Schema Therapy
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 Coping Styles
Schema Theory


Different people cope with their schemas in different ways.  This explains why children raised in the same environment can appear to be so different. For example,  two children with abusive parents may respond very differently.  One becomes a passive, frightened victim, and remains that way throughout life.  The other child becomes openly rebellious and defiant, and may even leave home early to survive as a teenager on the streets.  

Partly this is because we have different temperaments at birth. Temperamentally, we may tend to be more frightened, active, outgoing, or shy.  Our temperaments push us in certain directions.  

Partly this is because we may unconsciously choose different parents to "copy" or model ourselves after.  For example, because an "abuser" often marries a "victim,"  the child in this family could model either the abusive parent, the victimized parent, or have elements of both coping styles.

We view coping styles as normal attempts on the part of the child to survive in a difficult childhood environment.  Unfortunately, we keep repeating our coping styles throughout adulthood, even when we no longer need them to survive.  

Most of the time, as adults, these coping styles lead us to act in ways that end up blocking our development: for example, we may abuse alcohol, become excessively rigid and stubborn, isolate ourselves from other people,  stop feeling emotions, or mistreat other people.

According to our model, there are three general ways that we adapt to our schemas:  

Surrender, which means giving in to our schemas and repeating them over and over;  
Avoidance, which means finding ways to escape or block out our schemas;  and
Overcompensation, which means doing the opposite of what our schemas makes us feel.

We have expanded these 3 general ways of adapting into a more detailed list of common coping responses.  To see this listing, please click on the link to the right.

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