Lesson 1 of 7 - free your true Self to guide you

Perspective on Life Scripts

Do you know yours?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Experts Council

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/gwc/scripts.htm

 Created  07-23-2015

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This is one of the articles in self-improvement Lesson 1 - free your true Self and reduce inherited psychological wounds. This article examines how life "scripts" are inherited in childhood and how they may silently promote or inhibit your decisions, lifestyle, and achievements.

      The article assumes you're familiar with....

  • the intro this nonprofit Web site and the to premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lesson 1, parts 1 -3

  • the lethal [wounds + unawarene2ss] cycle

  • Perspective on social roles and rules

Perspective on "Scripts"

      A script is a set of detailed instruction on how someone should behave in certain situations. For example. in the theater, scripts are playwrights' instructions to each performer and production-crew member as to what to do and say as a play proceeds.

      Performers in media commercials always follow a script as to how to speak, move, and look to get heir message across. Musicians follow scripts in the form of musical scores that instruct them on how the composer wants them to play or sing their composition. Chefs create scripts (recipes) to guide others who prepare their dish or meal 

      Scripts vary in a number of ways:

  • Form - they can be tangible (like the examples above), or they can be intangible (implied), undocumented, and subtle.

  • Origin - Scripts can be created by one person, by several people (like parents and grandparents), or by a group (like church officials and politicians).

    People form their own scripts (like habits and rituals), or they create scripts for other people, like orchestrating athletic events and weddings.

  • Effects - scripts can range from benign (no personal or social harm to anyone) to toxic (someone gets significantly stressed or harmed).

    Painful scripts can motivate people to unconsciously create and  follow polar-opposite "counterscripts." that significantly shape their lives and relationships.

  • Clarity - They can be written and explicit (like an actor's script) or undocumented, vague, and open to interpretation and change, like social rituals and traditions.

  • Simplicity - scripts can be simple (e.g. when we meet, we will each say something) or complex, like courtship procedures and legal trials.

  • Applicability - A script may apply to one person, a class of people (e.g. all the females in our family or church will...), or a social group, like a family, a clan, a team, or an ethnic, religious, political, occupational, or racial group. And...

  • Scope - they can govern individual events (like birthday celebrations or meals) or direct a person's whole life ("You will never amount to much.").

      This article focuses on the latter:

  Personal Life Scripts

      In my experience as a therapist, most people are unaware of personal, ancestral, and cultural scripts that shape their lives. The reason for this article is to explore how such life scripts can cause significant psychological wounding and affect personal growth and healing. Once aware of limiting and unhealthy scripts, people can choose to stop using them and live more authentically.

      To make this more concrete, let's review some...

  Sample Scripts

Positive (Helpful) Scripts

  • "You will succeed at whatever you choose to do"

  • "You will live a long and prosperous life"

  • "You will be an excellent parent"

  • "You will be rich and famous"

  • "You'll graduate at the top of your class."

  • "You will be a well-respected doctor / lawyer / judge / author / etc"

  • "You will make us all proud of you"

  • "You shall attain a high pubic office"

  • "You'll be a credit to our family / group / religion / race"

  • "You're not a quitter."

Toxic (Harmful) Life Scripts 

  • "You'll never amount to anything"

  • "You're a loser and always will be"

  • "You can't do anything right"

  • "You'll never be wife / husband material"

  • "You'll probably fail / flunk out / be expelled / die young / ..."

  • "No wo/man will have you"

  • "You are a sinner and will burn in hell."

  • "They'll never hire anyone like you!"

  • "Why aren't you more like ____ (a sibling / parent / relative / ...) ?"

  • "I didn't want another child (you)"

      There are many variations of scripts like these. Can you think of some? Can you think of a child or adult who's life is shaped by a script like any of these?

  Where Do Life Scripts Come From?

      The most common source is one or more of the adults who raise you - in your youngest years - specially parents and grandparents, They may be spoken, written, or quoted - e.g. "Grampa Mark always said you'd never amount to much." Some life scripts come from the spoken or unspoken behaviors of a revered teacher, clergyperson, coach, hero/ine, or mentor.


How Do Scripts Shapes Lives?

      Here's a real example.

      A fifty-something single woman asked me to help her solve two vexing life patterns. She said "I want a home of my own, but can't afford one, so I have rented a series of rooms and apartments. My pattern is once I rent, I "become uncomfortable" with my landlord and/or neighbors. "I feel unwelcome, and have to leave."

      The second pattern, she told me, had to do with money. "I always lose it, somehow,"

      The woman said her young mother had been poor, uneducated, single, and had a series of kids with several men. As my client grew up, her mother and siblings "were evicted" several times because "she (mother) was not welcome." 

      When my client was about 10, her struggling mother sent her and a younger sister to live with her grandparents. My client recalled feeling these elders were annoyed at the responsibility of raising the sisters, and said "I felt unwelcome in their home."

      This woman was compulsively reliving her childhood script of "I'm not welcome," which at times had caused her to be homeless. She saw the "pattern," but felt powerless to stop it and acquire a stable home for herself.

      What gave this script it's power?

  How Life Scripts Work

      To answer this question, you need to accept the idea that all normal personalities are composed of talented ''subselves,''  like members of an orchestra. Three kinds of normal subselves are "Inner Children;" "Guardians," who vigilantly watch out for the children; and "Managers," who guide you when the Kids and Guardians are inactive.

      When subselves activate, they cause thoughts and emotions, and may affect the host person's body in minor to major ways, like headaches, cramps, sweating, and stomach aches..

      These talented subselves are formed during the host person's early years as her or his brain develops. They are strongly shaped by the values and perceived behaviors of family adults and older siblings. Having little life experience, typical Inner Kids are very naive and simplistic - they believe whatever they hear and see is "the truth."

      Against all logic, some normal Inner Children live in the past. they literally don't know about the current world and who their host person has become since childhood (wiser and more mature). It's as though these young, innocent personality parts become stuck in the host person's early years

      In my client's case, her Inner Kids had heard her mother say before evictions "We're not welcome here." Her subselves also interpreted her overloaded mom's facial expressions, body language, and speech as meaning "You (the young daughter) aren't welcome (to me)." They took that as absolute truth, and generalized it as the girl grew.

      One early effect was my client dropped out of school after second grade because she (her ruling Inner Child/ren) felt she "was "not welcomed" (accepted, liked) by her peers and teachers. That distorted belief had a profound life-long affect on her self esteem, creating a new script among some of her subselves: "I'm uneducated, dumb, and inferior (and I'm not welcome)."

      Each time she rented an apartment or room, one or more or her Inner Kids ad Guardians (e.g. her Pessimist, Cynic, and Doubter subselves) would convince her semi-consciously "I'm not welcome here,"

      Then her well-intentioned Magician subself wound invent compelling reasons why she had to leave ("The landlord is spying on me."). Because this cycle happened a number of times, she came to expect the feeling of "being unwelcome."

      So - scripts shape (some) lives because people's personality subselves are stuck in the past. They are unable to reality-test the scripts they learned or created for accuracy and relevance, and the host person is unaware of this,

      I suspect you're now wondering "Do I have any harmful life scripts?" and "If I do, how can I free myself from them?"  The rest of this article offers answers to both questions.

  How to Identify Life Scripts

      Get quiet and undistracted and meditate on these questions for each adult in your early life:

  • The woman who raised me said I ____________

  • The man who raised me said I __________

  • The teacher who most influenced me said I _________________

  • The friend who most influenced me said that I _______________

  • I fee that I must ______________

  • My ancestors said or implied that people in our family ___________

  • To be a good (woman / man / person), I ________________

  • To succeed at my life, I  _________________

  • Review the sample scripts above and see if any feel like they apply to you.

  • Think of your nationality, Then allow this sentence to complete itself: "Because I am (nationality), I __________________.

      Notice the theme of these statements, and see if they suggest a belief or expectation that strongly influences your behaviors and decisions. Also, be alert for "anti-scripts": being determined not to be the way someone in your childhood said you must or would be.

  How to Free Yourself from Harmful Life Scripts

      A harmful script is an unquestioned belief that significantly limits or hinders your self esteem, ambitions, achievements, relationships, freedoms, and/or shortens your life (e.g. "I will die in my thirties.") Another type of harmful script is one which causes significant guilt, frustration, or shame by being unrealistic or unachievable (I am destined to end world hunger.")

      Such scripts are usually caused by an Inner Child living in the past. Various thoughts or stimulations activate this child, who then causes the script to play in your head - perhaps with the voice of the person who gave you the script. The script may or may not have associated images or memories that recur automatically.

      To free yourself from a toxic script, use steps like these:

  • identify the specific script and where it originated;

  • study part 3 of Lesson 1 to learn about your personality subselves;

  • list your subselves, and identify the Inner Child that causes (believes) your script;

  • befriend that young personality part, and introduce her or him to your Nurturer subself and your true Self;

  • Mentally invite the Child to tour your home in the present, and teach her or him your present age and the current year.

  • When it feels right, ask the Child to come to live with you in the present. Introduce him or her to all your other subselves.

  • Help this subself (a) trust your true Self and other Manager subselves to keep you safe, and to (b) release any fear of disobeying the script,

  • If relevant, teach the Child that the person/s who originated the script are dead / gone / not active in your current life

  • Call an inner council meeting of all your subselves and ask if any of them still believe the script. If any do, repeat these steps as needed. Compose and announce a new script to replace the old toxic one.

      Use your instincts and wisdom to tailor these steps to suit your unique personality, ancestry, and situation.


      This article proposes that the lives of some people are shaped by life scripts" inherited in childhood from family adults

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful     

Share/Bookmark  Prior page  /  Lesson 1


 site intro  /  course outline  /  site search  /  definitions  /  chat contact