Today I was invited to join a meet up group which promotes self development – it was headlined to the effect that we only really make three choices in life, one of which being our choice of partner.
Recent experience makes me question this.
I often have clients who declare that they make poor choices in mates, and repetitively so. Clients who are serially abused, clients who are serially cheated on, clients who are abandoned by their partners or love interest.
If it’s happening over and over, why would these people (and I confess myself also) CHOOSE poorly?
The answer is they (we) don’t.
Imagine that you are going into a sweetshop to buy some chocolate. The sweetshop in this case is the dating pool. There should be lots to choose from.
But, some chocolate is more expensive than others. Some contains nuts and you are allergic, but you REALLY want some chocolate.
Now imagine that you have low self esteem. Low self esteem tells you that you don’t deserve any chocolate – or, if you do, there’s only a certain brand that you can afford.
So you don’t look for the nice wrappers. You look for something average. Something that looks cheap. Your choice is limited.
Now imagine that you have something called schemas. Schemas are patterns of thinking and behaving based on our experience. They come in many flavours. Mistrust and Abuse, Emotional Deprivation, Abandonment, etc – now, you would THINK that with names like that they would warn you about how to avoid sticky situations, but they don’t – They try – but they are faulty coping strategies for the individuals problems.
Instead they actually promote themselves! – You see, because Schemas are based on your real world experience, often from childhood, they are how you make sense of the world. They often make the world look like a cold and empty place – but on one level that’s OK – because at least it’s a cold and empty world you UNDERSTAND.
So they become self fulfilling prophecies.
Every Schema that you apply reduces the stock on the shelves. Pretty soon the shop is bare and all that is left (or all that you can see on the shelves) are a few manky bars of chocolate that is past its sell by date. Or worse still, just one bar – with nuts.
And you REALLY want some chocolate! Because you are lonely without it.
So we pick it up – We made our ‘free will choice’ – except – we didn’t.
Just in case you think that we therapists have got it all together – we don’t – In my case I have Abandonment and Subjugation Schemas. The former makes me highly attracted to unobtainable or unavailable women. Should I be successful in dating one, I become so fearful that I try really hard to please and to supplicate them – hardly the most attractive features in a man. Eventually they get fed up of making all the decisions and leave – or never actually date me in the first place! – I have fulfilled the Abandonment schema! Onto the next one!
So how do we stop this? By knowing ourselves, by understanding how our schemas work and by challenging them! That’s what we do here at Evoke.
Join me in finding a better way to live!