A schema is a pervasive pattern of thinking, emotions, memories, behaviors, and sensations about oneself or relationships, organized around a theme of specific unmet childhood needs, that is unhealthy and dysfunctional.  Schemas tend to begin in childhood or adolescence and continue throughout one’s life.


Schemas negatively impact one’s life in many areas (such as an individual’s sense of self-worth, self-confidence, feeling loved and connected to others, feeling safe and secure, competence, emotional expression & spontaneity, boundaries, trust, independence, discipline).  Most people are unaware of the connection between their current distress (when the schema is triggered) and their unmet needs in their childhood.




ABANDONMENT: People with this schema tend to fear that others close to them will leave them or die. They become frantic or desperate when someone close to them pulls away. They often become so clingy and obsessed with people leaving them, that they actually push them away (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


MISTRUST : The person with this schema has the expectation that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, or take advantage of him/her. They often believe people have a secret motive of hurting them. Therefore, they can never be vulnerable in relationships.  It’s common for a person with mistrust schema to hurt others, as a protective mechanism, fearful that the other person may try to hurt them first (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


EMOTIONAL DEPRIVATION : People with this schema have a sense that the people in their lives will not be able to provide emotional support, protection, strength, connection because they are either emotionally unstable, unreliable, or unwilling. They sense that nobody really cares about them or understands them deeply.  This people will often experience feelings of emptiness and loneliness (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


DEFECTIVENESS: The person with his schema senses that he/she is defective, bad, unwanted, inferior, inadequate, and seriously flawed in important ways. One would be unlovable to significant others if his or her “real self” was exposed. This person is very sensitive to criticism, rejection, and being blamed. They tend to feel self-consciousness, frequently make comparisons, and feel insecurities around others (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


SOCIAL EXCLUSION : This person feels uncomfortable and self-conscious in groups of people. They tend to over-focus on making mistakes and sounding “stupid”. The person feels inferior to or different than other people because of physical traits, mental abilities, or social awkwardness. This person pretends to be like others, but hides parts of themselves that he/she feels would lead to humiliation or embarrassment.  This person often feels as though they do not belong to the group of community (even though they may be well-liked in reality) (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


DEPENDENCY : This schema involves belief that one is unable to meet one’s daily responsibilities without a great deal of assistance from others They often feel unable to solve daily problems, make decisions, exercise good judgment, and take care of themselves (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


VULNERABILITY TO HARM or ILLNESS: This schema involves an excessive anticipation that catastrophe is imminent and unpreventable. People with this schema experience chronic and excessive worries about health issues, natural disasters, criminal victimization, or financial catastrophe (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


ENMESHMENT/ UNDERDEVELOPED SELF: This schema is seen in individuals who have an excessive amount of emotional closeness and involvement with another person (usually a parent or parental figure). The person often does not believe they can function without closeness to the other. There is often a sense of being directionless, emotionally hollow, and a sense of muddling through life without purpose (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


FAILURE: The person with his schema senses that they have failed in important areas in their achievement (education, career, family, salary, athletics, etc.) relative to their peers. They often to feel less intelligent, competent, and talented in areas that would likely render them successful. They often feel they are not “living up to their potential” and feel humiliated about their sense of failure (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


ENTITLEMENT/ GRANDIOSITY: The person with this schema believes and acts as though they are superior to others, entitled to special treatment, and/or do not need to follow the societal norms for social behavior. Often this person will express the schema by acting superior in order to gain power & control over others. Sometimes, the individual may express the schema through excessive competitiveness, domination, or forcing his/her opinions on others (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


INSUFFICIENT DISCIPLINE/ SELF-CONTROL: People with this schema have great difficulty exercising self-control over their emotions or impulses and/or lacks frustration tolerance in order to reach their goals. There is a high level of focus on avoiding responsibility, discomfort, pain, or conflict that is the normal part of reaching personal goals (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


SUBJUGATION: This schema involves the excessive surrendering of control to another while suppressing one’s own desires, needs, or opinions. The person with this schema tends to be excessively agreeable, accommodating, and compliant with the wishes of others. They tend to feel as though their feelings, opinions, and/or desires are not as important than others’. They excessively give in to others’ wishes to avoid the anticipation of some form of anger or retaliation (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


SELF-SACRIFICE: A person with this schema will experience an excessive need to automatically meet the needs of others at the expense of never getting one’s own needs met. This is not the same as “choosing to serve someone in need”. Rather, it is an internal reflex and pressure to sacrifice oneself without even thinking through the cost.  The person often secretly harbors resentment towards those being helped because his/her needs are not met in return (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


APPROVAL-SEEKING/ RECOGNITION-SEEKING: The person with this schema has an excessive emphasis on gaining attention, approval, or admiration from others at the expense of developing a true sense of self that comes for internal qualities. The person’s focus tends to be on impressing others based upon his/her social status, wealth, material possessions, appearance/beauty, talents, or successes (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


UNRELENTING STANDARDS: People with his schema have extremely high standards for performance. They often place extreme pressure on themselves to get many things done. They tend to be highly critical of themselves (sometimes others). They may be perfectionist, follow rigid rules, or be very concerned with time and efficiency (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011; Young, 1999).


EMOTIONAL INHIBITION: People with this schema tend to inhibit their emotions, spontaneous expression, and communication. This includes an inhibition of anger, vulnerable feelings, positive impulses, and feelings. They tend to have an excessive focus on rational thinking. (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


PUNITIVENESS: A person with this schema believes others (or oneself) should be severely punished for making mistakes. They tend to be intolerant, angry, and unforgiving of people not meeting their expectations. They are unable to consider human error or situational circumstances in their judgments (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).


NEGATIVITY/ PESSIMISM: This schema involves an over-focus on life’s negative events (problems,, conflicts, losses, errors, etc.) while minimizing the positive parts of life. There is a tendency to excessively worry about making mistakes that could lead to devastating consequences. As a result, the person is extremely vigilant. (Rafaeli, Bernstein, & Young, 2011).