heartedness and spontaneity in life, only that longer-term thinking often pays off much better.

So if you have this schema, you might have a habit of reacting immediately. To overcome it, the new habit to create is to notice when the schema might be kicking in, stop yourself, think for a moment about your real goals and priorities, and focus on the things you want long-term instead of immediately.

For example, you might be in a conversation with someone you care about when that person says something thoughtless that is painful for you. A Lack of Self-Control schema might tell you to lash out, to insult or embarrass that person. Someone overcoming the self-control schema might still feel the urge to do that, but would stop and think something along the lines of “Wait: I care about my friendship with this person. If I start a fight over this, that could make ongoing problems for me and deprive me of my friend. Even though I’m angry right now, I feel better imagining the two of us getting along instead of imagining us fighting. Why don’t I try to just let go feeling offended about this, as a contribution to the friendship, or else tell my friend how I felt about what was just said and have a constructive conversation about it?”

The Lack of Self-Control schema is sometimes paired with another schema. For example, the Subjugation Schema, which we’ll talk about in the next article in this series, can lead a person to suppress emotions for a long time, after which they burst out uncontrolled. In these cases, while work on self-control will also help, progress on the other schema will relieve the pressure and intensity of the self-control problems.

Photo courtesy of MIT Open Courseware

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Mental Schemas #9: Failure

Handling negative emotions

This is the ninth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

 

“Now Linus, I want you to take a good look at Charlie Brown’s face. Would you please hold still a minute, Charlie Brown? I want Linus to study your face. Now, this is what you call a Failure Face, Linus. Notice how it has failure written all over it. Study it carefully, Linus. You rarely see such a good example. Notice the deep lines, the dull, vacant look in the eyes. Yes, I would say this is one of the finest examples of a Failure Face that you’re liable to see for a long while.”

– Lucy Van Pelt in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

There are a good number of articles on The Willpower Engine about failure: what to do when it happens, why certain kinds of tactics generally fail, and how to deal with the worry that failure will happen. Some people feel as though they’re basically incompetent, with no good skills or resources (for more on this, read “Mental Schemas #6: Incompetence“). Others, when they’re successful, assume that it was by mistake or only achieved because they’ve fooled everyone into thinking they’re good enough (for more on this, read ”Impostor Syndrome“).

What failure schemas look like
People with the failure schema may or may not feel incompetent, and may or may not feel like impostors, but regardless they believe that they are failures, that successes don’t happen to them. Often such people were brought up in environments where the people important to them would tell them over and over that they were failures, or where this idea was always pushed on them in some other way. Sue of Healthy Within Journey describes just such a childhood in this post:

“Then I remembered that every time I brought home a sewing project (from home ec class), my mom would criticize my work, rip out my stitches and resew the project. She also critized how I practiced the piano and would often ‘show me’ how to play a piece correctly. She discounted my academic success by telling me that I may be good at school but I didn’t have any common sense so I would never succeed in life. No matter how much I succeeded she reminded me that my cousin and/or brother were successful in other, more important areas. Even years later whenever I had difficulty with any project, I could hear her criticizing me and telling me I would never succeed at anything important. I feared even a tiny ‘failure’ would mean she was right, that I would never succeed.”

Some people with failure schemas make themselves fail through their beliefs: they assume they can never succeed and therefore never try hard when it’s most needed. Others work away desperately out of fear of failure, but none of their successes convince them: they continue to feel in their hearts that they are essentially failures, even when the evidence says otherwise.

Overcoming a failure schema
As with many negative ideas, overcoming a failure schema requires both facing the fear of failure and refuting the idea that failure is inevitable. This takes work over time to change deeply-ingrained thoughts. Facing the fear means some form of recognition that sometimes we fail, and that this is just a normal part of life and is not catastrophic. Refuting the idea that failure is inevitable means really understanding on a gut level that it is possible to succeed in some things at some times, regardless of what other people may say.

On a day to day basis, feelings of being doomed to failure can be handled as broken ideas: in other words, it’s necessary first to recognize when a thought has come by that is contributing to this unrealistic idea of failure, and then to take the falsehood out of the thought and rephrase it in a fully truthful way, as described in the article How to Repair a Broken Idea, Step by Step.

Some examples of broken ideas about failure:

  • “I’m a failure.” (labeling)
  • “This is going to be a catastrophe.” (fortune telling)
  • “Nobody believes I can do it.” (mind reading)
  • “The only reason they picked my submission is because everybody felt sorry for me.” (disqualifying the positive)
  • “See how badly that went? I fail at everything.” (overgeneralization)

Photo by Behrooz Nobakht

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Mental Schemas #8: Enmeshment and Undeveloped Self

Handling negative emotions

This is the eighth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.


Where do you end and I begin?
A person with the enmeshment schema is completely wrapped up in someone else’s life. It’s often a parent, but it can be anyone with a strong personality: a husband, a wife, a boss, a brother or sister … even a best friend. Enmeshed people ignore their own preferences and ideas and order everything in their lives according to the needs of the parent or other person they’re enmeshed with.

Some common feelings enmeshed people have are:

  • They/I/we couldn’t survive without this bond
  • I feel guilty if I keep anything separate
  • I feel completely smothered

Enmeshed people almost always have an “undeveloped self”: they don’t know what they want or need, what they prefer, where they’re going in life, or what would make them happy. It’s possible also to have the undeveloped self problem without the enmeshment problem, to feel empty and directionless and uncertain of wants and needs without necessarily being wrapped up in another person.

There’s a related schema called “subjugation,” where a person feels like they must act according to other people’s wishes, but instead of feeling closeness, subjugated people usually feel resentment, anger, and despair. An enmeshed person feels smothered; a subjugated person feels crushed. I’ll talk about subjugation in a separate post in future.

Enmeshed people and other people with undeveloped selves usually end up that way because of parents or other figures in their lives who are overprotective, abusive, or controlling.

Disentangling
In order to make progress in their own lives, enmeshed people first have to come to feel it’s OK to separate from the other, to be their own person. If they’re able to get to that point, they can begin to reflect on what they themselves really like, want, need, aspire to, and believe. Really knowing who we are and what’s important to us personally in life is what allows us to develop.

There are some dangers for an enmeshed person trying to get out of enmeshment. For instance, sometimes it can happen that an enmeshed person separates from the other by deciding that they hate everything that person loves, and vice-versa. Unfortunately, this still isn’t finding an individual self, because just doing the opposite of someone else still means that one’s decisions are based on another person.

Another danger is of getting out of an enmeshed situation is falling right into another–for instance, leaving a too-close relationship with a parent by getting into a romantic relationship with someone who has a very strong personality and becoming enmeshed with that person instead, or working through enmeshment in therapy and separating from the other person only to become enmeshed with the therapist. (Good therapists take pains to prevent this from getting very far!)

So the other goal, in addition to finding one’s own preferences and identity, is to learn how to have healthy relationships with other people, relationships that are connected but not enmeshed. The best tool I know of for this is mindfulness, being aware of our own thoughts, feelings, and preferences from moment to moment in our lives. It’s only when we lose track of our own thinking that we can get overwhelmed with someone else’s.

Ending enmeshment and developing the self take a lot of hard work and understanding, and can often be especially well helped by a good cognitive therapist.

Photo by Djuliet

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Mental Schemas #7: Vulnerability to Harm

Handling negative emotions

This is the seventh in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

How vulnerability schemas work
A person with the vulnerability schema has thoughts like these:

  • What if something happens to the plane while we’re in flight?
  • He’s late. Maybe he got in an accident.
  • Business hasn’t been good lately. What if I get fired and can’t get another job?
  • I can’t sleep when it rains because I keep worrying about flooding

Being vulnerable is part of being alive. No one is completely immune to natural catastrophes, disease, accidents, war, financial setbacks, crime, and all of the other kinds of trouble that can arise even when things are going well. Most of us either ignore this (“I’ll deal with it if it ever comes up”) or accept it on some level (“Sometimes bad things happen; I’ll just try to be prepared and not worry too much about it”), but people with the vulnerability schema have a lot of trouble letting go of these worries. Fear of something bad happening causes them to be overprotective, hyperanxious, or too timid to take chances.

People with the vulnerability schema generally get it from a parent who worried too much about things that might happen and passed the idea along to their children, insisting that the world is a dangerous place. Some children don’t acquire these ideas from the parents, learning from others or from experience that harm doesn’t lurk around every corner. Others, however, follow the model their parents (or other significant people in their lives) set.

Getting past a vulnerability schema
As with any schema, the vulnerability schema tends to come out in part as a series of broken ideas, like fortune telling (“I’m going to get swine flu from a sick kid at school!”) and emotional reasoning (“I’m so worried about earthquakes that I know one will happen before long.”) The day to day healthy habit of repairing these kinds of ideas helps weaken the vulnerability schema.

Also as with any schema, getting past a vulnerability schema means both accepting the idea of harm (“Sometimes bad things happen, and I’ll just do the best I can to get through them when they come up.”) and rejecting an obsession with harm (“Just because I’ve been worried about all of these things in the past doesn’t mean that I have to continue to be worried about them, or that I’m justified in my worry.”)

Photo by tj.blackwell

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Mental Schemas #6: Incompetence

Handling negative emotions

This is the sixth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

Ever felt stupid? Not just like you did something stupid, but that you are stupid, can’t learn, are incompetent, are talentless or useless? That you in a basic and profound way are just not up to the mark?

Most of us feel some of that at least a few times in our lives, but people with the incompetence schema feel that way every day. On a basic level, they feel as though they’re not good enough. If this feels like you or sounds like someone you know, learning about this schema might come in handy for you.

How incompetence schemas work
Incompetence schemas usually develop in childhood, when parents or other important figures in a kid’s life start telling them–whether in so many words or through attitudes and actions–that they can’t hack it, that they’re not up to the challenge.

Studies of randomly-generated praise have shown that when someone is doing a task, even completely meaningless, computer-generated encouragement tends to improve their mood and make them feel more competent. I suspect on some basic level it’s built into us to need a certain amount of encouragement. Some of us eventually internalize that encouragement and can provide it for ourselves, mentally telling ourselves “You’ve got this!” and “You’re going to kick butt!”

People with this schema never got enough of that encouragement in their formative years and therefore have trouble generating their own encouragement or believing other people’s. This can lead to expecting failure, fearing challenges, and shying away from anything that might “prove” the incompetence.

Getting past an incompetence schema
How do you get the best of an incompetence schema? Well, external encouragement may help, but there are two things that have to happen inside a person for a real change to emerge over time: acceptance that failure is a normal part of life, but also understanding that one failure doesn’t doesn’t define a person. A person can fail without being a failure. People who have failed once may very well succeed when the next challenge comes along. Thomas Edison claimed famously that he had thousands of failed attempts  before he came up with a working light bulb.

In terms of broken ideas, an incompetence schema can show up in a variety of ways: all-or-nothing thinking (“I’m completely incompetent at math.”), overgeneralization (“The woman I asked last year turned me down for a date, so I’m obviously not desirable”), mental filtering (“Winning that poetry prize was a fluke; the judges probably just felt sorry for me”), fortune telling (“I know I’m going to screw up this project”), and so on. Each of these ideas can be detected and repaired on its own, slowly breaking away the barrier of feeling incompetent and revealing the truer, brighter possibilities behind it.

Photo by Paul in Uijeongbu

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Tools for Feeling Better, Part I

Handling negative emotions

I’ve mentioned in some recent articles that I’m doing my best to remember and make good use of whatever tools I have to make good choices. Some of the most useful tools of this kind are for getting past negative emotions: anger, depression, frustration, anxiety, avoidance, despair, and so on.

Here are five of the best tools I know of for handling bad states of mind. I’ll post another article or two in the near future with more.

Idea repair: Negative emotions that keep going even when no new bad things are happening are usually maintained by specific kinds of thoughts (as talked about, for instance, in Jenefer Robinson’s book Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art). Idea repair, called “cognitive restructuring” in psychology circles, is the process of detecting flawed thoughts and reframing them so that they become constructive and stop causing pain.

Mindfulness: A key ingredient in sorting out negative emotions and one of the requirements for idea repair and other positive processes, mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s going on both around and inside us. We can’t be mindful all the time, but there are certainly situations in which we become more sane, happy, focused, and relaxed just by using this one idea.

Meditation: Although some people meditate for spiritual reasons, others do it just for the immediate personal payoff in serenity, self-awareness, and clarity. It’s not difficult to get started.

Understanding schemas: Mental schemas are flawed patterns of thinking and behavior that are usually learned when we are young but stick with us into adulthood, often causing trouble for us on a daily basis. There are a variety of them, including, for example, Abandonment, Mistrust, and Emotional deprivation. If we find any schemas in ourselves, we can learn to understand and overcome those schemas, clearing away a lot of emotional drag and clutter in the process.

Emotional antidotes: Buddhist inquiry into human emotion, which is a time-honored and conscientious tradition, has come up with some kinds of emotional experiences that can be used to reverse negative emotions. I explain something of how this works in my article “Antidotes to bad moods and negative emotions.”

For more tools, see the follow-up articles: Part II and Part III.

Photo by Michael Flick

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Mental Schemas #4: Defectiveness

Handling negative emotions

This is the fourth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. There’s more information about schemas and schema therapy on a new page on The Willpower Engine here.

I don’t know about people in other part of the world, but we in America have a weird relationship with criticism. Some parents criticize their children constantly, while others are afraid to criticize them at all. While I think it goes a little too far to be supportive when a kid is merrily scribbling away on the brand new coffee table with permanent marker, the parents who are worried about criticism are worried for good reason: criticize a kid too much, and they may deal with it by developing a defectiveness schema. If you already know you’re defective, maybe it doesn’t hurt as much when people keep telling you that.

The defectiveness schema
Of course, feelings of defectiveness and inadequacy don’t translate very easily to a healthy life. Someone with a defectiveness schema might be overly defensive and never willing to hear themselves criticized–or they might go to the other extreme and always assume everything’s their own fault. Either way, there’s a basic broken idea here, namely “I’m inferior and defective.” This kind of broken idea is called “labeling” (is it weird that there’s a label for it?).

Another problem with the defectiveness schema is that people in its grip may feel that they are in danger of being “found out”–that people who get too close to them will discover that they are fundamentally flawed and leave, and that therefore no one must ever be allowed to get close.  (You might notice a trend of the schemas I’ve covered so far being ones where people are scared to let others get or stay close; that’s because we’re beginning with the set of schemas that deal with disconnection and rejection.)

Overcoming a defectiveness schema
As with any mental schema, the key to overcoming it is overturning, time and time again, the broken ideas it encourages. This means consciously replacing the thought “I don’t deserve this” with “I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have this thing that I want” or the thought “If I get close to this person, they’ll find out about all of my shortcomings and leave me” with “I can’t know for sure how someone will act in different situations; this person may or may not end up liking ‘the real me.’”

Repairing broken ideas often takes the form of acceptance, especially acceptance of the possibility of either good or bad things happening. People with defectiveness schemas will benefit from learning to accept even those things they dislike about themselves, and also from accepting that bad things may happen–or that good things can happen too, if those good things are given enough of a chance.

Photo by McBeth

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Mental Schemas #3: Emotional Deprivation (with help from Holden Caulfield)

Handling negative emotions

The Emotional Deprivation Schema
A few quotes from J.D. Salinger’s character Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye can help explain what this schema is about.

“Sometimes I act a lot older than I am–I really do– but people never notice it. People never notice anything.”

“She bought me the wrong kind of skates–I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey–but it made me sad anyway. Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.”

Occasionally feeling like other people don’t understand, don’t care, and/or couldn’t do anything about it even if they did seems to be a normal part of the human experience. Feeling like this every day and all, though, can be emotionally debilitating as hell.

I’m not suggesting that everything that goes on with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye is part of an emotional deprivation schema. As real human beings, our motivations are too complex to be meaningfully explained by any one concept, and to Salinger’s credit, Holden feels like a real human being to many readers. But Holden does us a favor in helping to show the emotional deprivation schema and some of its effects.

A person with an emotional deprivation schema might choose relationships with people who aren’t very capable of giving care, understanding, or support, and might act in ways that make it harder for even people who are capable to give these things. Such a person might provoke others or try to keep people at a distance (on the assumption that they wouldn’t really be able to get close anyway).

Overcoming an Emotional Deprivation Schema
Making progress with this schema first requires understanding how it’s working in one’s life: taking note of behaviors and choices that come from these beliefs and that can affect relationships. Techniques like journaling, talk therapy, and mindfulness practices can help bring these ideas out.

One way to tackle an emotional deprivation schema–or any schema–is to identify broken ideas and then repair them. Schemas express themselves as broken ideas, and repairing these ideas helps make progress in taking down the schema.

Since an emotional deprivation schema is a lack of faith in receiving attention, care, and understanding from other people, any experience that demonstrates people actually providing these things is worth paying attention to and building on. Even small gestures, when recognized as real caring or support, show the inherent flaw in the line of thinking that this schema promotes, and focusing on these gestures widens the cracks in this kind of mistaken belief in a way that can eventually break it apart.

Holden himself seems to have come up with a way to feel better about other people caring about him, which is to care about other people:

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Unfortunately, this particular way of demonstrating that people can care for each other is a little impractical. Yet right at the end of the book, Holden finds a simpler, more practical way, which is just watching his little sister on a merry-go-round.

“I felt so damn happy all of a sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don’t know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. God, I wish you could’ve been there.”

Photo by Fozzman

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Mental Schemas #2: Mistrust

Handling negative emotions

This is the second in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. There’s more information about schemas and schema therapy on a new page on The Willpower Engine here.

The Mistrust Schema
People with the Mistrust Schema expect bad treatment from others. They tend to think or say that they always get the worst of things, that other people want to do them harm, or that it’s not safe to trust others. Having a Mistrust Schema means feeling deep down, on a gut level, regardless of logic, that other people cannot be trusted, that the only safety is in keeping others at a distance.

Mistrust Schemas can be complicated or maintained in part by a person who avoids close connections with others out of fear of being hurt. This kind of avoidance encourages others to shun or disregard the person with the Mistrust Schema and makes it especially difficult to have any relationship that could prove the mistrust unfounded.

A person with a Mistrust Schema may also tend to jump to conclusions about others’ intentions and motivations, leading to unfounded accusations or preemptive counter-strikes–both of which, needless to say, tend to make others less well-disposed toward the person struggling with mistrust.

The Mistrust Schema generally is built early in life in response to abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, by a person in authority or by anyone who is deeply trusted. A child who is mistreated will often naturally adopt a strategy of assuming the worst of other people in order not to be put in a vulnerable position again if it can be helped. While this behavior may help with the original untrustworthy person, it gets carried over to everyone else as life goes on, creating an emotional barrier that encourages isolation and fear.

Overcoming a Mistrust Schema
Relieving and eventually overcoming a Mistrust Schema requires an act of faith: consciously deciding to trust a person from time to time. A Mistrust Schema expresses itself in part as the broken idea known as fortune telling, in which a person makes assumptions about how the future will be (in this case, assuming that others will treat them badly), or in the related broken idea called mind reading, in which a person assumes things about how someone else is thinking (in this case, assuming that they are planning something unkind). For a person to come to grips with this schema means first noticing how it is affecting their life, behavior, and especially thinking: perceiving that this basic assumption that others will be hurtful is causing thoughts to run a certain way, then consciously rerouting those thoughts.

For example, a person with a mistrust schema may see a family member’s number coming up on caller ID before answering the phone and assume that the family member is calling to say unkind things. If the phone is answered with a hostile tone and the person with the mistrust schema is unkind or suspicious in the conversation, this encourages exactly the kind of behavior the person is predicting.

To cause the phone call to go another way, it’s necessary to stop and change the thought “That’s my sister. She’s calling to harangue me again.” to something like “That’s my sister. She may be calling to say something unkind, something nice, or just to pass on news. If I act kindly toward her over the phone, though, she may possibly talk kindly back.”

Small instances in which a person can demonstrate that mistrust is ill-founded can add up to greater confidence over time that can be used in situations that require more trust.

I’ll also mention that a good cognitive therapist can often be very helpful when a person is facing a major or ongoing problem like an especially bad mistrust schema. Even without the help of a therapist, though, it’s possible to take a stronger role in shaping our own mental landscapes when we’re aware of and deal directly with our own broken thoughts.

Photo by  j / f / photos

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Mental Schemas #1: Abandonment

States of mind

This is the first in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, a fairly new approach to addressing patterns of negative thinking that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. There’s more information about schemas and schema therapy on a new page on The Willpower Engine here.

The Abandonment Schema
A person with the Abandonment Schema feels that people can’t be relied on to be around when you need them or to help. Such a person may feel on a gut level that important people in their lives, like significant others, are going to leave, drop them for someone better, or die, or that others in their lives aren’t dependable and won’t be there when they’re needed the most.

While this is not always the case, often an abandonment schema starts in childhood, when an important figure in a child’s life–usually a parent–leaves, whether literally or figuratively. For example, a parent might have run off, gotten divorced and moved away, left the child or child(ren) with a relative, sent the child(ren) away at a young age, or be physically present but undependable or unavailable, as with an alcoholic, workaholic, or exceptionally unemotional or uncommunicative parent.

A person with an abandonment schema might react by avoiding close relationships, being clingy, or repeatedly accusing people close to them of being–or even just intending to be–unavailable, unreliable, or unwilling to help. Other people with this schema may find ways to drive normally reliable people off, thereby forcing them to fulfill the schema’s predictions.

Overcoming an abandonment schema
Tackling an abandonment schema means coming to terms with two conflicting facts: that unless a person’s behavior encourages it, loved ones don’t generally abandon people who are important to them; and that despite this fact, sometimes people will not be there when we want or need them, but that this is not necessarily the end of the world. This addresses the two basic broken ideas about the abandonment schema: that important people will leave (fortune telling) and that when that happens, it will be awful (magnification, specifically the type called “catastrophizing”).

Greater awareness of our own thoughts (mindfulness or metacognition) tends to create opportunities to challenge the kinds of negative thinking that schemas inspire. Challenging those negative thoughts removes barriers to motivation and supports greater serenity and drive.

Photo by Skylinephoto

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