There is a theory used in counselling which states that we decide how our life will turn out by the age of seven.
We make self-limiting decisions in childhood in the interest of survival. This plan is called a life script, as it’s a story we have made up for us on how life will be.
Children brought up in the same environment will make different life script decisions. Although, initially it’s a conscious story it soon becomes unconscious and so becomes natural and our normality. It’s based on what we learn from the adults in our lives very early on in our childhood and how and what they communicate both verbally and implied.
By the time we are four years old we have the basic essential details in place, and by the age of seven all the main and important details have been created.
Then for about five years, until we are twelve, we polish our script up and add characters which are both the heroes and villains. Finally, we the spend ten years looking for experiences that reinforce our script and prove us right.
Our life plan is complete (beginning, middle and end) and will be directed towards a payoff, which is either good or bad, based on messages from our parents or parental figures on how we will end up or what they attribute to us like ‘you are naughty’ or ‘you are useless like your dad’.
It’s now completely outside of our awareness, and the only way we would have any clue about it is through our dreams or if we have therapy. We redefine our reality to fit the script and create our own frame of reference and bearing in mind that four-year olds don’t make the same kind of decisions as adults, you can image how our realities can be distorted.
As you wrote this script as a child, you can re-write it, so how would your life story look if you could change it?
Although there are many types of life scripts and everyone will be different, we can split them in to four types –
- Until – this means we can never be happy until we have…or life begins at 40, but when we get there it may be 50
- After –there is always a price to pay for everything, we cannot be too happy as something bad will happen after
- Always – the generalisation that we always will be the one to suffer or win
- Never – this one is when we know we will never get what we want, we will never succeed or fail
- Almost – we almost make it; we can see what we want we can only get close to it never obtain it
Our life script therefore limits our freedom, takes away our free will and we don’t know about it. It’s just how life is – we all know the ‘life is always hard’ kind of person.
So, what are the messages we get that create our life script so early in our lives? These are called injunctions and there are lots of them. They start when we are pre-verbal, and these are often implied by adult’s behaviour towards us and not said outright. We often get more than one that forms the basis of your script
- Don’t be – we hear messages like ‘I’ll kill you’, ‘I wish I’d not had you’ or we develop this injunction as a child after hearing that our birth has caused trauma or upset. Sometimes the adult feels deprived of attention or love and blames us. We end up with a script that makes us feel worthless, useless, and unloved.
- Don’t be who you are – we know that the adults in our lives wanted someone different as child, being told ’I wish I’d had a boy not a girl’ or we have a favoured sibling. Or we are compared to some other child who is felt to be better than us or the ideal non-existent child. As adults we may struggle with who we are or where we belong in life.
- Don’t be a child – The adults in our lives feel threatened by having a child in the family, an adult feels ‘there is only room for one kid in this house and it’s me’. We feel like we can only stay if we act like a grown up. Or If we are an only child and the adults argue we know there is only us here, so we are the cause and we better grow up and be good, similarly the eldest child takes responsibility for their siblings when the adults don’t. This makes us awkward adults who can’t loosen up and have fun.
- Don’t grow up – when the adults in our lives do not want to let go of having a child in the family , they get their value from us as children, or it can be that we are victims of being told ‘don’t leave me’ on a regular basis, or we are carers for the adults as a child. This can sometimes lead to us to be helpless or infantile as adults.
- Don’t be important – the message is given that we will be tolerated only if we do not have any wants or needs. As adults we turn into people pleasers, we sacrifice ourselves for others and often do not even know what we want or need.
- Don’t be close – the adults in our lives rarely touch or show affection, or feelings are not spoken about in our family. Our script will have us constantly looking for any signs of rejection, and we will test a relationship to destruction. We can’t trust people and we often end up saying ‘I told you so’ as we destroy yet another relationship.
There are more and each one will present itself differently depending on our parents, family and upbringing, but they all create our life script.
A good way to start to identify your life script is to write your lifeline, by getting a large piece of paper and draw a line for each decade.Then plot by age the significant events, losses, relationship and themes in your life.
You can often pick up patterns from this, repeating issues, the roles you have played and messages you received. You can try observing yourself and reveal the beliefs that you hear yourself repeating all the time that cause you to make certain choices. (life is hard, why bother I won’t get it right, if it’s not perfect why bother…)
Look for recurring patterns relating to your beliefs, desires and decisions.
As you wrote this script as a child, you can re-write it, so how would your life story look if you could change it? Write it out and look at what’s stopping you, what’s helpful in current life script and what is not? You can now re-write your childhood script as an adult with much more knowledge that you had at four years old!
This is not an easy process and means facing up to things that were difficult in our childhoods, things that were missing or adults who made mistakes in our lives. We often need help to go through that process and I recommend counselling or the help of a good friend/partner to start this process.
You can call Elaine Bond Counselling – 07769 152 951 or visit Elaine’s website: https://www.nottingham-counselling.co.uk/