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What Are Your Mental Schemas? A Quiz, Part 2

Handling negative emotions

Here’s part 2 of the quiz on mental schemas. See Part 1 for more information about what this quiz might be able to tell you and why mental schemas are worth understanding.

When you were young, did your family seem not to fit in with the other families? At school, did you feel as though you weren’t part of what was going on?
In social circumstances, do you feel as though you have little to do with the other people around you?
At times when you’re unhappy, do loneliness and a feeling of separation have a major role?
If so, it can be worth reading about the Alienation Schema.

Do you often feel like you’re not good enough for the situations or roles you want in life?
Are you acutely aware of making major mistakes on a regular basis?
If someone tells you that you suck, do you tend to believe them, at least a little?
These feelings can be indications of an Incompetence Schema.

Do you regularly find yourself worrying about terrible things happening to you, or to your friends or family?
If something goes mildly wrong, do you begin to imagine how that might be the start of a disaster?
Do you have trouble putting aside worries over situations you can’t change?
A Vulnerability Schema can cause these kinds of issues.

If you were going to consider a major life change, is there someone else whose opinion on the matter would feel more important than your own?
Apart from your children, if any, is there a relationship in your life without which you feel like one or both of you couldn’t survive?
Do you ever feel smothered in one or more of your relationships?
If these questions hit home, you might well want to learn about Enmeshment Schemas.

When you were young, were you often told that you were doing everything wrong?
Do you regularly feel that no matter how hard you try, you have no chance of being a great success at anything?
Think about something you’ve done well in the past. Do you tend to regard that success as a fluke rather than as evidence of your abilities?
If you answered yes to some or all of this set of questions, you may be facing a Failure Schema.

The quiz continues next time with the final fifteen or so questions.

Photo by kk+.

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Mental Schemas #5: Alienation

Handling negative emotions

This is the fifth in a series of articles that draw on the field of schema therapy, an approach to addressing negative thinking patterns that was devised by Dr. Jeffrey Young. You can find an introduction to schemas and schema therapy, a list of schemas, and links to other schema articles on The Willpower Engine here.

I went to a dance club late last year, not because I’m a good dancer or used to going to clubs, but because it seemed like it would be fun. I paid the ridiculous fee (I don’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was more than the total value of everything I was wearing) and walked into the big, trendy, excitingly-architected room to discover that I had come on … Lebanese Night. Lots of Lebanese guys in nice shirts were standing around with drinks, looking cool not dancing while small knots of Lebanese women danced on the floor, probably talking about how men are always too chicken to dance.

Not being Lebanese, a good dancer, or even a resident of the city I was in, I felt more than a little out of place.

Usually I find a way to connect in any group I’m in, but this was a clear exception. I was apart: they were them and I was me, and I didn’t see any way to change that. People with the “social isolation” or “alienation” schema feel this way all the time.

Social isolation isn’t entirely a bad thing. From outside the group, it’s sometimes possible to get a novel perspective, for instance. A lot of very good science fiction has been written from the point of view of someone who’s used to being completely different.

But alienation can also be lonely, painful, and obstructive. Sometimes you need to connect with a group to be able to accomplish something, to feel safe, or just to feel fully human. A child who feels very different from everyone else or who comes from a family that feels very different from other families, can grow up with a sense that no community will welcome them, that they’re not a part of anything.

A person with an alienation schema might join a group but not really get involved, or act out in a group in a way that will tend to encourage rejection, or avoid groups entirely.

Getting past an alienation schema–or any schema–takes time and effort, and it’s accomplished by paying attention to problem thoughts and attitudes, then deliberately coming up with more constructive ones. For instance, a person with this schema might arrive at a party and think “I didn’t dress up enough. Everyone here must think I’m a slob.” This kind of broken idea is known as “mind reading”–presuming to know other people’s thoughts and then acting as though those thoughts were an established fact. Repairing broken ideas that lead to feelings of alienation usually means understanding that it is possible to to genuinely be accepted into a group, and at the same time being OK with that fact that not every group accepts every person–that rejection from one group isn’t the same as proof that the rejected person doesn’t belong anywhere.

Whether or not this thinking would do me any good on Lebanese night when I don’t even know the difference between mawared and mazaher … well, that may be another thing entirely.

Photo by Steve White

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