“Why Do We Step Into the Same River Again? Interpersonal life traps in real and fictional characters, explained by the Schema Therapy Model of Personality.


Why does Walter White in Netflix’ «Breaking Bad ” become more and more entangled in his undoing and can’t just simply get back on the right path? Why do Michael and Bruno remain so terribly lonely in Houllebecq’s novel “Elementary Particles”, although they actually don’t want to be? 

And we ourselves: Why do we know so well which mistakes in partnership, family and life we definitely never wanted to make again – and yet we keep making them over and over again like stupids?

The answer: It is our schemas that control and lead us. Schemas are fixed patterns of perception that emerge in childhood, which create their own reality and thus constantly renew and keep themselves alive. Precisely: it is not the schemas themselves, as a subjective threat signal, but it is our way of reacting towards their getting activated: the “schema coping” and the “schema modes”.

Reg partnerships, who isn’t familiar with this: in the beginning he is so charming and charismatic, bombing her with love, flowers and gifts, and then it comes: less and less understanding, frustrated expectations, more and more blamings and devaluations, the bouquet of roses turns into a war of roses. These aren’t all “toxic relationships” with “psychopath narcissists, who just want to manipulate and to execute their power”, as lifestyle bloggers recently want to make us believe. The psychological reality is more complex: Both partners are trapped by their schemas. Under the secondary schemas there lie primary, much more needy schemas, and the closer a person gets to us, the more activated the latter get. “Schema chemistry” is the name for the key-lock principle that takes place between two people who seek and find each other with the  magical intuition of their schemas, only to disappoint each other (again) subsequently, like their emotional needs were disappointed in childhood. 

The personalities of Jesse and Celine don’t really change within the 18 years between Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Midnight” – their development follows the logic of schema conducted relationships and just shows sides of them that were not visible before.

Jeffrey Young’s Schema Theory and Therapy (2003 etc.) provides an excellent model of (normal and disordered) personality that is able to explain seemingly paradoxical and contradictory behavior.

In this workshop, we will present an overview over the 20 schemas and how they work, explain the «schema model» and the «mode model» and will demonstrate their mechanism in selected movie sequences in discussion with the participants.

This model is of use for anyone who deals with difficult personalities – not only therapists (the good message: schema healing is possible!), but also for those who figure out and conceptualize personalities and characters that should correspond to “reality.”