Schema: Unrelenting Standards

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I bring you my post on unrelenting standards after an incredibly draining therapy session, which included regression to an issue that helped form some of my schemas and a couple of mind boggling hours on Twitter so am tired, confused, sad and have a stinker of a headache.

I feel this blog is appropriate and needs to be written though as more and more frequently I have noticed other people with the unrelenting standards schema. Young defines unrelenting standards as:

“The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hypercriticalness toward oneself and others.  Must involve significant impairment in:  pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.

     Unrelenting standards typically present as:  (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm;  (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.”
A lot of people thrive on this perfectionism and it keeps them going. Up until I broke down I put 100% of my attention and ability into everything I did, this obviously wore me out and made my POTS worse, I’d envitably have to cancel engagements or take time off work, which then activated my failure to achieve schema.
Constantly comparing everything about myself to the best in those situations (the most intelligent, the most beautiful, the most successful, etc) left me feeling like a failure, yet I still had these unrelenting standards driving me to make myself the best at everything. What I refused to recognise was that nobody is the best at everything, some people may seem to be perfect but I’m now trying to convince myself that there may be one thing they might not be able to do so well.
Please don’t misinterpret me, I don’t want others to question their own abilities and I definitely don’t want to knock anyone down or hunt for flaws, I just need to recognise that just because I’m not as pretty/clever/funny/settled/rich/happy as “Ann” doesn’t mean that I have not achieved good things in my life.
As part of my CBT my therapist surveyed people on my behalf to ask if it is possible to work at 100% all the time in every aspect of your life. The answer was a resounding ‘no’. Some understood where I was coming from, others just didn’t see it as necessary but they all had the same answer in common that it just plain isn’t reasonable. I know I wouldn’t ask it from others, so why is it fair to ask it of myself?
This is where the rigid rules of “I should…” guided my life, and still do to some extent, however, I am more aware of it now and get people I love to question me when I say these things. Sometimes in a response to a question asking why I have to do something perfectly, all I would be able to say is “I should”, because that is the rule I had given myself and it had become automatic rather than a reasoned thought.
I may add to this at a later date when I am feeling more with it, but in an attempt to break my behaviour associated with my unrelenting standards I’m going to post this without proof reading it ten times (yes, I would really do this, work would take forever), without being 100% happy with it and knowing that I have missed out some important parts (which are currently swimming about just out of reach in the mess that is my brain).
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Reinventing Your Life

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A bold claim indeed from Jeffrey Young & Janet Klosko, but one that I am finding to be actually quite true.

Please bear in mind this post is from my perspective as a service user and my experiences with schema therapy and that it may not be right for you but I would definitely recommend that if you are unhappy with your current therapy or mental health support that you discuss with your doctor or psychologist as to what would be the best option for you. Remember your happiness is vital.

As I’ve probably already mentioned I have gone through many different therapies. Each one has given me tools to use in my life and have helped (apart from the disastrous introduction I had to mental health support in which I made the counsellor break down in tears), however, I have always ended up back where I began despite knowing I have tools to use.

The latest therapy I have been referred to is Schema Therapy. I went from not knowing what a Schema was (I’ll talk more about these later), to having three introductory assessments with a psychologist (who came highly recommended to me by my cognitive behavioural therapist who I trusted, had seen some huge improvements with and most importantly got on well with) to starting the group.

The group is going to consist of 16 two hour sessions where we will work on our individual schemas. After two weeks of the group I can already see how if I stick with this I can really “reinvent my life”.

Obviously I’ll just be talking about me so some things may not make perfect sense but it’s important for the group to be confidential.

I won’t lie the first group session was hard. My previous experience of group therapy hadn’t been the most positive so I was already apprehensive and my schemas kicked in straight away in the group. I felt unworthy, that I would be judged, that I had no business being there and helpless that I couldn’t make everyone else in the group feel better. I’m not naive enough to think that other people don’t feel the way I do. I just hate the fact they do. They don’t deserve this pain.

Thankfully as part of the therapy you examine the things that trigger you, how it makes you feel, what behaviour you follow, what you think, what schema has been activated & how you can do things differently next time. So I logged all this down. It did affect my mood for the whole week and had knock on effect making me more prone to being triggered by various events through the week. It made me incredibly scared of going for the second session but I knew I had to go.

At the beginning of the second session the group were asked how they were feeling after the first session. I remained quiet, but of course the psychologists who run the session are so experienced they knew there was something wrong so I ended up saying how I felt and was reassured straight away. I now feel much more comfortable about going next week but still know it will be hard work and very draining, especially taking its toll on my POTS.

From my reading and therapy I understand that schemas are lifetraps that we get into that can then affect us in our day to day life. They tend to be formed when we are young and then reinforced through our lives. We then end up keeping ourselves in these lifetraps as we don’t know any different.

18 schemas have now been identified. The schemas can be found at http://www.schematherapy.com/id73.htm. . Everybody has these elements to some extent but it’s only when they are triggered to such an extent that they interfere with you leading a happy life or are over sensitive to them that they cause a problem and end up causing us more pain. Young and Klosko help people identify which schema (or schemas in most cases) are the ones that people should focus on improving. I have found that I definitely have one core schema (defectiveness) and believe that the other schemas that affect me all stem from this one. I may find that this is not the case as I progress but will let you know if I discover more on my journey.

I am now a lot happier that I have a group to discuss this with as when it comes to schemas I have found it is difficult to discuss them with those closest to you. As they are formed in childhood and are influenced by those around you it is hard for their schemas not to be triggered when you discuss your own. My sister became upset when she thought it was her fault that I felt defective after reading that defectiveness can come from being negatively compared to a sibling. As I explained to her she didn’t do anything wrong in being super clever, in fact I admire her for it, it was the people doing the comparing (not my parents I hasten to add) that were in the wrong.

I’m hoping to do a weekly update on my journey through this, please forgive me if I can’t as it is a very emotional and draining thing to talk about.

Taking inspiration from talking to a friend today and from The Women’s Room discussion on self care I’m also going to try to write a post about each of the schemas. I’ve not got experience of all of them so will start with the ones I know about and from my perspective (as we each handle them differently) but please let me know if you can add anything or if I can re-blog something you’ve posted that is relevant.

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