There’s a psychological term I want to introduce you to. You may already know it; the word is “schema” and it means a deeply ingrained belief or impression about ourselves and the world around us.
Schemas take root at an early age as a result of what we experience in life. Certain key people are also tremendously influential in the formation of schemas. By what they say and do, we form conclusions which have lasting effects on our behavior, our pattern of thinking, our choices and our self-concept. In essence, schemas color how we view reality and how we respond to most situations.
Automatic assumptions spring from schemas. Let’s face it, they show up in every argument!
Some schemas are positive, some are not-so-positive. Lorena recently shared a story illustrating a not-so-positive schema. (I wrote about her in an earlier post: “Perfection is Highly Overrated!” Click here to read it.)
Not long ago, her dad pointed to a photograph of her on the refrigerator. “Do you remember that?” he asked. The photograph showed a 4-year-old Lorena dressed in a cute dancing outfit.
She remembered the photo and she also remembered the thought that ran through her mind when she saw it shortly after it was taken. “I was thinking that my thighs were too big!” she said while shaking her head in disbelief. “I just cannot imagine that someone that young could even entertain such a thought! It’s just so outlandishly sad!”
By the age of four, Lorena had been thoroughly programmed to scrutinize her physical appearance. Yes, that is “outlandishly sad.” Her schema goes something like this: “My acceptance is based on how I look,” and “There is something fundamentally wrong with me.”
“As far back as I can remember,” she said, “I compared myself to other girls.”
Lorena was curious about the origins of her shaping. “Who’s opinion did I buy into?” she wondered. After mulling it over she came up with this: “I’m pretty sure it was my grandmother’s. As long as I can remember, she was constantly making derogatory remarks about how other people looked.”
The remedy for bothersome schemas? A heavy dose of clear minded self-appraisal.
We get free by questioning our conditioned assumptions about ourselves.
Lorena’s on a journey to do just that. She’s busy revamping her schema by disbelieving it. And in the process, she’s realizing she’s a whole lot bigger than some old schema hanging out in her brain.
Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.