Life Scripts

Life-Script: Not unlike the kind of scripts actors are familiar with, they too have a beginning, a middle and an end. Life-scripts (more-often referred to as scripts in Transactional Analysis (TA) ) have characters that play significant roles such as the heroes and villains, all which make the story exciting, tragic or perhaps even futile. The difference in life-scripts is that we are our own creators; I developed and have my own life-script like you have yours……and who said you had no artistic flare?!

The theory of life-script was developed by Eric Berne; the notion suggests that our stories are very much written unconsciously (hence why this may seem a little odd to read at first) and from birth. From 0-7 years all the roles are allocated, including our own as the leading person, and by 7 all the main parts of the story are plotted; they’re then to be tweaked and buffed through to the age of 12 years. We rely heavily on fantasy based beliefs through our younger years therefore it is through adolescence that our scripts are continually up-dated with more tangible characters.

Here are two questions to consider when thinking about your own script:

  • What title would you give to your life story; your script?
  • Also, what type of story is it; happy, tragic or magical?

The theory of script was developed in the mid 60’s and has been built upon to the extent that today, in TA, it forms one of the fundamental concepts. Here are a few developed definitions to contemplate:

Script is a life plan

Alternative to the idea of having a general view of the world, life plans are regarded as specific stories with beginnings, middles and ends, laid down by a child. The life plan definition suggests the plan is formulated by experiences in the world and with others, which steer the direction of adult life patterns.

Script is directed towards a payoff

Here it is suggested that the final scene is an integral part of the story; that during the development of script, just as much attention is paid to the end, as the beginning. The closing scene here is referred to as the payoff, therefore, according to this definition; in living the middle part of our story, we choose behaviours and people that edge us closer to our script payoff.

Script is decisional

Whereas decisional in the usual dictionary sense suggests intent, in this definition it accommodates individual differences as a factor. Unlike adult decisions making, script decisions are a result of feelings and are made before the development of language. Each individual infant, subconsciously determines their own script development and this is why siblings are very different, regardless of growing up in the same environment.

Script is reinforced by the parent

As an infant forms conclusions of their self, the world and others, they will be receiving non-verbal and verbal messages from their parents. These messages are around how the world works and how they survive and get their needs met within it. Parents do not make the script decisions for their infants, but do have a major influence on them.

Script is outside of awareness

Unless we take considerable time and effort to work through our earliest experiences in therapy, we will often remain unaware of our script. We may be aware of patterns and of a feeling of being stuck (in script) but will not know the reasons; hence our script is outside of awareness.

Reality is defined to ‘justify’ the script

This definition illustrates the power of our frame of reference; often I hear parents or/and teachers speak of the naughty boy or girl in class in a way that the behaviour defines the child. If that child internalises those messages, it wouldn’t be uncommon for that ‘naughty’ child to only hear negative comments in later years, and for them to have a filter of the positive comments. When in script we often interpret our reality in a way that justifies our script decisions; to create a sense of safety and predictability in our world.

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