Schema Theory

Schemas develop as behaviors that were once helpful in childhood but are exaggerated in adulthood. This overview is taken from Tara Bennett-Goleman’s ‘Emotional Alchemy’. I highly recommend giving it a read. It provides a much more in depth look at schemas, how they are formed, how they become maladaptive, and how to develop healthier responses to difficult situations.


  • Stems from the loss of a caregiver in childhood or having unpredictable and unreliable caregivers


  • Quick to panic
  • Feels upset if partner wants to do activities without them


  • Can resort to violence or threats to prevent partners from leaving them
  • Will constantly seek reassurance from partners and friends
  • May tolerate poor treatment from others in order not to lose them


  • Stems from a lack of nurturing, warmth, affection, undivided attention, and/or empathy in childhood from caregivers


  • Feels like no one will ever understand or care about them
  • Feels guilty about never being able to do enough for others
  • Feels great disappointment with any sign of “neglect” from others


  • Goes out of their way for others, doing special favors (requested and not requested)
  • Does not express personal needs
  • Attempts to be the caretaker they wished they had as a child


  • Stems from an authoritative household with excessive rules


  • Resentment
  • Feeling angry that their needs don’t take precedence
  • Powerlessness in relationships


  • Has difficulty making decisions
  • Is over eager to please


  • Stems from abuse or mistreatment (physical, sexual, emotional)  in early life


  • Feels like people only do nice things for them because there is an ulterior motive
  • Quick to anger


  • Jumps to conclusions easily
  • Expects the worst out of people and situations


  • Stems from having hypercritical and demeaning caregivers


  • Feels that they are flawed beyond repair
  • Feels like they will never be good enough to be loved by anyone if they show their true self


  • Is embarrassed easily
  • Puts on a fake personality they think others will like
  • Acts distant in relationships


  • Stems from being left out of social groups or gatherings at home and school in early life


  • Feels like they don’t belong anywhere
  • High social anxiety


  • May take on an “outsider” persona to avoid the rejection they fear they will ultimately receive if trying to fit with a group 
  • Can take on an “in your face” persona i.e. goth, to purposely avoid acceptance


  • Stems from a having a caregiver who constantly worried or growing up in an environment where constant worry was appropriate


  • Feels exaggerated fear that something bad will always happen (catastrophizing) 
  • Fears the loss of control


  • Can deprive themselves of joy due to fear that something will go wrong
  • Overprepares
  • May create rituals to ensure safety


  • Stems from overly critical caregivers and/or intense bullying from siblings/classmates (especially when subjected to excessive negative comparisons between them and others)


  • Feels like they are not good enough to succeed at anything 
  • Feel like an imposter at things they attempt and find any success in


  • Cannot accept a compliment
  • Procrastination
  • Can force failure to have control over what they feel is inevitable


  • Stems from parents with highly critical responses to grades, appearance, etc


  • Feels like no matter how good they are, they will never be good enough
  • Anxiety around not having enough time to accomplish all their goals 


  • Focuses on mistakes even in situations that contain great successes
  • Fantasizes about a future where they can relax and not worry about tasks and constantly finds ways to postpone it from happening


  • Stems from being spoiled in childhood,  from a family of great means with no restraints, or from a family that deprived children of joys/affection


  • Feels like rules do not apply to them
  • Very prideful


  • Exaggerates their accomplishments
  • Becomes very irritable when people tell them “No”
  • Lacks self discipline

Read about how schemas influence who you idolize here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: