Punitiveness Schema

Punitiveness Schemas cause individuals to have an excessive expectation that people should be punished for their mistakes. This desire to punish is also put on themselves, so people with a Punitiveness Schema find it very difficult to forgive both others and themselves. They experience a lot of guilt and shame when they feel they have done something wrong, which often makes daily life difficult to manage.

With this schema, individuals want to create a world that is black and white: a predictable environment. It is normal to want justice bestowed in the world, however those with a Punitiveness Schema do not have any sense of natural human imperfection. They lack the ability to empathize with others and understand why they made certain mistakes. These people tend to be angry, impatient and easily irritable. They tend to distance themselves from others and thus their relationships are very hard to maintain.


Signs and Symptoms of a Punitiveness Schema

  • Punishment gives you a sense of relief
  • Seeing people go unpunished is bothering
  • Categorizing the world into right and wrong
  • Not believing that any reasons for behavior are important
  • Finding it hard to forgive and forget and often hold grudges 
  • Being a critical and judgemental person
  • Intolerance and impatience 
  • Being overly self-critical 



Most schemas develop during childhood as a result from our interactions with our primary caregiver. If, as a child, you experienced an excessive amount of punishment from your parents, then it is possible you are at risk of developing a Punitiveness Schema. Emotional or physical abuse from parents can also lead to the onset of this schema.

In adulthood, Punitiveness Schema might manifest in aggressive ways. We feel as though we have to take on the weight of other people’s flaws and that is our responsibility to bring balance to the world.



Schema Therapy is the main treatment for Punitiveness Schema and many others. As Schemas often work under our consciousness, Schema Therapy will help you recognize these thinking patterns and bring them to light. You will gain skills such as patience and empathy and work towards being a more understanding person. 

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