Dependence / Incompetence Schema

Individuals who experience some form of impaired autonomy or self-identity formation may develop one or more of these four schemas: dependence/incompetence, vulnerability to harm, enmeshment/undeveloped self, and failure.



We may all occasionally feel incompetent and unable to deal with challenges that we are faced with. If you have developed the dependence/incompetence schema, you may experience a persistent sense of incapability across one or more areas of life. In particular, this pertains to managing daily tasks and chores; and is linked to a sense of helplessness and dependence on other people for support.


When activated, this schema may understandably trigger avoidance – you may choose not to try new tasks – or over-reliance on other people – you may choose to depend on others to guide or motivate you to complete tasks. This is particularly seen in decision-making or initiating change from status quo. The true need behind this schema is to develop confidence and independence.



Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the dependence/incompetence schema resonates with you:

Does worry about daily tasks or upcoming challenges make you freeze up and not go ahead with them?

Do you generally find yourself asking for advice multiple times before making decisions?

Do you feel incompetent of getting by on your own in your daily tasks and chores?

Do you generally feel dependent on other opinions before you can make your own decisions?

Do you feel a lack of confidence with solving your everyday tasks or problems?


If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the dependence/incompetence schema. If you think the dependence/incompetence schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.


To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with Dr. Terrighena on (852) 2715 4577 or e.terrighena@mind-balance.org.

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Dr Esslin Terrighena - Psychologist in Hong Kong

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