The psychology of relationships: life scripts
An exercise to discover your own life script
If you’re interested in identifying your own life script, try this exercise, which is designed to dig out your script and clarify it. I have taken it from Ian Stewart and Vann Joines’ book TA Today (reprinted 2000 by Lifespace Publishing).
If you want to know more, read the book! It’s a good, if somewhat basic, introduction to transactional analysis concepts.
Dreams, fantasies, fairy-tales and childhood stories can all give us clues to our script. Here are some exercises using these: while you’re doing the exercises, let your imagination run free. Don’t bother thinking what they are for or what they mean.
Don’t censor or try to figure out what you are supposed to say.
Just accept your first images and the feelings that may come with them. You can do your interpreting and deciphering afterwards.
You will get the most from the exercises if you find a group or partner to work with. Whether you work in a group or individually, it’s a good idea to record your responses on tape. Just turn the recorder on and let it run during the exercise.
Afterwards, play it back several times and let your intuition bring meanings to the surface. You will be amazed at the amount you learn about yourself and your script.
While doing any of these exercises, it is possible that you may begin to experience strong emotions.
These will be the childhood feelings which you are bringing to the surface along with your script memories. If you do have this experience, you can decide at any point to stop or continue the exercise. If you choose to stop the exercise, fix your attention on some prominent object in the room.
Tell yourself (or your partner) what the object is, what color it is, and what it is used for. Think of some routine grown-up topic such as what you will be having for your next meal, or when you next need to be at your work place.
While doing this, stand or sit up straight with your head and body balanced around a vertical mid-line. This will all bring you back to the here-and-now, so you don’t continue to relive traumatic memories from the past.
Hero or heroine
Who is your favorite character? It may be someone from a childhood story, perhaps a hero or heroine from a play, a book or a film you remember. Maybe it’s a real person. Choose the first character that comes to mind.
Now turn on your recorder and/or get attention from your partner or group. Become your chosen character. Talk about yourself for as long as you like. Use the word “I ….”
For example: Suppose my story hero is Superman. I might start off by saying: “I’m Superman. My job is to help people with problems. I fly in from nowhere, do all sorts of miraculous things, then disappear again. Most of the time, nobody knows I am Superman, because I go around in disguise……”
Whoever your chosen character is, go ahead, be him or her and talk about yourself.
Story or fable
A variation of the first exercise is to tell a story or fable. Again, choose anything you like – the first you bring to mind is likely to be most relevant. It may be a childhood fairy-tale, a classical myth, or anything else you want.
You might begin:
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful girl who was sent to sleep for ages and ages by her evil stepmother. She lay in a room deep inside a castle. Round the castle was a prickly hedge. Kings and princes came looking for the girl, but none of them was strong enough to hack through the hedge…”
To get even more from the story, you can go on and become each of the people and things in the story. Each time, talk about yourself.
From the story above, you could choose to be the girl, the stepmother, the room, the castle, one of the princes, and the hedge.
As the hedge you might say: “I’m a hedge. I’m sturdy, rough and prickly. All my prickles point outwards, so that people can’t hack me around. My job is to protect that young girl who’s asleep inside me…”
Choose a dream you’ve had, preferably a recent one. You’re likely to learn most from a recent dream or one which recurs, but any dream will do.
Tell the dream. Relate it in the present tense, not in the past.
Then, just as you did with your story, become each of the people and things in the dream and talk about yourself.
Recall how you felt immediately after you awoke from the dream. Was it a pleasant or unpleasant feeling?
Did you like how the dream ended? If you didn’t, you can continue the exercise by re-writing your dream ending.
Tell the re-written ending just as you told the dream, using the present tense. Test whether you’re now fully satisfied with the dream’s ending. If not, re-write it again, as many times as you want to.
Object in the room
Look around the room. Choose any object you see.
The best one is the first one you think of. Now be that object and talk about yourself. For example: “I’m the door. I’m hard square and wooden. Sometimes I get in people’s way.
But when I do, they just push me to one side…” To get even more from this exercise, ask a partner to conduct a conversation with you as the object you have chosen. The partner is not to make interpretations.
He is just to talk with you as the door, the fireplace or whatever you have chosen to be.
For instance: “I’m the door. When I stand in people’s way, they push me aside.” “Well, door, how do you feel when people push you aside?” “I feel angry. But I’m a door and I can’t talk. I just let them do it.” “Aha. So is there anything you want to change, door, to feel better?”
See your life as a play
For this exercise, you need someone to act as a “guide” and talk you through it while you relax.
Alternatively, record the cues on tape and listen to them when you’re relaxed. One guide can lead a group of people through the exercise. The guide need not follow the cues as written here word for word.
In fact it is better if she simply jots down a few reminders of the sequence to follow, then improvises the wording. She should allow plenty of pauses between sentences. This gives the participants time to develop their visualizations.
Relax in a chair or on the floor. It may help to close your eyes. The guide then goes ahead on these lines:
“Imagine you’re in a theater. You’re waiting for a play to start. This play is your very own life story. What kind of play is this you’re going to watch? Is it a comedy, a tragedy? Is it a high drama or a kitchen-sink opera? Is it interesting or boring, heroic or matter-of-fact – or what? Is the theatre full, half-empty, empty? Are the audience going to be enthralled or bored? Happy or sad? Are they going to applaud or walk out – or what? What’s the title of this play of yours – your very own life-story?
“So now the lights are going down. The curtain is opening. Your very own play is just beginning. And you see the first scene. This is the very first scene of your life. You are very, very young in this scene. What do you see round you? Who is there? Do you see faces or parts of faces? If you see a face, see the expression on the face. What do you hear? Be aware of what you feel. Maybe you feel some feeling in your body. Maybe you feel some emotion. Do you smell or taste anything? Give yourself time now to be aware of this very first scene in your play.
“Now the scene changes. In this next scene of your play, you are a young child – maybe three to six years old. Where are you? What can you see round about you? Are there any other people there? Who is there? Are they saying anything to you? Are you saying anything to them? Do you hear any other sounds? What do you feel in this scene? Do you feel any sensations or feelings in your body? Do you feel any emotions? Maybe you smell something or taste something? Take time now to be aware of all you see, hear, feel, taste or smell in this second scene of your play – the scene when you are three to six years old.” (Pause)
Then the “guide” runs through the same cues for the following scenes in the play, one after the other: a teenage scene, about ten to sixteen years old; a present scene, the age you are now; and a scene ten years in the future.
The last scene of your play is your death scene. In giving the cues for this scene, the guide should also ask “How old are you in this last scene of your play?”
Finally the “guide” asks you to come back to the present, taking all the time you need. Share as much of your experience as you want to with the group or a partner.
If you want to read more in script, please have a look at the book this exercise has been taken from: Ian Stewart and Vann Joines: TA Today (reprinted 2000) Lifespace Publishing.
There is a profound relationship between how successful your sexual relationship may be and how your life script dictates that you will enjoy (or not) sex.
For example, delayed ejaculation – a problem where the man cannot ejaculate easily (or at all) during intercourse – can be traced by to childhood problems.
You can click here to read more about male sexual problems. These are often linked back to a script which contains faulty beliefs about sex such as “I have to please a woman before a please myself” .