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 Emotional Inhibition schema. As defined by Jeffrey Young, the Emotional Inhibitions 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.


The most common areas of inhibition involve:  

✽   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.


In childhood

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.

   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.


In adulthood

In your adult life it is difficult to distinguish what you are feeling.

   It can be quite difficult to have insight into your own emotions yourself.

   Your relationships with important people around you may remain to be quite superficial.

   Feelings of depression or numbness is often seen as well.


Living with the Emotional Inhibition schema

You appear quite blank and don’t show your emotions to the people around you. You may also feel indifferent about a lot of things in your life.

However, keep in mind that you still have the full spectrum of feelings even if the Emotional Inhibition schema blocks you from experiencing them. It can make life feel safe but also dull and meaningless when you can’t come into contact with how you feel. This would be a problem in relationships as some partners may want the emotional connection from you but feel shut out.


Coping Mechanisms

There are three ways in which those with Emotional Inhibition schema often react :

✽   Surrender

You 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. This will feel strange and often not suitable for what’s happening in the moment.


Schema Therapy

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 Emotional Inhibition schema.

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