In linking back to my blog, ‘What is Different about Psychotherapy’ I will begin this blog with the final sentence of that blog and take those thoughts and musings further into a fascinating and clever piece of theory that I believe is enlightening in terms of us understanding our internal and unconscious modus operandi.
… ‘as adults we have long operated a particular software that is not about to be redefined easily. It takes time to massage and coerces the intrapsychic process to deliver the awareness and understanding of whatever is driving the dysfunctional, distressing, thoughts feelings and behaviours ...
That long operated software has indeed been in place for a protracted period! Science and research show that as embryos we are listening and learning in utero.
If this is the case what does that really mean?
Perhaps that we actually begin learning in utero, then at birth and by the time we are 4 – 5 or 6 years old we have embedded the essential storyline scenario into our future. By 7 we have completed the key elements of our Life Script. Up until about 12 years old we are refining those selected elements, adding a few details here and there as life unfolds.
In adolescence, we revise our Life Script updating it with input from our now-peer-group and family.
As with any story our Life Script has a beginning, a middle and an end. It has characters; good, bad, right, wrong, idols, felons, hero’s, rouges … themes … plots … the whole stratagem to get us through life as we will experience it.
By adulthood, this process is way, way, way from our consciousness… and as a result, we live out our Life Script unconsciously.
I feel Eric Berne in his Transactional Analysis theory described beautifully the development of our learning how to be in the world, and how we build and develop our life experiences into our Life Script. Berne said we lived out our homemade ‘preordained lives’.
So, the Life Script is, in fact, the unconscious life-plan we cultivate during the early years of our lives. This happens from all and sundry interactions we have with the adults and or main carers around us in our early life. This Life Script is reinforced by those closest to us. It occurs as a result of repetition of what happens. For example, if a parent constantly says, ‘we are not a bright, educated family’, a child then scripts that as a part of who he/she is. The child begins to ‘know’, ‘we are not a bright educated family’, and the child then begins to live into that belief, truncating life into that belief with behaviour to suit.
Just as we teach a child to walk, talk, eat, speak language or two … or three, dress and interact, so do we teach them other, not so useful ways of being in the world.
Interestingly, children will collect and collate endless messages – data – that we do not intend for them to have. Not only will they internalise them, but they will also use a very, uninformed, primitive translation processing software to interpret, making those experiences into life decision.s Thereby creating a Life Script.
This behaviour is often described as; Scripty Behaviour. Scripty Behaviour is when one’s behaviour appears driven more by the unconscious process than by any rational here and now data and considerations. Like much of current society today.
A good example of this is the burgeoning narcissistic traits of an upcoming generation. This is occurring because parents who might have been criticised in their own childhood have attempted to circumvent those same painful events happening with their own child. In this process, they are busy telling the child how brilliant wonderful, clever, smart etc … they are.
Two things are going on here in relation to the creation of their Life Script.
The first is that the child is interpreting that they are only wonderful and nothing else. They have no counterbalance to the real world, that their behaviour, or conversations, or interactions might not always be ideal … or wonderful.
The second is that a child who is not guided with balance and thought about the world as it really is will build zero resilience to manage a world full of question, rebukes and challenges. Setting the child up for a difficult life in the ‘real world’.
Life Scripts are often created as a result of childlike or child formed illusion. Unless someone does the long-term work of psychotherapy or has a life-threatening/changing event these illusions not only form the basis of our adult thoughts feeling and behaviours, but they underpin our every action and operational process.
I once heard an interview with Amy Schumer. When asked why she thought she was successful. She replied something along the lines of her mother always telling her she was wonderful and could do anything. Schumer says, ‘it was an awful shock when I realised not everyone thought that about me’. This often makes her life challenging.
Schumer came out of that Life Script pretty well by the look of her life and career. Sadly that is not the case for many. Actually, in effect building non-resilient children frequently cause that person to experience things like anxiety, depression, rejection, phobias, social vulnerability and fear in the world at large.
In psychotherapy work, the abandonment of these illusions can lead to (further) depression despair and anxiety. Hence in early the contracting phase of the work of psychotherapy, I will usually discuss with people that their symptoms may get worse before they get better.
The development of a child is a precarious thing.
I’m not about to suggest one will ever create a perfect Life Script for their child. The aim is to educate, develop, manoeuvre and encourage a child with great care and balance so that they are able to find a way to live life with a resilient Life Script.
As a closing thought; it is not possible to out-think our unconscious with strategies, plans and ideas. Only long-term psychotherapy can access those deep archaic recesses of the unconscious and aid and repair of early Life Script decisions. For more on psychotherapy click this link