Emotional Inhibition Schema
Do you tend to be rational at all times?
Do you struggle to be spontaneous, silly, and in the moment?
Do you rarely express feelings?
If you have answered yes to any of the above, you may have developed an Emotional Inhibition Schema. As defined by clinician Jeffrey Young, the Emotional Inhibition Schema is the excessive inhibition of spontaneous action, feeling, or communication — usually to avoid disapproval by others, feelings of shame, or losing control of one’s impulses.
Common Areas of Inhibition
- Inhibition of anger & aggression
- Inhibition of positive impulses (e.g., joy, affection, sexual excitement, play)
- Difficulty expressing vulnerability or communicating freely about one’s feelings, needs, etc.; or
- Excessive emphasis on rationality while disregarding emotions
Those with this schema have difficulties expressing their authentic feelings. This schema develops in childhood usually to avoid punishment or disapproval for feelings that are not tolerated in your family. It can also be a result of over-protective and rigid parenting which discourages play and spontaneity.
Causes of the Emotional Inhibition Schema
If the Emotional Inhibition schema is active in your life, you may have experienced situations early in life that led to the development of this schema. For instance:
- People around you may not have shown their emotions.
- Your parents may not have shown their emotions.
- Being confronted with sudden emotions can easily make you feel scared and anxious.
Living with the Emotional Inhibition Schema
In adulthood, certain signs of an Emotional Inhibition Schema would include:
- Difficulty distinguishing one's own feelings.
- Difficulty having insight into one's own emotions.
- Relationships, even with important people may be quite superficial.
- Feelings of depression or numbness.
- Appearing quite blank and not showing emotions to the people around you.
- Feeling indifferent about a lot of things in life.
However, keep in mind that you still have the full spectrum of feelings even if the Emotional Inhibition schema blocks you from experiencing or showing them. It can make life feel safe but also dull and meaningless when you can’t come into contact with how you feel. This might be a problem in relationships as some partners may want the emotional connection from you but feel shut out.
There are three ways in which those with Emotional Inhibition schema often react :
You might appear completely calm, however you are emotionally flat.
Emotions make you feel scared. This makes you avoid those feelings and situations in which emotions can be present or when you will be asked how you are feeling.
You can act like a clown, showing different emotions in a mixed way without inhibition. This will feel strange and may not be suitable for what’s happening in the moment. Such displays might occur under the influence of substances such as alcohol.
This schema can be overcome via Schema Therapy. In Schema Therapy, you will be guided to understand the kinds of emotions everyone experiences. It will help you identify these emotions and learn to show them to those around you. Hence, it allows your inner empty feeling to reduce, allowing you to learn to feel different emotions. This way, your relationships will be able to get deeper on an emotional level.
Check out this short video on the Emotional Inhibition Schema.
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