Schema therapy is based on core emotional needs, and getting these met. This is very important in our relationships, and central to us feeling satisfied, fulfilled and connected.
If you are feeling lost, frustrated or unfulfilled in your relationship, understanding your needs and getting them met is vital to improving your connection with your partner. This is also very important when entering into a new relationship.
So what are your core emotional needs? These are needs that every one of us is born with. Our parents must meet these needs when we are young, but we don’t grow out of them, we have these needs for the rest of our lives. Feeling happy and fulfilled in a romantic relationship depends on these needs being met.
- Secure attachment (safety, protection, predictability, love, nurturance, attention, empathy, acceptance)
- Freedom to express valid feelings and needs
- Appropriate autonomy, competence and sense of identity
- Spontaneity and play
Having a secure attachment means feeling safe, accepted and loved unconditionally. This must be reliable and predictable to provide you with a secure base. Without a secure base, your other needs cannot be met.
Your partner must allow you to express what you feel and need, AND give you validation for these feelings. This allows you to be your true authentic self, which helps you feel happy, fulfilled and connected. Holding back your feelings because you know your partner won’t accept them, will shut down, or will dismiss you, is suppressing your authenticity – a very common cause of anxiety and depression.
Part of being authentic is having independence and autonomy, which allows you to develop a unique identity. It is also very important for humans to have spontaneity and play in their lives, and being able to do this with your partner will enrich your relationship.
In a nutshell, you need to feel safe to be authentic in your relationship.
A relationship without a secure attachment or the ability to be authentic is not a healthy relationship, because your core emotional needs are not being met.
Schema therapy can help you develop a deeper understanding of your needs and how to get these met, which in turn will create a happier, healthier you.
Are you a yes person? A people pleaser?
Are you the one who always listens to other people?
Do you seem to miss your turn receiving support? Do you take on more than you can manage?
Boundaries help us maintain relationships, and maintain our authenticity – or our connection to ourselves.
Agreeableness is a scale that we all fall on somewhere. Being agreeable, or self-sacrificing can be a strength, but it can also be a weakness. You may be really good at listening but have a hard time expressing your own needs and desires.
Why is it a strength? You have a lot of empathy, you are attuned to the feelings of others and you know how to make them happy. People like you. You may also achieve a lot by virtue of taking on a lot.
However – A strength overdone can become a weakness!
How is it a weakness? People who can’t say No may build up anger and resentment towards themselves and others. You may not even realise this, but it can manifest as depression, burnout, emotional numbness, headaches or other bodily pain. Pleasing everyone else can leave you feeling stressed and unfulfilled.
Patterns of agreeableness often have their origins in our childhood. We may learn to suppress our authenticity, our true feelings and needs, to maintain a close relationship with our family members. This is a very adaptable coping strategy for a little person, however, it can lead to having unhealthy boundaries as an adult.
How can you develop healthier boundaries?
- Tune into your body – what is it telling you? What is your gut feeling about being asked to do x y z?
- Tune into your needs and desires. Write them down. What is it that you really want in your life?
- Turn your compassion for others’ needs to express and be heard, inward. Start listening to yourself as well as you listen to others.
- Identify what it is your inner critic has to say – probably something that makes you feel guilty for saying No. Write a rebuttal and practice delivering it regularly.
- Identify the areas and people you find it most difficult to say No to. Maybe it’s your boss, or a parent. Delay your response. Don’t say yes straight away. A line such as ‘I’ll get back to you’, gives you some time to prepare to say NO.
- Practice expressing your needs and desires with people you trust. What is the outcome for you, for them, for your relationship?
- Support – have someone who understands you, encourages you, validates you, and helps hold you accountable for practicing these things.
Developing healthier boundaries doesn’t mean you have to give up your strength. You can develop more flexibility and control of this attribute, and having healthy boundaries can become your new strength. Our therapists can help you understand your patterns of interaction and how to break free from stressful and unfulfilling relationships.
Self Soothing to reduce stress and anxiety AND improve physical health
Are you experiencing physical symptoms of stress or anxiety such as pain, fatigue, restlessness, unintentional weight loss or weight gain, digestion issues, nausea, ammenorrhea, sweating or insomnia?
Understanding the nervous system (and how to calm it) can help you manage these effects of stress on the body.
The autonomic nervous system is divided into 2 opposing systems – the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is the emergency system, also called the fight or flight response. It prepares the body for danger by shutting down the digestive system, speeding up the heart, increasing blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Unfortunately our bodies cannot differentiate between real and imagined stress, and this system which was designed to save our lives, can instead be activated in everyday situations such as a busy day at work. If this response is activated too regularly our health suffers. Our bodies are flooded with the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and our pain threshold goes down.
The other side of the coin is the parasympathetic, or the rest and digest system. This system works to recover from normal daily activities by activating digestion, decreasing blood pressure and slowing the heart rate and breathing. When this system is activated the body is relaxing, the muscles can repair and build strength, food can be digested, and we can sleep and reproduce.
So how can we calm our fight or flight response and activate our rest and digest system?
- Identify and work to eliminate triggers in your life. This is always an important step for long-term recovery and health.
- Slow your breathing. This tells your body that you are safe and signals it to relax. Incorporate breathing exercises and meditation into your daily routine. Try the 4, 2, 6 breathing technique – inhale in for 4 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Slowly release tension in your body by tensing and then releasing the muscles. Start with the toes and slowly work your way up to the face. Yoga is also a helpful and mindful practice for this.
- Light exercise. Don’t overdo the exercise. Cardio can have the same effect on the body as stress – the heart rate is up and the sympathetic system is activated. Try a nature walk instead. Being in nature has been shown to actively control the sympathetic nervous system and decrease blood pressure.
- Physical touch. We are hard-wired to be soothed by physical touch, just like a baby being rocked. Massage is a great option for relaxation, and make sure you get lots of hugs from your loved ones. You can even self-soothe by hugging yourself!
- Self care. Everyone finds different things soothing. Discover what it is that works for you, and schedule time for this regularly. It might be music, crafts, surfing or spending time with friends. It is important to have fun too!
What goes in
- Consume warm liquids and foods. This soothes the digestive system, which works to maintain body temperature. Ice cold drinks or foods make your gut work harder to regulate its temperature.
- Reduce caffeine. Limit your coffee to one a day, or cut it out completely. Coffee stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.
- Get enough sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene, and think about how you can priortise a good nights sleep. This might mean revisiting number 1 and considering lifestyle changes.
- Self compassion. Last but not least, self-soothing is all about being kind to yourself. Notice whether an internal critical voice is getting in the way of any of these steps, and think about what you would say to a friend who was struggling with stress or anxiety. Chances are, you are much harder on yourself than anyone else. Create some positive affirmations, or a mantra that reminds you you are doing your best, and remind yourself of this everyday.