Very often in life we can find ourselves stuck.
Stuck in an emotional swamp of anxiety or depression
Stuck in a relationship that is going nowhere.
Stuck in a dead end job that we just can’t seem to leave.
Stuck repeating the same old behaviour patterns that we just can’t break out of.
Stuck in a life that is not what we wanted for ourselves.
We sometimes know the kind of life we want and the person we want to be – but we just can’t seem to get there. It’s like there is an invisible barrier we just can’t seem to push through.
And in a sense there is. It’s our subconscious brain. Everything we have experienced – every thought, feeling and action has been registered in our subconscious emotional brain. And the more we repeat something, the more entrenched it becomes.
Overtime, patterns of thinking, feeling and acting become wired into the brain, making it more difficult to change.
Think about your own life. What are you continuously struggling with?
Do you find it difficult to say no so you are constantly exhausted or overwhelmed?
Do you constantly feel under pressure to get things done and find it difficult to switch off?
Or do you find yourself repeatedly over-reacting in relationships to things that later seem small and insignificant?
Or maybe you constantly worry about the future to the point that you are no longer able to enjoy your life?
If you are stuck in any area of your life, you are very likely to have a deeply wired subconscious behaviour pattern controlling your life. These patterns are called schemas and have been with you since childhood.
18 schemas have now been identified through research – and the more stuck you feel, the more schemas you are likely to have.
Schemas are like separate identities that pop up in relation to certain events or triggers in our lives. They have their own way of thinking, feeling and acting, so at times it can feel like there are multiple personalities living inside your head.
So lets look at a couple of the most common ones.
If you are unfortunate enough to have this schema you will constantly feel pressure. It is the schema that drives perfectionism and also depression.
Nothing is ever enough. Its either not good enough, efficient enough, clean enough, fast enough – whatever is going on in your life – it just isn’t enough. When this schema is focused on yourself, you will feel like you are constantly chasing your tail, you just don’t seem to have enough time, and you will be constantly beating yourself up.
When it is focused on others, it feels like other people just aren’t pulling their weight, or constantly letting you down.
So added to the constant pressure and stress might be anger, irritation, irritability, anxiety, feeling let down, unappreciated and self-loathing.
Physically, unrelenting standards results in a biological system that is constantly hyped-up. Adrenaline and cortisol – the stress hormones – will be constantly raging through your body – wreaking all sorts of havoc on your health: headaches, muscle pains, digestive problems chronic fatigue and heart disease have all been linked to chronic stress.
A second very common schema is
This pattern has the thoughts – “I must put others first, I can’t say no, other people need me more than I need them, my needs are not as important as other’s needs”
With the pattern is a constant feeling of guilt and worry. You feel guilty if you don’t take care of others, you worry that people can’t look after themselves, you worry about other’s feelings and you feel responsible for other people’s behaviours.
On the surface it seems like a very noble pattern to have.
It’s good to care about others right? Well yes of course it is, but to a degree.
When you consistently put others first, rescue them, do things for them that they could actually do for themselves and you are constantly available – you end up depleted with your own needs going unmet. And with this comes resentment, anger.
No one can ever live up to a self sacrificer’s standards of ‘loyalty’ or ‘care’ and inevitably you will feel let down and unappreciated when someone doesn’t reciprocate in kind.
Defectiveness and shame
The essence of this schema is that there is inherently something wrong with you – that you are flawed in some very basic, fundamental way. You might have thoughts that you don’t deserve to be happy or that you are a bad person.
You very likely struggle with constant feelings of depression failure or hopelessness but do your very best to hide it. Sometimes this schema can drive other schemas like unrelenting standards or self-sacrifice in an attempt to feel ‘worthy’ or ‘useful’
Schemas generate what I like to call ‘dirty pain’. This is the unnecessary emotional distress that we pile on ourselves because of the way we think and act.
But the good news is – you can get rid of these patterns.
Schema therapy takes you through the process of uncovering the schemas that are controlling your life guiding you through the process of regaining control.
Contact us if you would like a free schema assessment or if you would like a free no obligation chat to find out more