Typical Presentation of the Schema
Defective. Flawed. Bad. Unlovable. This is me. I am all of these things. Despite the fact that everyone around me says otherwise, I KNOW this. Everyone else hasn’t lived with me my entire life, they don’t know all the bad things I’ve done, all the failures, all the shameful things. I remember it all, and I can’t forgive myself for it.
What aspects of themselves do they view as defective? It could be almost any personal characteristic – they believe that they are too angry, too needy, too evil, too ugly, too lazy, too dumb, too boring, too strange, too overbearing, too fate, too thin, too tall, too short, or too weak. They might have unacceptable sexual or aggressive desires. Something in their very being feels defective: It is not something they do, but something they feel they are. They fear relationships with others because they dread the inevitable moment when their defectiveness will be exposed. At any moment, other people might suddenly see through them to the defectiveness at their core, and they will be filled with shame. This fear can apply to the private or public worlds: People with this schema feel defective in their intimate relationships or in the wider social world (or both).
This may be the origin of all the secret keeping, the hiding. I don’t want people to see the demons in me.
Can I tell you how often I compare myself to people around me that I perceive as having a better attributed/less flaws than me? Wanna guess? Come one, it’s not that hard. Did you say ‘constantly’? Congratulations! You win a glorious look into the depths of my imperfections! Kind of a shitty prize, I know.
“I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member” ~ Groucho Marx
These people may avoid intimate relationships or social situations, because people might see their defects.
Goals of Treatment
The basic goal of treatment is to increase the patient’s sense of self-esteem. Patients who have healed this schema believe that they are worthy of love and respect. Their feelings of defectiveness were either mistaken or greatly exaggerated: Either the trait is not really a defect, or it is a limitation that is far less important than it feels to them. Furthermore, the patient is often able to correct the “defect”. But, even if patients cannot correct it, it does not negate their value as human beings. It is the nature of human beings to be flawed and imperfect. We can love each other anyway.
Patients who have healed this schema are more at ease around other people. They feel much less vulnerable and exposed, and are more willing to enter relationships. They are no longer so prone to feelings of self-consciousness when other people pay attention to them. These patients regard other people as less judgmental and more accepting, and put human flaws into a realistic perspective. Becoming more open with people, they stop keeping so many secrets and trying to hide so many parts of themselves, and can maintain a sense of their own value, even when others criticize or reject them. They accept compliments more naturally and no longer allow other people to treat them badly. Less defensive, they are less perfectionistic about themselves and other people, and choose partners who love them and treat them well. In summary, they no longer exhibit behaviors that surrender to, avoid, or overcompensate for their Defectiveness/Shame schema.
Obviously I am not healed form this schema. Secrets. I keep a lot of secrets. I have a big one currently but no, I won’t share. The only way to keep a secret is to not let anyone know. Not even one person.
This is something I’m actively working on. Forcing myself to go out and interact with people even when I would prefer to hide. My flaws are glaring at the moment, but I still try to get out. And you know what? The world hasn’t ended yet! Crazy. I know. I may spend most of the evening fighting my self-consciousness but in between my criticisms and ruminations, shockingly, I also find a little laughter and good conversation.
Behaviorally patients also learn to stop overreacting to criticism. They learn that, when someone gives them a valid criticism, the appropriate response is to accept the criticism and try to change themselves; when someone gives them a criticism that is not valid, the appropriate response is simply to state their point of view to the other person and affirm internally that the criticism is false. It is not appropriate to attach the other person; it is not necessary to response in kind or to fight to prove the other person wrong. Patients learn to set limits with hypercritical people and stop tolerating maltreatment. Patients also work on self-disclosing more too significant others who they trust. The more they can share themselves and still be accepted, the more they will be able to overcome the schema. Finally patients work on decreasing compensatory behaviors. They stop trying to overcompensate for their inner sense of defectiveness by appearing perfect, achieving excessively, demeaning others, or competing for status.
I don’t overreact OUT so much anymore. I certainly used to. I’d rage and scream and lash out when I thought someone was criticizing me. I’m quieter now. I overreact IN. The thoughts that I need to punish myself for not being perfect are terribly hard to drown out. It’s that nagging voice in the back of my mind that says, how can someone love you if you’re not perfect? If they can see your flaws, they’ll know. They’ll leave.
Special Problems with This Schema
Many patients who have this schema are unaware of it. A lot of patients are avoiding or overcompensating for the pain of this schema, rather than feeling that pain. Patients with narcissistic personality disorder are an example of a group with a high probability of having the Defectiveness schema and a low probability of being aware of it. Narcissistic patients often get caught up in competing with or denigrating the therapist rather than working on change.
Patients with a Defectiveness schema might hold back information about themselves because they are embarrassed. A long time may pass before these patients are willing to share fully their memories, desires, thoughts, and feelings.
This schema is difficult to change. The earlier and more sever the criticism and rejection from parents, the more difficult it is to heal.
I’ve lived most of my life being unaware of this. Of course now I am aware, but I still find myself avoiding or overcompensating for my problems. My Therapist is constantly reaffirming my positive attributes in hopes that I will eventually internalize that I do have good aspects of myself. I understand what she’s doing, but I’m not there yet. I’m still struggling with understanding that I can be flawed, and that’s ok.