If you agree with 5 or more of the following statements, you probably have the Social Isolation Schema.
- 1I feel like I don't fit in.
- 2I always feel on the outside of groups.
- 3Growing up, my family was different than other families around us.
- 4As a child and teenager my family moved around a lot.
- 5I feel that no one really understands me.
- 6I just find it so hard to connect to other people.
- 7People think I'm weird and strange..
- 8I am a loner.
- 9I am fundamentally different than other people.
- 10I have to try really hard to be accepted by others.
How this Schema affects our lives
Social isolation is a very painful schema as it stops us meeting our most fundamental needs - to feel we belong, to feel part of a 'tribe', to feel accepted.
Our brains are social organs - they evolved to live as part of a tribe, and even though our lifestyles have dramatically changed since our hunter gatherer days, our brains are still basically the same and have the same needs.
When we feel different from everyone else, if we feel weird, strange, not part of the groups around us, we will get a profound sense of loneliness.
The emotion of loneliness is our brain's way of signalling to us that we need to connect.
But unfortunately, with this schema it's very difficult to connect as we feel so much self-consciousness and anxiety when we are around other people. We can end up feeling like we're stuck between a rock and a hard place . We suffer pain when we're with people and we suffer when we aren't.
It's how we try and cope with these feelings that also causes us a lot of problems.
To make it easier to relax in groups and to try and meet our needs for connection, we can often end up using alcohol or drugs. This leaves us vulnerable to addictions as we come to rely on substances to feel 'normal'.
But when we realise that we are becoming addicted, this just adds to our shame of being 'different' from all those 'normal' people out there
Another way we might cope is to avoid people altogether - at least then we only have loneliness and not the feelings of anxiety and shame because we don't fit in. But the loneliness hasn't gone anywhere - it's still there as painful as ever so we might turn to eating to push it down, or alcohol to numb it.
Overtime it is inevitable that we will start to feel depressed - just more emotional pain we have to deal with.
As with all schemas - overtime, the emotional toll is huge - but with social isolation there is no one to turn to.
This schema is one of the main schemas that drive suicide.
How do we get it?
Social isolation develops for a number of reasons:
One of the main reasons is if your family of origin was noticeably different from the families around you. This might be because of ethnicity, religion, or financial status. It can also develop if your family moved around a lot so you didn't get the chance to develop deeper friendships and connections. You were always the new kid on the block.
Sometimes it develops if you have a disability, a disfigurement, or a personality style that sets you apart from other children or if you were bullied and ostracised for being different.
If you have this schema - know this - you're not weird or strange or fundamentally different - you just have a schema that can be changed.