Mental Schemas and Schema Therapy
Over time I’ve added 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. Schema therapy describes 18 mental schemas (also called “lifetraps”), each of which covers a particular negative mindset or problematic way of viewing the world that people adopt to deal with difficulties as they mature, but that can get in the way of healthy and productive living. In learning about these schemas, you may find that you can identify one or more in yourself or in others you know, and that this knowledge can lead to better understanding and new ways to move forward. Insight into schemas can help identify reasons for unusually persistent kinds of broken ideas, and can therefore make it easier to prevent negative emotions.
Tara Bennett-Goleman’s book Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart provides a good introduction to the schemas and to ways to use mindfulness techniques to integrate understanding of schemas into our lives. You may also be interested in other sources of information from my post “Good Resources on Mental Schemas.”
I’m mentioned elsewhere, but want to be sure to mention again, that I’m not a therapist or research psychologist and that I’m sharing a very basic understanding of these schemas. My experience is that even knowing these schemas in a limited way can be very revealing, which is why I thought I should share what I know with you.
If you’re interested in delving into schema therapy, you might be interested in my schema therapy self-quiz: parts one, two, and three can be found by clicking on their respective links. You might also be interested in reading my articles “11 Things Schema Therapy Tells Us About Living a Happy Life” and “How Can Bad Relationships Feel So Right?”
Here is the list of schemas with a link to my article on each one. Brief summaries of the schemas can be found on this page from the Schema Therapy Institute, where Dr. Young is Director. I use slightly different titles for some of the schemas than are used on that site.
- Emotional deprivation
- Vulnerability to harm
- Enmeshment and undeveloped self
- Lack of self-control
- Need for approval
- Emotional inhibition
- Unrelenting standards