We all have been shaped by interpersonal interactions with others throughout our lives; since childhood and up to this precise moment when you’re reading this post.
Through those experiences we have created a “story” of who we are as human beings, how to behave with others, and what to expect from others in the context of relationships, all relationships. Sometimes those “stories” or “schemas” as Jeffrey Young, Ph.D. calls them, are about “vulnerability, defectiveness/shame, failure, dependence, emotional deprivation, abandonment, etc.”
Without realizing, those schemas, your schemas, get triggered more often than not in your relationships. You respond to them by doing what you have learned based on past experiences: you may give up, counterattack, or avoid the pain associated with those old stories.
Whatever you do, however you “respond” or “cope” to your interpersonal schema, there is a concrete outcome: your relationships are affected by your behavior.
So, here is the question for you: when noticing your interpersonal dance with others, are you pushing people away from you or keeping them close to you?
If you have the relationships you want to have, you may want to stop reading this post.
However, if you find yourself acknowledging that at times you feel “empty” because of the lack of meaningful relationships, either with your relatives, friends, or significant others, then I want to invite you to continue reading this post. Of course, to continue or discontinue reading is your decision. You choose.
If you continue reading you may know that it’s hard to give up you”schema” or “old story” because it feels so natural, like it defines you. Schemas or old stories fight for survival, almost on a daily basis.
But, if you’re willing to take a risk and work towards having the relationships you want to have and be who you want to be with others, there is room to grow. It’s not going to be easy, but no one said that behavioral change it’s easy.
Below you will find some recommendations for the initial steps you can take:
a. Notice the “old story” or “schema” you’re carrying about yourself.
This schema comes with a very strong affect for the most part; it’s a unique experience because it’s old, and gets triggered easily.
b. Notice your specific response to that old story.
What do you do when you experience that intense emotion accompanied by that story? Do you avoid a situation? Do you respond aggressively? Do you simply surrender to it and keep engaging in the same response over and over?
c. Look at the “consequences” or “workability” of those responses.
In the short term your old coping responses protect you from the pain associated with your old story or interpersonal schema; but what’s the outcome in the long-term?
d. Think about who you want to be in the context of relationships.
What’s the interpersonal value you want to embrace? Take a couple of moments to throughly think about your individual value and not what you have been told by others or what the media has been telling you.
e. If your “responses” to your schema are not consistent with who you want to be, DO something different.
Doing something different means exactly that: taking a different behavioral response no matter how weird or awkward it may feel.
The more you follow these recommendations, the more you’re going to move towards creating the type of relationships you want to have. Now, by following the above recommendations, that doesn’t mean that the “old story or schema” is going to be less painful. The question is: are you willing to have that pain and still do what matters?
If you want to learn more about “schemas” click the following link for a reference: Young Schema questionnaire (short-version).