What are Schema?
A schema is a pattern that starts in childhood and reverberates throughout our lives. It began with something that was done to us by our families or by other children. Maybe we were abandoned, criticized, overprotected, abused, excluded, or deprived—damaged in some way. Eventually this pattern becomes part of us, or more accurately becomes a Part of us, in the way that we all recognise that we have different parts of our personality.
Frustratingly, these parts sometimes act in ways that don’t seem in accord with other parts of us. One part might really want to change career, or write a novel, or find a partner, but another part might procrastinate or say angry or spiteful things to people we feel close to that we then later regret.
Our schemas which go to make up these different parts of the psyche, depending on how blended we are with them at any given moment, determine how we think, feel, act, and relate to others. They trigger strong feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety. So even when we appear to have everything—social status, an ideal marriage, the respect of people close to us, career success—we are often unable to savour life or believe in our accomplishments. And if we don’t have these things, a hopeless part of us (an Exile) might feel that they are forever out of our grasp.
Listed below are some of the most common schema/parts that I work with in therapy, and further links to more information about them.
“There’s a part of me that feels it will never get the love, care and attention I need.”(The Emotional Deprivation schema)
This emotionally deprived part of us believes that its need for love will never be met adequately by other people. We feel that no one truly cares for us or understands how we feel. We may find ourselves attracted to cold and ungiving people. Or perhaps, in order to protect ourselves another part of us acts in a cold and ungiving way towards others, leading us to form relationships that inevitably prove unsatisfying. We may feel cheated, and alternate between being angry about it and feeling hurt and alone. Unfortunately our anger just drives people further away, ensuring our continued deprivation. [Read more about this part here.]