SCHEMA 3: When emotional support is withheld

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 Three 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 third ‘maladaptive schema’ I’m going to reflect on is Emotional Deprivation.

This thought pattern refers to the expectation that one’s desire for a normal degree of emotional support will not be adequately met by others.


The three major forms of deprivation are:

  1. Deprivation of nurturance. This is where there is an absence of attention, affection, warmth, or companionship.
  2. Deprivation of empathy. This is an absence of attention, affection, warmth, or companionship.
  3. Deprivation of protection. This refers to a lack of strength, direction, or guidance from others.

People with this schema may feel as though there were significant gaps when it came to having their emotional needs met throughout childhood.

Perhaps one parent was absent emotionally or physically, and unable to offer his/her children the support they needed to thrive.

A person experiencing these deficits may struggle to relate to others in a healthy way, and may spend a lifetime longing and looking for the companionship withheld by their caregivers.

They may become overly dependent on other people in friendships or marriage, or live through their children as a way of meeting their emotional needs.

Recognising our unmet needs from childhood is the first step in moving towards acceptance, and finding healing.

“There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:31)

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