SCHEMA 1: Abandonment – a primal fear

How’s your mental health?

I’m interested to know how each of us can make our lives better by understanding the thought patterns that influence our behaviours and feelings about ourselves.

This is Part One in a series of blog entries on schemas: a term from psychology and cognitive science which describes an organised pattern of thought or behaviour.

Schemas can help us in understanding the world, and people can organise new perceptions into schemas quickly.

The first ‘maladaptive schema’ I’m going to reflect on is Abandonment/Instability. This thought pattern refers to the perceived instability or unreliability of those available for support and connection.

It involves the sense that significant others will not be able to continue providing emotional support, connection, strength, or practical protection because they are emotionally unstable and unpredictable, unreliable, or erratically present; because they will die imminently; or because they will abandon them in favour of someone better.
This can be a powerful one for those who have grown up in a home where a parent was erratic, moody, or explosive.
The thought pattern that others in your life will inevitably  be unreliable can continue into adulthood if you have had an unstructured, unsafe, or uncertain childhood.
People who have experienced feelings of abandonment through either divorce, a parent leaving them, or death, can struggle with this fear if it is not addressed.
Some people with this childhood experience tend to repeat the pattern shown to them by abandoning others, or clinging too tightly to the significant others in their lives for fear of them leaving.
The fear of abandonment is powerful and primal, and deserves a closer look if this is an issue for us.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)


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