Friday, April 15, 2011

Schema’s and Traits Part 3

There are several different domains that schemas fall into. The first domain is Disconnection and Rejection. Within this domain are the Abandonment, Mistrust/Abuse, Emotional Deprivation, Defectiveness/Shame, and Social Isolation schemas. I will not be able to go into huge amounts of detail for each schema but just a little of what they look like. I am getting my information from “Schema Therapy a Practitioners Guide” by Jeffrey E. Young, Janet S. Klosko, and Marjorie E. Weishaar. Today we will be looking at the first two schemas.

People who have a high abandonment schema are always feeling like they are going to be abandoned or lose people close to them. They believe that these people will leave them in many different ways, from death to leaving them for somebody else. A person with an abandonment schema will be constantly looking for signs that show that they are about to be abandoned. These people are highly anxious about losing people. People with this schema need to learn to be more realistic about the stability of relationships.

Mistrust/Abuse schema is characterized by people who believe others are going to take advantage of them and lie to them. People with a high mistrust/abuse schema do not trust others and are on the constant lookout of people taking advantage of them. They are very guarded and suspicious of others. These people do not share their thoughts and feelings and do not get close to others. Those who have overcome this schema have learned to distinguish between those people they can trust and those they can not.

In better understanding these two schemas we can begin to visualize challenges that our characters are trying to overcome. In my first novel I write about a boy who flees his home as a young child and feels abandoned by his parents. Throughout the novel he is learning that he will not be abandoned by those around him and even that his parents did not abandon him. He learns to trust and love and to open up to those who are trying to help him. He then is able to not only rely on others, but in his own inner strength.

How have you, or can use these schemas to create motivation in your characters? Challenges? Stories?


  1. I had a creative writing class in college that was rather unusual. The professor normally taught creative non-fiction, and didn't see any redeeming qualities in genre fiction. Because she wouldn't let any of us write in different genres we all ended up with stories revolving around these particular schemas. Now I'm not saying that all non-genre fiction has to be related to these schemas but it definitely made me think about how we view our troubles when we are more grounded in the reality of our own world and experiences.

  2. These schemas offer a good 'growth to character' opportunity. We can use one particular schema and show the changes in the character.

  3. This is particularly interesting for me Josh as my MC was abandoned by her parents when she was a child and the main thread of the book is how the event shaped her life and affected her, and how she's going on a journey of self discovery and to banish the demons.

  4. I haven't written a character who has been abandoned or has trust issues, but you've described my sister perfectly. She has a high abandonment schema. Long story, but we were both in care from a young age. Unfortunately, she's never gotten over it. It's sad but no amount of reassurance ever works.

    Ellie Garratt

  5. When my characters have negative expectations, I try to ensure the story works so that good things happen.

    In life though, I think we tend to get what we expect and what we say we're gonna get.

  6. I've never written a story about someone with either of these schemas, but they definitely would be strong motivation for a character.

    Great post!

  7. This idea reminds a lot of my child development classes in talking about how crucial the earlier years are for children because this is where they learn how to build a foundation for the rest of their lives, if they feel a good connection from their parents then they have a good foundation to help them connect well with the world when they get older. It is isnteresting though to think back in my own life and think about the times I may have felt abandoned and how it affected me later with different situations. It really can have a big effect!

  8. Hmmm, not having experienced these first hand, I don't use these schemas much, if at all. I tend to have rather vague references to things like this in my "villian." I could really work on this!


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