As we touched on in our last post (Sharing Schema Therapy Experiences), schema-coping strategies help to reduce pain in the short run, however they become the way we unknowingly, but actively, perpetuate schemas and modes in the long run as core needs remain unfulfilled.
The below story of Jess illustrates how schema-coping strategies frequently result in a constricted perspective.
Jess is in a social gathering and is worried that others might dislike her. Jess feels gripped by her fear of being judged by others in the group. She tries to make herself invisible and focuses on other’s needs at the expense of her own. Jess has a tendency to avoid standing up for herself because others could see her flaws if she shared her feelings and then she would be rejected. When Jess is home, after the social event she feels like she is inferior to her friends as she can’t even share her feelings – surely this means she is deeply flawed as a person.
In this situation Jess’ Defectiveness Shame schema was triggered, which led her to respond in Compliant Surrenderer mode, adapting to the needs of others and exhibiting schema-confirming behaviour. In this mode she tends to neglect her feelings and core emotional needs, hoping instead for approval from others through obedience. Her reactions to situations which trigger her schemas are based on Subjugation, Self-Sacrifice and Approval-Seeking schemas, which keep her from standing up for herself. Jess’ response in the social gathering is interpreted as confirmation of her Defectiveness Shame schema.
This schema developed due to people in Jess’ early life who were critical, pointing out her flaws, instead of accepting Jess and encouraging her to share her doubts.
The following awareness plan could help to identify your main personal schema-coping strategy, and to think of past situations where your schemas were triggered in which your personal schema-coping strategy may have played a role.
When you are aware of your personal schema-coping strategy you can make different choices once your schemas are triggered.
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The Secure Nest Team