Have you heard of the term emotional deprivation schema? There’s a chance that you are already experiencing this, as it is more common than you might think.
A schema, by the way, is a term we use in psychology that refers to a pattern of thought or behavior that organizes information and the relationships among them. Another way to say this is that a schema is a collection of preconceived ideas - a framework in your mind that represents some aspect of the world, as you see it. It's a system we all have of organizing and perceiving new information as go through each day, and as we live out the relationships in our lives.
What is Emotional Deprivation?
Emotional deprivation is considered one of the primary schemas when it comes to relationships and relationship therapy, so sometimes it's helpful for clients to learn a little bit about this when they seek therapy with us, either individual therapy or relationship therapy. Those with this primary schema believe that others will always deprive them, and that they will never feel fulfilled in a relationship. They doubt others will ever be able to meet their needs or truly satisfy them. People who experience this thought pattern often feel as though they are lacking in the validation, understanding, affection, and emotional support they need from others.
The emotional deprivation schema can look like this:
- You rarely find someone who truly understands you.
- You believe that no one is up to the challenge when it comes to meeting your emotional needs.
- You may feel your needs are too intense for anyone to be able to handle.
- You feel lonely and deprived in your relationships.
- Your mind tells you that you are not anyone's priority.
- You think something is missing but you’re not sure what it is.
- You don’t believe anyone finds you to be special.
The emotional deprivation schema usually develops during early childhood in people where the parent or guardian was not emotionally supportive, so the child's emotional needs are not met and they do not feel important or cared for. This can result in them failing to develop connections to the people around them. As therapists, we hear about such dynamics in our client's childhoods quite often.
People who deal with emotional deprivation often build up walls around themselves and don't know how to communicate how they want their needs to be met. It can be difficult to be direct about their emotions.
What to do if you are Experiencing Emotional Deprivation
So if you are feeling like your relationships are not providing you what you need, something we teach our clients who have this struggle is to try to take a step back and look at your relationships objectively (a skilled therapist can certainly help with this). Take time to reflect. You may need to surround yourself with more people who are willing to listen to you and lift you up. Are you in any toxic relationships or environments? If so, do your best to get away from those people or situations, asking for help from people you trust if you need to. Despite feeling afraid, practice telling others how you feel. While we can't control others, we can learn to take control of our ability to respect our own wants and needs.
If this all sounds difficult, that's because it is. :) But that is the bad news....the better news is that therapists absolutely know how to work with you on this particular challenge. We're here...please reach out if you want some help.