SCHEMA 2: Why abuse leads to mistrust

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 Two in a series of blog entries on schemas: a term from psychology and cognitive science which describes an organised pattern of thought or behaviour. You can find Part One here.

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

The second ‘maladaptive schema’ I’m going to reflect on is Mistrust/Abuse. This thought pattern refers to the expectation that others will hurt, abuse, humiliate, cheat, lie, manipulate, or take advantage.

girl sad

It usually involves the perception that the harm is intentional or the result of unjustified and extreme negligence.

It may also include the sense that you will always end up being cheated relative to others “getting the short end of the stick.”

If you have been systematically or repeatedly hurt or abused while growing up, it will be very hard to believe that others are safe and worthy of your trust.

If this is an issue for you, it’s worth having a look at how this schema plays out in your relationships today.

And if you have learned to trust again, celebrate that. It’s not an easy thing to do when you have been harmed and mistreated.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11)





  1. Yes your right. Trust is hard when you have been hurt and abused. You play out your life like it will happen again. Your behaviours seem to lead you to hurt others while you are hurting but not realizing because of the state that you are in.

    1. Absolutely. It can be hard to believe, at least subconsciously, that the abuse won’t play out again in different ways/contexts.

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