Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Schema’s and Traits Part 6

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 a new domain called the Impaired Autonomy and performance. The next two schemas we will look at are Enmeshment/Undeveloped self, and Failure.

Enmeshment/Undeveloped self is when a patient is so fused with a significant other it is difficult to see where the person’s identity begins and ends and the significant other’s identity begins and ends. The significant other is usually a parent or a parent figure, such as a partner, sibling, boss, or best friend. The person with this schema does not have a fully developed self or normal social development. They feel as if they can not survive emotionally without the other or that the other can not survive without them. They feel as if they are one person with the other. They feel as if they are drifting in the world because of the undeveloped self. They do not know who they are. They are overcome with guilt if they do try to separate from the significant other. The goal is to help this person express their spontaneous natural selves rather than suppressing their true selves.

The failure schema is when a person believes that they have failed relative to their peers in areas of achievement such as career, money, status, school, or sports. They feel fundamentally inadequate compared to others and that they inherently lack what it takes to succeed. There are two directions this can go. One, the person surrenders to the schema and do everything halfheartedly or two, they overcompensate and become an overachiever. The overachiever is often successful, yet still feels fraudulent and unsuccessful. Many times failure has become a self-fulfilling prophecy in their lives. It is important to help these people feel confident and to succeed within the limits of their true abilities. It is important to help them see their limits and still feel as if they have value.

Have you ever seen Psycho? That is a very good example of Enmeshment at the extreme, in fact he is so enmeshed that he actually becomes his mother. What is a good example of the failure schema? How can we incorporate these characters into our books to add depth? 


  1. I see myself in these schemas, but not (I believe) to an unhealthy extent. I see it a little... I do feel more whole with my partner (husband), but I also know that he can survive without me and vice verse.
    As for failure schema, I think it's sad (but we all do it) that we compare ourselves to others. We all have our areas of strength and weakness, some are just more visible than others.

  2. This is definitely one that hits close to home. I think everyone compares themselves to others, especially teens though it is still prevalent in adults.

    As for a character that has the failure schema, I thought of Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle. She thinks she deserves to be an old woman. It does take some time for her to get past it but she realizes she's worth more than she initially thought.

  3. April- I agree that the failure schema seems to be prevalent in our culture, but like you said about yourself it is usually not to the extreme.

    Emily - Thanks for the Sophie character nothing was coming to mind for me.

  4. Psycho is brilliant, and the way Hitchcock plays with psychology is awesome. You don't see any of it coming right until the end. There's no way you think that Gordon is his mother. Cool post!

  5. Love your blog! It is so full of great information. Really looking forward to following you. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  6. I do use my training as a counselor in building characters and having them act and react realistically.

    Some good points here, Josh.

    I linked the article to my facebook status.

  7. Amy- Thanks for the follow I look forward to following you as well.

    Sia - Thanks so much for the mention. I think my counseling and psychology have come in handy while creating reality as well.

  8. Psycho is one of my all-time favorite movies.

    These schemas are very interesting.

  9. LOVE Psycho. Can't think of anything more arty or classic, but the Chuck TV series has a main character that appears to suffer the failure schema - dropped out of college and works in a Buy More, which would be fine, except he does feel he's let his successful and enthusiastic sister down.
    And maybe the Hulk? (I mean the old tv one) after not being able to save his family he definitely becomes an overachiever. I think I'm watching too much tv :)
    Another excellent post, and thanks for helping me with my query letter on my blog - much appreciated.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  10. Great post Josh, I have an award for you at


  11. Got it. Thanks again for the award.

  12. I'll have to go and grab a copy of Psycho after reading this. Interesting one.

    Oh and hey, its Thursday again and Friends Meetup Party is back :)

  13. To me, the failure schema is very difficult to incorporate into a character. It makes them very boring and you just want to sigh and give up on them, if you know what I mean. We all have goals and things we want to accomplish in life and who wants to hang out with the person who has convinced themselves that they'll never succeed at anything?

    And as for enmeshment... Hello, Twilight! Don't even get me started! :D


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