"If we wish to change our sentiments, it is necessary before all to modify the idea which produced them, and to recognize either that it is not correct itself, or that it does not touch our interests." W. E. B. DuBois "Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact." William James 6. OUR SCRIPT IS CREATED Dr. Berne went on to create a school of psychology called Transactional Analysis, or "TA," in which the three ego states are fundamental concepts. Another important concept in TA is that of "life scripts" (Berne, 1972). These concepts have proven so valuable that in some form they influence most mental health counseling today. TA also asserts that part of people's inability to live well is due to being taught early in life, often very subtly, not to do one or more of three important aspects to living: to feel, to think, and to love. These injunctions against feeling, thinking, and loving often become an integral part of our life script, and consequently they become significant obstacles to achieving our potential. In the story of "The Mutiny On The Bounty," Captain Bligh was following a life script which was no longer appropriate for the circumstances. He was also cut off from much of his ability to feel and love. Even though he was somewhat rational, his thinking Adult was contaminated by the stern rules and preconceived judgements of his Parent ego state. And the results of his script were tragic. Not all life scripts are like Capt. Bligh's, and neither do they always lead to such negative outcomes. But in many instances scripts will take one of three distinct patterns: the helpless victim, the fervent critic or persecutor, or the selfless helper. In addition, people's scripts are often dominated by one ego state which shuts out the other ego states. Sometimes people even create scripts for themselves that form a healthy balance and lead them to real fulfillment and love. MESSAGES AND DECISIONS Life scripts are comparable to a movie plot we mentally form for ourselves when we are children, which we then accept as how our lives are destined to proceed and turn out. These scripts are formed as a result of two important influences during childhood. The first is the messages conveyed to us in the form of injunctions (rules and practices we were to follow) and attributions (characteristics we were somehow told we did or didn't possess). The second influence is the decisions we made as children that were based on what we thought at the time was needed to best survive. In childhood we are taught by direct communication, and perhaps even more significant, we learn from the many obscure messages which we usually aren't even aware of. Both ways effectively teach us important lessons that we carry into adulthood. However, the obscure messages often lead to more perplexing problems because their lessons operate on a more unconscious level, thus creating problems that are difficult to understand due to their hidden roots. Regardless of how we come to learn it, though, to the extent that we have learned not to feel, not to think, or not to love, we also have learned not to be in touch with important components to a complete life. Many times these negative messages are passed on according to gender: girls often learn they should feel but not think, and boys often learn they should think but not feel. But because of the misleading ideas about love that continue to endure, most children learn that they should restrict their loving. These lessons then become incorporated into life scripts. There is also another big problem with the lessons we learned and the decisions we made in childhood: when we were children we didn't have the knowledge and experience to evaluate properly what we saw and were told. We were poor judges of the messages we received and of our real capabilities, and therefore we couldn't make the best decisions about how to live. Nevertheless, even though these messages and decisions are often unsound, they are formed into our life scripts and carried with us into adulthood, where they are often acted out as if that's the way our lives have been programmed. The scripts become ingrained in us so well that even when they're no longer appropriate, we habitually follow them in such a way that our beliefs and expectations are subsequently fulfilled (the self- fulfilling prophecy). Not only do we follow our scripts, but we act in ways that reinforce our certainty of them. Imagine a method of fortune-telling in which you are asked how you think your life will turn out, and your answer is based on two things in your childhood: the injunctions and attributions you received, and the immature decisions you made. This prediction you would make for yourself is equivalent to your primary life script that you will tend to follow even though it doesn't produce the result you really want--unless you change it. REWRITING OUR SCRIPT Fortunately, we can update and change our life scripts to more accurately reflect our true abilities and the realities of the world. This process of "rescripting" is done by using our rational, information processing Adult to become aware of the beliefs and rules we acquired and the decisions we made when we formed our scripts. Then as we identify these beliefs, rules, and decisions of childhood, we need to evaluate them and decide if they are still accurate and appropriate. If they aren't, we need to update them using rational, factual information on which we can better base our lives. Like so much else, this requires effort in being aware of what's going on inside ourselves. When the Child or Parent ego state interferes with accomplishing what we want, we can change our ego state simply by calmly observing ourselves, which automatically helps us move into the Adult. Then if we find ourselves carrying out an inappropriate element of our old script, we can put in its place a new Adult tape consisting of more sound information and updated decisions. Similarly, we can also add to our new script the decision to encourage the positive traits of our Parent and Child and disregard the unhelpful injunctions against these traits. Then we need to look for and actively promote the sense of wonder, creativity, and nurturing in ourselves. This is especially important when these have been hindered by another ego state and injunctions against them. A SCRIPT OUTLINE The variations to life scripts are almost endless, but a summary of one that eventually becomes fulfilling might go like this: In their childhood it was communicated (verbally and nonverbally) to some people that they were [strong/weak], [smart/dumb], [creative/uncreative], and that when they grew up they would [marry/never marry], have a [great career/dreary job], be [rich/poor], have [children/no children], be [happy/unhappy]. It was also to some extent communicated to them not to feel (boys predominantly), not to think (girls predominantly), and/or not to love (some children get the message not to do two or even all of these). Then these people lived according to what they learned and the decisions they made early in life, and consequently their lives turned out for the most part just as they thought it would. But they [slowly/suddenly] realized they were [quietly desperate/ suffering greatly] and that this kind of life wasn't what they really wanted--so they made the decision to change their lives. Then they gradually gained awareness of the feelings, beliefs, rules, and judgements that they had acquired in childhood and which were still affecting them, and they began to use their potential to [feel/think/love], which before had remained dormant. But all this change required tremendous effort and struggle, and at times their troubles and emotional pain became even worse. Eventually though, through new decisions derived from new information about themselves and how to live, they created a new life script. With practice they learned to substitute this new script in place of the old one. The new script wasn't always a success, but when it didn't succeed these people knew that they could learn from their mistakes and failures, and that the next effort was more likely to succeed because of what they learned. Now they are more aware of their feelings and their ability to think and love. They can change their thoughts and actions, which in turn also changes what they feel. And they also love more without conditions, and they seem to have more love even though the amount of love they give away to others has increased. Though their lives aren't perfect, they seem relatively full and rewarding. In today's world the number of people who perpetually follow their initial life script seems to be slowly decreasing. More people are becoming aware that they have alternatives, and more people are rebelling against the scripts they acquired as children. The problem is that without some understanding of how we unconsciously reinforce our old script with our old tapes, and without a specific replacement for an old script, the task of successfully leaving a script behind and adopting an effective new one is much more difficult. To help insure a successful voyage, we need to wisely choose a specific course to follow. THE NEED FOR RECOGNITION Another important aspect of life scripts is the concept of "strokes," which are forms of positive or negative recognition, both verbal and nonverbal. Positive strokes can take the form of friendly gestures, positive words, or pleasant physical touching--and we require some of these for a healthy nourishment of our inner being. The more that positive strokes are given unconditionally, the better they acknowledge the inherent worth of the recipients. Similarly, the more these strokes are given based on meeting certain requirements, the more the recipients are likely to feel that their self-worth is based on what they do, rather than feeling inherently worthy. On the opposite side are negative strokes, which indicate some form of disapproval, or worse yet, a lack of respect. Although negative strokes can sometimes help people learn, they frequently interfere with development by causing people to feel less worthy and less capable. Therefore, negative strokes need to be given with restraint and careful consideration for the effect on the recipient--and this can be difficult to do because of our personal biases. All people require a certain amount of strokes to live, and the drive to obtain strokes is a powerful motivation behind much behavior. If people don't receive a sufficient amount of positive strokes, they will then resort to obtaining negative ones. Though negative strokes are unhealthy, they at least give recognition to a person's existence. This drive for at least some stroking, even if it's negative, can often be seen in the anti-social behavior of children and adults. In children it may be in the form of some displeasing behavior that brings attention, and in adults it may take the form of senseless rebellion or criminal behavior. We can use the concept of strokes in our own lives by examining what kind of strokes we get and how we go about getting them. Some people spend a great deal of energy trying to meet the conditions of other people in order to get strokes. But the drawback to this approach is in living according to the demands and conditions of others, and losing sight of one's own basic needs and abilities. Other people may receive too many negative strokes without realizing that they need to change the situation which is causing them to get so many negative ones. By recognizing what kind of strokes we receive and what we do to get them, we can then alter our lives so we achieve better outcomes. The concept of strokes can also be used to examine how we relate to others. The tendency of most people is to focus on the negative more than the positive, and this usually is done unconsciously. It's easy to fall into a pattern of giving too many negative strokes, and such a pattern will usually hurt the recipients as well as our relationships with them. Another pitfall is giving conditional positive strokes but not enough unconditional ones. Consequently, becoming aware of the strokes we give others is important for building good relationships. By giving positive, yet honest strokes, we can help to nourish others and build better relationships. Furthermore, we can increase the quality of the strokes we give by basing them more on the inherent worth of all people. INFERIORITY Another factor in our life script is a basic aspect of our Child ego state that was in the chapter on "Internal Barriers." This is the basic, universal situation of children being unable to care for themselves and being ruled by adults. As a result of this situation, every person's Child ego state acquires feelings of inadequacy and inferiority--a feeling of being "not OK," while others, especially grown-ups, appear powerful and superior. This feeling of being "not OK" is recorded inside us (a "not OK" Child tape) and carried into adulthood, where it keeps popping up for replay any time our button for it is pushed. Therefore this feeling (the "not OK" tape) needs to be recognized and understood when it gets in our way, so we can effectively deal with it instead of struggling against it. Feeling "not OK" can actually turn into an inferior position, and there are two common reactions to being in this position. The first is to play the role of "Victim"--willfully becoming dependent and acting less than equal (Karpman, 1968). What isn't always obvious is that something is also gained from playing the role of Victim. In TA the benefit derived from playing a role is called the "payoff." Often the person playing this role (or other roles) will be relatively unaware of the payoff derived from staying in the role. Payoffs can be difficult to recognize, but they usually are what motivate people to remain in a role and not take action that would change their role. When people stay in a Victim role, the payoff in general can be not having to work at and/or risk changing to a new and unfamiliar role. The relative comfort of staying in a familiar situation--despite how bad it may be--can seem preferable to the risk and effort of venturing into something new and relatively unknown. A job or marriage may be bad, but what might happen if a person makes changes may be worse yet, and the difficulties may increase. With this outlook a reason to not help oneself is formed and maintained. A phrase common to such situations is "Yeah, but . . .", which precedes an excuse for not taking action. People can also stay in a Victim role by blaming others; again the payoff is often an excuse for not helping oneself--a reason not to take effective action. The phrase "If only . . .", directed towards others, is often used in such instances. But regardless of how people phrase their excuses, by staying in the role of Victim they gain the payoff of avoiding the risk and effort of changing their lives. This payoff is a major block to getting out of the Victim role, and recognizing it can be an important step to freeing oneself from this role. SOPHISTICATED DISGUISES The second common reaction to being in the inferior position of feeling "not OK" often occurs when people assume a status that implies or involves some form of superiority. Because this reaction begins early in life and functions like a disguise, it frequently isn't recognized as originating from feelings of inferiority. However, when people assume an attitude of superiority and act as if others are inferior to them, they are actually trying to escape an old inferior feeling. Sometimes such people may actually have more control over others, but then they may need to flaunt this power in order to cover up their deep, inner feeling of inferiority. They also need to maintain the status of superiority or they risk feeling "not OK." This process can become hidden in the form of two roles. One of these is the "Persecutor." In this role people elevate themselves to some position of superiority over others who are seen as deserving to be persecuted because of some perceived failing or inadequacy. Persecutors are often applauded in public and admired, as when they crusade against criminals or those viewed as evil or immoral. But many times those who play this role cause problems in society by causing some people to be unfairly maligned and sometimes unjustly persecuted. A lessor variation of the Persecutor is the "Critic," whose attitude of superiority is demonstrated by his or her inordinate amount of criticism towards other people. This person may feel better as a result of being so critical, but little is actually done to implement positive, constructive solutions. Often in the name of "righting wrongs," such impassioned critics can spawn solutions that are short-sighted and consequently lead to greater pessimism. The second role, which is often a more subtle disguise than the first, is the "Rescuer." In this role people enhance themselves through a position of relative superiority to others who need help. Rescuers are frequently praised because of how much they help others, yet those who play this role sometimes hinder the people they try to help--the recipients can become more dependent and experience decreased self-confidence. Thus rescuers can also create a barrier to other people becoming more self-sufficient. This problem related to rescuing can easily occur in the health, social service, and religious professions. Helping others can provide a sense of self-worth, but when people need to help others in order to feel good about themselves, this dependency can interfere with how much they really are helping. In the education of such professions there usually is an effort to help reduce this role playing and eliminate its side effects, but because of its subtle deceptiveness, it still can occur. Avoiding this problem is part of the challenge in these professions. Playing the role of persecutor or rescuer often occurs in the general population when people genuinely try to help, but aren't aware of their real inner reasons for doing so and its possible negative effects on others. Both these roles can benefit society and their value does need to be acknowledged. Yet those who play these roles are also beneficiaries of personal payoffs which often are not recognized as being a motivator for playing the role. Furthermore, society could benefit if the adverse affects of playing these roles was acknowledged more. Aside from how playing these roles can affect others, a major problem with all three roles is that they inhibit those who play them from dealing with their own buried feelings of inferiority--and consequently these people remain unable to fully accept themselves. To deal with these feelings requires the effort and risk of people going into the deepest part of their being to confront their fears and motivations. It also might mean giving up their role of victim, persecutor, or rescuer. But the cost of avoiding this self-examination is remaining distant from their inner-selves, which also restricts them from a broader understanding of humanity. ROTATING ROLES These three roles also share a trait that can add more confusion to interpersonal relationships. Although people will usually play one main role, they will sometimes switch to one of the other roles: the victim can change to rescuer for those worse off, and to persecutor towards those who they can find fault with; the rescuer can become the persecutor when the rescue doesn't turn out as expected, and then become the victim when the rescue and persecution ultimately fail; the persecutor can become a victim of the never-ending battle against wrong, and then can end up as rescuer to others who are worse off. Regardless of which role we begin with, unless we free ourselves from playing such roles we will most likely switch to another role at some time, and then the resulting confusion will make it more difficult to solve our problems. Role playing and this role rotation can happen to some extent in most relationships. But as we relate to others from these roles, we decrease the likelihood of a positive outcome. If we interact with others from a role of us being superior, we are masking our feelings of inferiority, and our humanity as well. This mask will eventually interfere with our effectiveness. If we relate from a role of inadequacy and dependency--the victim--we dilute our power and avoid taking responsibility for ourselves. GAMES In his book Games People Play, Berne (1964) classified a game as a recurring behavior pattern that has a hidden psychological motive different from the apparent social motivation. Though he documented dozens of games that people commonly play, he also pointed out that analyzing games and even refusing to play them can become a game, and that this needs to be recognized. While it's important not to let our interest in games become another game, a basic understanding of them will help us recognize and overcome them. An examination of game playing can be summed up in three parts: 1. Which ego state we are in (Child, Parent, or Adult), and which ego state of the other person are we relating to and which one are they actually in? (If we try to relate to an ego state other than the one the person is in, the interaction will become tangled.) 2. Are we putting ourselves in a position of being less than equal (inferior and dependent--usually in the role of victim), or more than equal (superior--often in the role of persecutor, critic, or rescuer), and how may this be rooted in an underlying feeling of being "not OK"? 3. What is the hidden purpose, or payoff, for us in playing a particular part in an interaction or relationship? How does this payoff hamper us from growing? By reducing game analysis to these three parts, we can more easily use it as a tool for understanding ourselves and our relationships. As we do so we will increase our ability to relate to people as equals, while we decrease the effects of role playing and hidden payoffs. SEEING MORE CLEARLY An excellent opportunity to use this summary of games in conjunction with the process of detached personal observation is when we are experiencing strife in a relationship. In the midst of such conflict we can interrupt how we are reacting and mentally step back and observe ourselves, with a calm and dispassionate objectivity, to see what ego state we are in. Clues to this can be found in our body language and tone of voice--are we tense in some body area, maybe the jaw, chest or arms, or do we seem listless or depressed; is our voice unusually loud or soft, quick or harsh; are we acting hurt, aggressive or defensive? Another important clue is the thoughts we are thinking--are they old, recurring tapes of thoughts that keep us playing the same old roles or games? Although we could also try to objectively examine the other person to see what ego state they are in, this can be difficult to do in a conflict situation. And the greater the conflict, the less likely we are to be objective. Worse yet, trying to do this can distract us from fully examining ourselves. As we become better at examining ourselves, we can extend this process to see if we're coming from a position of inferiority and dependency or one of superiority, and then what the payoff is for us in playing a role or maintaining a certain position. Once we identify this payoff, overcoming the role will be easier. Such observation can be difficult to do in the middle of a conflict, and the tendency is to use it to examine past situations. Examining our past in this way will give us greater insight into our problems, as well as be good preliminary experience in examining ourselves with greater objectivity. But the most benefit from detached personal observation takes place when we use it in the here and now, at the time we're in the midst of a conflict. We don't have to be experts at detecting the different aspects of our ego states, life scripts, and games. Whenever we find ourselves becoming angry or dejected because of some conflict, just starting the process of mentally stepping back to observe ourselves puts us more into the Adult ego state and gives us greater mastery of our choices. One very beneficial choice we can sometimes make is to consciously let go of our angry feelings. The power of this process lies in changing from being wrapped up in our conflict and being too close to see it clearly, to becoming more of an objective observer of ourselves and the conflict. At the same time, by interrupting our thinking we automatically change it. This in turn also gives us the power to alter our feelings, because when we change our thoughts, the feelings that accompany our thoughts change too. And the more we practice this method of observation, as well as choosing to let go of anger or other detrimental feelings, the better we will become at doing it. A RISK There is also risk in observing ourselves: we may find things we don't like. Many times people avoid self-examination because it means examining one's motivations, beliefs, and true intentions, and they're afraid of what they will discover. Nevertheless, we need to find the courage to confront our less desirable qualities, and then take the time to develop better ways of relating to our world. Doing this requires a commitment to working at it, but we can gain encouragement by knowing that this is the optimal way to live, and that the more we practice such self-examination, the easier it will become. When we do find things in ourselves that we don't like, it's important not to be hard on ourselves. Instead, we need to accept ourselves as inherently good with some qualities that we're trying to improve. Throughout life we need to honor our inherent worth and reward ourselves for striving to improve. CHEMICAL AND OTHER CONTAMINATION Some words of caution about using detached personal observation are also necessary: all mind-altering drugs can interfere with the process and make it counter-productive. Alcohol is by far the most prevalent and biggest problem, with cocaine and amphetamines next on the list. Furthermore, the negative effect is multiplied immensely when one mind-altering drug is used with another. The problem is that mind-altering drugs can inhibit the functioning of the Adult ego state in very insidious ways. When people are under the influence of such a drug and try to use the rational Adult mode to examine their situation, their thinking more easily becomes contaminated by the negative aspects of their Child and Parent. But because of the faulty functioning of their Adult, they can't sufficiently comprehend how their objectivity and judgement has deteriorated. If people get into this situation, a clue for themselves that they aren't functioning well in their Adult ego state occurs when they are angry or depressed and their supposedly objective and rational observation only makes the situation worse. The best option if this happens is for them and others to accept that because they are affected by a drug, their ability to use their Adult and the process of detached personal observation has probably been impaired, and therefore they should wait until the drug has worn off before dealing with the problem. Unfortunately, the mind-altering problem with drugs can make it hard to recognize or accept this clue. As mentioned in the last chapter, the contamination of the Adult ego state by unhelpful aspects of the Child and Parent can also take place without the effect of drugs. Such contamination occurs when we believe we are being objective and rational, but the hurts and defenses of our Child and/or the rules and judgments of our Parent contaminate our Adult. Then our objectivity is reduced and our thinking becomes distorted due to the contamination. We can identify such contamination by recognizing when instead of making things better, our thinking is causing negative emotions and unproductive actions to increase. If we look honestly at our past patterns, we may find times when this occurred, along with some signals to look for: increased feelings of hurt, anger, or inadequacy, and authoritarian, manipulative, or defensive behavior. Then when a present conflict is deteriorating, we can be on the lookout for these signals; if we see them, this is an indicator that we need to stop and use detached personal observation to find how our Child or Parent is contaminating our Adult. The concepts of the three ego states and life scripts incorporating strokes, roles, and games may be the most significant advance in self-examination since the ancient Greeks stressed "Know thyself." Used as tools for examining and understanding ourselves, they can help us develop our ability to love and be happy. By connecting these concepts with the practices in the next chapter, we can further enhance our power to improve our lives. Making such changes in our lives is not easy, but the greatest challenges in life also contain the roots for the most fulfilling rewards. The advantage in choosing this approach is akin to trimming our best sails to take full advantage of the wind's power. Questions we can ask ourselves: 1. What is my life script? In what ways does it limit my life to the inaccurate things that I learned as a child? How can I update my life script with information regarding my true abilities and potential? 2. How do I try to get the strokes I need? Are the ones I give and receive mostly positive or negative? How could I alter my life to receive more positive and unconditional strokes? How could I give more positive strokes? 3. When do I feel inadequate, inferior, or "not OK"? How does this cause me to respond? Do I sometimes respond with less ability than I'm really capable of? Do I sometimes assume superiority over others to cover an old, hidden feeling of inferiority? 4. How might I sometimes play the role of "Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor?" What is the "Payoff" I receive if I play one of these roles? What might be a hidden motive for continuing my behavior pattern? 5. When has my Child or Parent contaminated my Adult and caused my thinking to be distorted, which in turn has caused a conflict to escalate or be prolonged? What signals could I be on the lookout for so I could use detached personal observation to improve my approach to conflicts? These last two chapters are just the basics of TA. Some books that can greatly enhance the use of these concepts are: "I'm OK, You're OK: A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis" by Thomas Harris (despite the jokes that have resulted from its title, this is an excellent, enjoyable explanation of TA) "Success Through Transactional Analysis" by Jut Meininger "Scripts People Live" by Claude Steiner "Beyond Games And Scripts" by Eric Berne (definitive selections of Berne's writings) "Self-Esteem" by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning (although not a TA book, it is excellent and can be used in conjunction with TA principles; emphasizes overcoming fear and self-doubt)

Copyright 2001 by Keith L. Kendrick
E-mail: awaken@teleport.com
Url: :http://www.inner-growth.com
http://home.teleport.com/~awaken/lifebook.htm