My Schemas

The journey to my psychologist R’s consulting room began rather interestingly. I was awaiting the bus in the city to take me to the the suburb where R practices, and heard snippets of a conversation. A youngish middle aged woman who looked to be of Aboriginal descent was talking to two Asian guys who looked to be around my age. I heard, “they’re there to help you out”, “it’s all free”, “they have hospital beds” and “they give you drugs” from the woman. At first I thought she was talking of a women’s refuge or homeless shelter of some sort, or a drug rehabilitation centre. Upon eavesdropping some more and glancing at the hospital bracelet around her wrist, I realised she was talking of being a psychiatric inpatient.

“Where you at?” I asked her. “[Public general hospital],” she replied. “[Name of psych ward]?” I enquired. She confirmed in the affirmative. “I was there before,” I revealed. The guy glanced at me. Yes, I am a young Asian female and I was admitted to a psychiatric ward. It’s possible, get over it. “How long you been there for?” I questioned. “Almost two weeks now.” “I was there for three days,” I said. She talked of doing the wrong things, or being with the wrong crowd, I’m not too sure which. She then went on to state, “Just gotta get your head sorted out ya know? My medication make me like…” and she feigns being dizzy and drowsy. “What meds you on?” I asked. “Zyprexa,” she answered. “I’m on Zoloft,” I told her. “I was on that a long time ago,” she said in turn. At this point the bus arrived and I hopped on to get to my appointment. It was quite refreshing meeting someone so chatty and open about being on a psych ward and being able to talk openly about it at the bus stand like that. It’s not everyday you happen to meet a stranger in the city who’s currently on the psychiatric ward you were on, and engage in conversation about mentalism like that!

R took the two questionnaires from me at the start of the session and she said that she would score it right in the session so she could give me feedback on it. First of all though, she talked a bit about tackling the anxiety. “We’ll do something a bit fun today,” she told me. I felt a bit dubious at this point. Uh, therapy…fun? She talked of using a stress ball to channel some of that nervous energy into when the anxiety kicks in. A pack of balloons was pulled out of the box beside her, and she asked me to pick two colours. Despite being quite puzzled, I obliged and picked out two. She gathered her materials; a handful of birdseeds, two plastic bags, two balloons, and this is the end result:

Home made stress ball made by R


On the DASS questionnaire, she reported I scored severe, almost extreme on the depression scale, and quite severe on the anxiety one too. This surprised me. I thought I’d be scored as moderate on both my depression and anxiety. There have certainly been times when I’ve felt a lot more depressed; complete with crying, despair and wanting to die. R asked me if I agreed with the assessment of the DASS. “I don’t think I’m that bad…” I replied uncertainly. She informed me that these type of surveys are not always accurate but can serve as a method of obtaining an idea of how things are. The other depression/anxiety questionnaire showed me to be not quite as severe as on the DASS, more on the moderate side of things.

R took some time to score the schema questionnaire, then went through the results and interpretations of it with me. She presented me my scores and a handout entitled, ‘A Client’s Guide to Schema Therapy.’ The schemas in which I score ‘Very High’ in are; Emotional Deprivation, Abandonment, Failure, Subjugation, Approval Seeking and Insufficient Self Control. A few scored ‘High,’ a few scored ‘Medium.’

Some rather broad generalisations are made in the handout. For example, the Insufficient Self Control schema, in the aforementioned guide it is written,

Parents who did not model self -control, or who did not adequately discipline their children, may predispose them to have this schema as adults.

Definitely not the case with me. The reason this scored so high is because yes I do have some trouble controlling my impulses when it comes to cutting, binging and purging, or overdosing. But I’m very much unconvinced those who self harm and/or have eating disorders all lacked parental control whilst growing up.

Besides this, I can relate to many of the schemas. Based on what I’ve told her of my parents, R hypothesised that Emotional Deprivation is a big schema for me, and I must say I agree with her. I was given a photocopy of the chapter on Emotional Deprivation from the book Reinventing Your Life by J Young and J Klosko. Reading this was such an ‘Oh!’ moment for me. Besides the fact that the examples given are all based on romantic relationships and I’ve never been in one, I can identify a lot with feeling emotionally deprived with the parent aspect of it.

I’ve had the feeling that my present issues have stemmed from my childhood and past experiences yet I had no idea how or from what as I was never abused and was given adequate physical care. So this is quite a revelation to me.

Reading the extract, I’ve realised there are certain thoughts and actions relating to this schema that I hadn’t even realised I was partaking in. One of the expressions of emotional deprivation according to the book is;

Perhaps you are in one of the healing or helping professions. Giving nurturance to others may be a way for you to compensate for your own feelings of unmet emotional needs.

Hmm well I am an OT student and I’ve always been adamant about entering a profession whereby I help people. Correlation? Not quite sure…

Though this is written with romantic relationships in mind, I can relate to this statement too in regards to my friends. Written is;

Many times people with this lifetrap feel bored and dissatisfied in healthy relationships, and they want to walk away.

It’s funny, I’ve had a niggling feeling of not trying so hard in my relationships with my Uni friends any more and feeling a little bit bored now that I don’t have to really endeavour to obtain their friendship, the foundations are already there. That’s not to say I don’t want to hang around with them any more and plan to ditch them. I still very much enjoy their company and friendship. These Uni friends are probably the best group of friends I’ve ever had. But it at least explains a bit about why I’m getting those feelings of boredom.

So far Schema Therapy has made sense to me and I’m hoping it will actually help. Though I’m anticipating that confronting these schemas like Emotional Deprivation is going to be painful…

10 thoughts on “My Schemas

  1. I’ve been reading your post and going, “Yep, yep, yep and yep!” I don’t know if you’ve read my posts on working through the book Reinventing Your Life (they’re here but I can relate a lot. Emotional Deprivation is also, I think, my biggest issue although it took a long time for me to recognise this. I think Insufficient Self Control is the same as the one my book calls Entitlement but I too don’t find it very helpful. My parents were very strict when I was growing up so if anything, my impulsivity is a reaction against that – but I agree it’s not so simple when it comes to EDs and self-harm – both things I have or have had to battle.

    Anyway, I’m really pleased you’ve found a psychologist you gel with and a therapy that sounds like it’s going to help. 🙂

    Moon Tree x

    • Oh, I just looked at the handout you linked to. It has Entitlement and Insufficient Self Control as separate but there are more schemas there – 18 as opposed to 11 in the book. I think they’ve been merged in the book as it was definitely my (sometimes) impulsive behaviour that caused me to score highly for Entitlement.

      Anyway, I’ll stop wittering about me 😉 – but all this is really interesting to me.

      Moon Tree x

  2. that is amazing how you wrote about being in the same psych ward as a random stranger on the bus. I often walk past the psych ward on my way to catch the bus to see my pdoc and think, thank God i’m not in there anymore!! 25 days is quite a long time. That therapy sounds good is there any tests online or do you have to do the test with a professional?

    • I’m not sure if there are tests you can do online, but I did it with a professional. Though, the self help book I mentioned above, Reinventing Your Life, has chapters on eleven schemas which does contain self scoring questions. x

  3. My therapist did Schema Therapy too and we touched on it. I could see myself in a few of them and think it’s a very interesting form of therapy. I hope it helps you and it’s fascinating to see your take on it.

  4. I know this post is old, but I hope that you are finding some success with the schema therapy. I have been doing it for almost two years, very intensely at first, now once a month and I can tell you IT COMPLETELY CHANGED my life. I have/had severe emotional deprivation issues, along with unrelenting standards, entitlement and subjugation.basically I was one big mess and I was so angry all the time. But learning what my patterns were and changing them have made me the best I have ever been in my skin and I have found an inner peace I did not think possible. So all that to say, please keep on keeping onin the end you will find it worth it. Good Luck!!!!

    • I know it’s been a while since you posted this but I’m really interested to hear your experience with Schema. I’ve been seeing a Schema therapist for the last couple of months.

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