When is self-sacrifice okay?

Coping styles and schema modes

Schema therapy (page 3/5)

According to Young, those affected develop certain coping styles in order to deal with the schemes and the associated, often difficult to bear feelings.

Coping styles

Coping styles can vary from situation to situation. Young distinguishes three unfavorable (maladaptive) coping styles:

At the "Submission / endurance“Someone fits into his scheme. He then often creates situations himself that trigger the scheme and endures the situation without changing anything. For example, if someone has a “self-sacrifice” scheme, he will do everything possible for others so that he has little time for himself. Although this is not good for him, he is not trying to change the situation.

In the "Overcompensation“The person concerned fights against the schema, hides the related needs and feelings and tries to behave contrary to his schema. For example, someone with the scheme of “inadequacy” tries to do everything perfectly - or he tends to blame others when something goes wrong.

The third coping style is the "Avoid". Here someone behaves in such a way that the scheme is not activated as far as possible - for example by suppressing his feelings, avoiding close relationships or seeking distraction through alcohol or drugs.

Typical, unfavorable coping modes can also be quick to be offended, aggression or showing off.

According to Young, a coping style consists of a series of coping reactions. The coping reaction occurs in a specific situation and manifests itself in the form of a certain behavior, certain thoughts and / or certain feelings.

According to Young, schema modes are patterns of experience and behavior that are triggered by certain events and are active in a specific moment.

Scheme modes

These modes are usually unfavorable. In addition, they can be cut off (dissociated) from the rest of the personality to a greater or lesser extent. It is typical that in the concrete situation in which a scheme is activated, someone experiences intense feelings that cannot be explained by the situation alone. Instead, feelings that arose from neglecting basic needs in childhood are activated in this moment.

Young distinguishes between four child modes, three dysfunctional coping modes (they correspond to the coping styles described above), two dysfunctional parenting modes and two healthy adult modes. The aim of therapy is to reduce the unfavorable child, parent and coping modes and to strengthen the favorable modes - the modes of the healthy adult and the mode of the happy child.

In a certain situation, the person concerned can feel and behave like a vulnerable / abandoned / rejected child, whose feelings have been hurt and who feels anxious or lonely. He can feel and act like an angry child who is upset because his needs are not being met and who acts without thinking about the consequences. Furthermore, someone can feel and behave like an impulsive / undisciplined child who can hardly bear frustrations and only acts according to their wishes and inclinations without thinking about the consequences. Finally, there is the happy child mode, in which someone experiences joy and fun, enjoys things, and acts in a playful manner.

The unfavorable parenting modes come about because the person concerned has internalized the earlier, unfavorable behavior of his parents or other caregivers such as grandparents or teachers. Now he behaves towards himself as his caregivers used to do. The parenting modes are like inner voices that someone “hears” at certain moments. There is a disparaging / punishing parenting mode and a demanding parenting mode. In the pejorative parenting mode, someone takes a pejorative, punitive, hurtful, or neglectful attitude towards themselves. In the demanding parenting mode, he makes excessive demands on himself that are difficult or impossible to meet. These can either be excessive demands on one's own performance or on social relationships (for example, having to please everyone).

Often there are internal tensions between the different modes, for example between the demands of the parenting modes and the reaction of the vulnerable child. For example, the parent's “inner voice” says that a task needs to be done instantly and perfectly, while the vulnerable “inner child” feels overwhelmed and tends to postpone the task. If the person concerned does not manage to reduce the internal tension, this can lead to psychological symptoms in the long run.

The healthy adult modes and the "Happy child" mode include - in contrast to the other modes - favorable behaviors. A distinction is made between a caring adult mode and a limiting adult mode. In the caring mode, one perceives their own feelings and needs and takes beneficial care of their needs being met. In the limiting mode, he sets himself meaningful limits and takes responsibility for his actions without overwhelming himself or devaluing himself.

In therapy, the different modes are used in a playful way, so that the patient can recognize and change the unfavorable behavioral patterns. The therapist and patient can also find other names for the modes that the patient finds appropriate.