A schema is a kind of unconscious rule, a learned behaviour, which we acquire very early in childhood, and which will accompany us throughout our lives.
There are simple, conscious schemas, adapted and acquired for life. For example, the first time your parents took you to a restaurant, you understood, either on your own or with their explanations, that it was a place where they cooked for you, and that there was no need to clear the table and do the dishes, unlike at home. This thought pattern is then permanently acquired, it doesn’t need to evolve: when you return to the restaurant, you will not even think about doing the dishes!
Other schemas acquired in childhood are more vague, less concrete, like a kind of perception of the world, of others and of oneself that is drawn and acquired via the surroundings. These schemas can be adapted in childhood, they are reassuring, protective, but if they do not become more flexible in the adult world and remain too rigid, they will become maladjusted and be the cause of repeated painful situations.
For example, the schema \“I have to be good and kind and say yes to everyone in order to be loved\” may be valid at age 5, it is reassuring and gives the feeling of being in control of situations. If this schema does not become more flexible and adapt to the adult world, this belief becomes completely inappropriate. The adult will submit to others, say yes to everything, lack independence, constantly want to satisfy everyone by putting themselves last. This schema is unconscious, it repeats itself in various life situations, and will make one say to oneself \“I don’t understand, I’m unlucky, I always encounter the same problems! \”
Schema therapy is therefore done in several stages:
- Identifying one’s maladaptive early schemas, becoming aware of them
- Understanding their origins
- Work to stop being influenced by them
Feel free to go deeper into this topic by doing the activities dedicated to schemas! You can start with the activity \“Identifying your maladaptive schemas\”.