‘A life plan is made in childhood, reinforced by parents, justified by subsequent events and culminating in a chosen alternative’
~ Eric Berne
In our lifetimes we have all written at least one story. Our own. We’re probably not even aware that we’ve written it! We began writing it from the day we were born and continued it throughout our childhood. By the time we were four we had the first draft version, then when we turned seven the entire story was complete. From this point on we continued to refine and polish it throughout our adolescence.
This story is otherwise known as our life script. The theory of life scripts was developed by Eric Berne in the 60s. According to Berne, each of us have a life script although most of us are probably not aware of it. These scripts are created in childhood through the transactions between us as children and our parental influences. They partly programme our behavior in later life. Often we are not aware of where they come from or even that they exist at all.
These scripts have an unconscious effect on how we live our lives. They impact our decisions and influence what we believe we can achieve. They shape the image we have of ourselves. Depending on our particular script we can interpret an event in a number of different ways. This is one of the reasons why two people can view the same event completely differently.
Whatever role we create for ourselves in our script, we can begin to perceive it as set in stone. We can even allow our script to shape the way we expect things to turn out in the future based on the role we are playing.
Where do these scripts come from?
According to experts, our life scripts come from the messages given to us by our parents and other key influences in our earliest childhood, both verbal and non verbal. They form the framework to which our main decisions are made. In Transactional Analysis scripts are seen as coming from 4 different sources in childhood:
Modelling: Observing how to others behave and being shown how to do things
Attributions: Being told as a child what we must be, being provided with what is expected or wanted of us. This can come in the form of labeling. ‘You’re just like X relative,’ ‘You’re… clever, naughty, the best, clumsy, strong, different, awful’
Suggestions: Indirectly being given messages through hints and encouragement.
Injunctions: Demands from our parents in our childhood aimed at stopping us from doing something. They are related to our parents desires, fears, worries and angers.
All of these things informed the life scripts we created in our childhood, which we have taken with us into adulthood.
Common Life Scripts:
Do any of these sounds familiar to you?
- Everyone else is better than me
- I’m unlucky, bad things always happen to me
- I am a loser
- I’m always the victim in situations
- I can’t make friends easily
- I’m terrible at learning languages, I can never pick them up
- I’m too fat and can’t lose weight, I won’t be content until I’m slimmer
- I’m unlucky in love, I never meet the right person
- People always leave me
- I won’t be happy until I meet someone
- I’m not good enough
- I can’t do it on my own
These are all examples of life scripts. There are positive scripts that can be empowering, but there are negative ones that can severely limit our lives if we let them shape our future behaviour. We can start to believe them and let them define us and how we live our lives. If history always seems to be repeating itself, maybe it is because the same script is playing over and over.
The 6 script processes:
Everyone has their unique script, but Eric Berne observed six key patterns in the scripts. Never, Always, Until, After, Almost, and Open-ended. He argued that these patterns are common to everyone.
Never: These people cannot do or get the things they most want to do or have. They feel that everything they desire is out of their reach.
Always: These people ask themselves ‘why does this always happen to me? They repeat the same mistakes, over and over again.
Until: These people believe until they have carried out some particular task or outcome, they can’t have something else.
After: These people believe they will pay the price in the future for doing something fun in the present.
Almost: These people are always one step away from getting what they want. Even if they do achieve their goal, they will not be satisfied with it, but immediately look for the next one.
Open-ended: These people reach a certain point in their lives and find themselves lost. They might have looked forward to something in the future, but when it happens, it does not give them happiness.
What can I do with this information?
The greatest power of understanding our script patterns and how they might be influencing our thoughts and behaviours, is the ability this gives us to change them.
Once we have recognized what we are doing, it gives us the opportunity to consciously take a different course of action where we can legitimately expect a different outcome.
1) Identify your life script
Your life script is individual to you, to uncover it it’s necessary to identify the patterns in your life, particularly if you feel that they can be destructive. To analyse your current life script try observing yourself and reveal the beliefs that you hear yourself repeating that cause you to make certain choices. Look for recurring patterns relating to your beliefs, desires and decisions. You will probably want to start this with the things that leap out at you, that are easy to identify, but keep adding to it as you notice patterns that you were not originally aware of. I have added my own life script to my Book Of Life.
2) Rewrite your script as an adult
Being aware of your script gives you an opportunity if desired to change it. You inherited your script from your childhood. If you were starting to write your story now rather than when you were 4 years old, how would you write it? From your current script, decide which elements are not helpful and identify how you would like to change them. Consider what you want to let go of from the old script and what you would like to replace it with. Rewrite your script based on what you know now as an adult rather than what you learnt subconsciously as a child.
3) Practice your new script
Changing our scripts means retraining our brains, this takes practice. The brain is like a muscle that needs working out. Understanding the theory is the first step, but practicing it is key. Continue identifying when you acknowledge that your script is at play and exchange your thoughts and behaviour with your new script.
Can you recognize any element of your current life script? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below and whether you have had any success changing anything about it.
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