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Insufficient Self-Control Schema

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Individuals who experience confusing, inconsistent or impaired limits may develop one or more of these two schemas: entitlement, and insufficient self-control.

We all may occasionally feel that we lack self-discipline in achieving our goals or doing what is good for us. If you have developed the insufficient self-control schema, you may experience a pervasive difficulty to control your frustrations, behaviours or impulses. This can be linked to guilt, shame, but also a sense of laziness and incompetence.

When activated, this schema may understandably trigger avoidance of discomfort, expressed in lack of motivation to initiate tasks or deal with challenges, or at extremes, acting upon impulses in ways that are destructive to ourselves, including drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, or crime. The true need behind this schema is establishing effective distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and confidence in our own capabilities.

Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the insufficient self-control schema resonates with you:

Do you find it difficult to not act on your impulses once they have arisen?

Do you struggle with small goals that you set yourself?

Do you get frustrated easily if you cannot achieve a goal quickly?

Do you get impulsive emotions and then engage in behaviours that damage your relationships at home or work?

Do you struggle to work toward resolutions you have set yourself?

Do you struggle to force yourself to complete mundane but required tasks?

Has your impulsivity gotten you into trouble with friends, family, work, society or the law?

If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the insufficient self-control schema. Please note that individuals with a high achievement drive consider themselves to have insufficient self-control as it does not meet their high standards.

This schema is more about giving in to impulsivity in ways that have negative effects on relationships and functioning, rather than missing a gym session or being behind on our to-do lists. If you think the insufficient self-control 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 psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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