Life Script

Along side the psychological life positions is the life script, sometimes called childhood scripts, found in Transactional Analysis theory we find the concept of the Life Script. Life scripts have a deep and unconscious effect on how we live our lives as adults. They affect the decisions we make, how we see ourselves and our abilities, and how we behave, yet we seldom are aware of them at all let alone realise where they come from.

This life script is developed very early in life as a consequence of the various messages we receive from parents and other caregivers and the ways in which we respond to them. Our beliefs and our best coping mechanisms can become a pattern that we subconsciously maintain through life in response to seemingly unrelated subsequent events.

Script messages are not just verbal they can come in the form of :

  • Modelling: The ways we perceive adults and peers behaviour.
  • Attributions: Being told ‘you’re just like…’
  • Suggestions: Hints and encouragement such as ‘Always do your best’.
  • Injunctions and counter-injunctions: Demands to not do or do things.

A script decision is made when a person discounts his own free child needs in order to survive, to maintain attachment to a caregiver. After numerous discounts the decision becomes something that is no longer consciously chosen, it becomes part of the script. These script decisions were the best we could manage and were sometimes very effective, but the coping mechanisms of childhood can become limiting and ineffective in adult life.

Though their roots are in childhood life scripts are created over time they may also be significantly affected by individual events. Life scripts can often be encapsulated very simply in phrases like ‘I am a bad person’ or ‘I must take care of everybody’, sometimes life scripts are empowering and at other times they can be ineffective or even damaging. People follow their script as they hope to get a pay off in some way, a familiar feeling, a sense of being loved, or to avoid rejection.


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