Mistrust & Abuse Schema

Those who have this schema tend to have negative expectations of new people they meet. If you have this schema, you might always expect that people will want to hurt or abuse you. It could come in the form of physical hurt, or other kinds of hurt such as emotional abuse or manipulation.

People who have this schema tend to have adopted such beliefs from their childhood experiences. It could be from an abusive relationship with parents, caregivers or other adults in their lives growing up, regardless of what form the abuse takes.


What Are The Signs?

More often than not, individuals tend to be unsuspecting of themselves having this mistrust schema. A possible reason is that when they grow up and leave the abusive environment, these people might feel that the danger is over, and they can live their life free of those shackles.

While that is a fact, it also stands that the way they see the world and process things is still bound by the rules that formed when they were younger. Innately, perhaps unconsciously, individuals would still consider a relationship a possible source of danger. This means that they will always be on guard, making it extremely difficult for them to believe or notice the good intentions of others.

Some signs that are common in people with this schema:

  • Finding it difficult to trust people, even close or loved ones. These individuals may believe that others are trying to manipulate them even if they show care or concern. 
  • Believing that people are innately selfish and that they will definitely take advantage of them if they can.
  • Choosing to stay in toxic relationships due to their beliefs that everyone will behave in a similar way anyway. 
  • Tending to miss or ignore red flags when meeting someone and ending up hurt which strengthens their belief that everyone cannot be trusted.
  • Relating relationships to submitting to the other.
  • Having a mean or sadistic nature that surfaces when they are hurt.


What Can You Do?

For those with the mistrust schema, it can be very difficult to go through therapy. An important part of therapy involves form a safe and trusting relationship with one's therapist. However, with the mistrust schema, the innate belief that everyone is out there to get you and you cannot trust anyone can make it difficult. This causes individuals to have a difficult time connecting deeply with their therapists, which can interfere with the therapy process.

Despite these difficulties, an experienced therapist will be able to see these issues and meet individuals where they are, slowly developing the relationship to help them be able to trust people more and avoid abusive relationships.