What is Emotional Alchemy?
Alchemy is the transformation from one thing into another. The first people studied alchemy in order to turn metal into gold. It occurs emotionally when the spiritual plane interacts with the plane of forms or perceived reality. Emotional Alchemy is accepting everything as it is, even the negative. This means not rejecting negative emotions when they occur. There are two levels of reality that we bounce back and forth from. One is free of conditioned patterns. This is known to me as the “true self” or self-esteem. The other one is obsessive thinking in the form of our ego.
I find Buddhist psychology interesting in how it focuses on what is good with us rather than bad. The brain can be trained to change what it focuses on and reject negative emotions to focus on only positive ones. Mindfulness meditation brings awareness to destructive emotional habits. Schema therapy is a modern approach to change the way we think. Combining both cognitive and emotional approaches works exponentially better. As a therapist, I combine both approaches of eastern and western philosophy to have a more balanced approach.
Equanimity-Accepting things are as they are.
A lot of the ways we act in situations are habituations. This means we are unaware of them. These patterns of behavior were formed from our past reinforcement and avoidance of punishment growing up. These automatic behaviors can and should be brought into light so you can see how they effect you on a day to day basis.
Repetition of a behavior creates a habit. This same habit formation also occurs with our thoughts and emotions. We are not as aware of these because they are not visible. Neuropathways are formed in our brains that make our responses automatic on a biological level. Our brains do this because it saves and conserves energy.
A schema is a packet of ways your mind packages and orders thoughts into groups. We have schemas or mental models for getting an airplane ticket, how to workout, how we view certain people or how we study for a test. They are essential because they make life simpler for us. When schemas act out, our brain is on autopilot. Below is an example of a positive self-fulfilling prophecy known as the Pygmalion effect.
Buddhist Psychology believes that different emotional states are in a constant struggle or hierarchy to make themselves present. Mental states are in constant flux.
Each schema can seem productive on the surface, but they tend to be mal-adaptive when pushed into their extremes. Schemas are paradoxical because we think they are helping us get what we want, but rather they are putting us into a self-defeating cycle.
Schema responses are over reactions, not appropriate responses. This makes sense with my personal experience. I was cheated on in my first relationship and I developed part of the mistrsut and emotional deprivation schema. Whenever I got a glimpse that my partner would cheat on me, I ended up over-reacting. A simple text from her ex would send me spiraling downward toward criticism, assumptions, accusations and a mental movie that she was hanging out with him when I wasn’t around. I ended up acting in a way that already assumed she cheated. As a result of this, my worst fears came true.
I set up a self-fullfilling prophecy where I acted, thought and felt as if she was going to cheat. By constantly worrying about it, my worst nightmares became true. Self-fulfilling prophecies give rise to what you want. Below are a list of the Emotional Schemas presented in the book, “Emotional Alchemy”. Learn them to spread awareness on your destuctive patterns and overcome them.
Types of Schemas
People in abandonment avoid other people or activities. There is an underlying fear, mistrust or willingness to avoid isolation. This schema matches an insecure attachment style. Thus is could have developed early on in life when your parent wasn’t there for you. Feelings associated with the abandonment schema are sadness, fear and panic that come from the prospect of being alone. Sometimes this schema results in people running away from relationships in an attempt to avoid being abandoned.
2. Emotional Deprivation- This schema causes the person to become more like a caretaker rather than voicing their own needs. The feelings that accompany this schema are anger, hopelessness, and sadness. You feel as if you will never be understood or cared for. There is a conviction that your needs won’t be met. You may be hypersensitive when you don’t get enough attention or are not noticed for things you do. Anger and resentment often arises from being ignored. People with the Deprivation schema have increased caregiver skills. They take care of others more often in an attempt to protect themselves from being hurt in a relationship.
3. Subjugation- People in this schema tend to avoid conflict. They bottle up their feelings and don’t express them. This leads to anger, resentment, mistrust, anger, a quick temper, unlovability, shame, humiliation, hopelessness, sadness and constantly seeking validation from others. They feel that their needs don’t matter. They may have had controlling parents who ignored their autonomy. There is difficulty making decisions for themselves and they may be over eager to please others. On the surface they seem helpful, but underneath resentment is boiling. People with this schema cope with techniques that lead to a surrender toward others.
4. Social Exclusion- This schema has involves avoiding other people or activities. The feelings assocaited with it are a fear of vulnerability, loss of control, worrying too much, denial of pleasure for self, phobias, repetitive behavior, obsessive compulsive behavior and panic attacks. People develop this schema is they cling onto dogmatic vlaues that serve to separate them from the group. This leads to isolation and a fear of being alone.
This schema tells people that everything must be done with the same degree of excellence. There are feelings of not being good enough in their career despite constatn achievement. There is an underlying motivation to be successful that resulted from being criticized as a child. I developed this schema from my older brother constantly telling me I was wrong at everything. The failure schema says to people that they are somehow frauds. There is a fear that any success will soon be revealed as luck. Many people with the failure schema may put off challenges and important tasks because failing them will lead to showing their inadequacies. Seeing yourself as a failure prompts feelings of deep self-doubt and an anxious sadness.
People feel like they’ll never meet expectations for acceptance and approval from others. The self-imposed pressure to perform leads to impatience and irritation with self and others. The underlying feelings of this schema lead to self doubt, anxious sadness, disciplined work but taking on too much, everything must be done with the same degree of excellence and meloncholy from not being able to enjoy life. Perfectionism takes the fun out of life. They insist that everything must always improve. This leads others people to feel anxious and think that they aren’t being accepted for who they are.
“Do not fear perfection, you will never achieve it.” -Salvador Dali
7. Entitlement Shame
This schema develops from people being spoiled in early childhood. There is a tendency for people to over step boundaires. People try to win approval through accomplishments. Entitlement schema leads people to think that social conventions and rules don’t apply to them. They are unaware of the burden their expectations place on others. They may exaggerate their abilities, indulge their desires and feel resentment when others limit their plans. This schema seems utterly selfish to others. Often times there are inner feelings of shame and inadequacy.
These people believe such the irrational fear that a minor setback means that they will end up jobless and homeless. There is constant rumination and worrying. A sense of being out of control and in danger may have been prompted by an event of impending doom or catastrophe. This is usually created when someone wittnesses a close death early on in life or experiences a personal illness. A high level of anxiety creates fixations that manifest obsessive acts of safety or panic. Others with this schema also take unnecessary risks to compensate for their fears.
This schema leads people to fear that others will reject us if they truly knew who we are. There is a fundamental belief that they are defective and thus unlovable. Feelings of shame and humiliation arise fom the belieif they are flawed and unworthy of love. They feel that their weaknesses will be discovered upon becoming known. This will ultimately and inevitably result in rejection. This lack of self-confidence leads them to hide their thoughts and feelings resulting in a hollow, false self in which they hide from the world.
“Those who are hardest to love need it most.” -Socrates
There is a a deep sense that people can’t be trusted. Abused children often develop this schema. Maltreatment is often at the hand of someone who normally should be trustable. This impacts a fundamental way of being in the world. As an adult, people with this schema might be hesitant or suspicious of intimate relationships. They often question authority and believe that it is an impossible game to get ahead in life because you cannot trust anyone. Feelings that arise in them can include rage and fear of betrayal.
Take the quiz that I created below to see which Schema you most likely are.