If, as children, we felt repeatedly hurt, humiliated, abandoned, suffocated or ignored by someone close to us and on whom we depended for survival (usually a parent), we might have made the perfectly logical decision – at least from a four-year-old’s point of view – to keep other people at bay.
Perhaps we are rather prickly around others, unwilling to share how we feel or allow anyone special to get to know us in any real depth. Armed with the assumption that allowing someone else to matter to us is dangerous, we may indeed protect ourselves from the risk of emotional pain but, at the same time, we may also cut ourselves off from the joy of a loving relationship with another human being.
Script theory (see ‘What’s Your Script?’, 7th August 2012) is based on the assumption that we make decisions about how to be in the world – and particularly with others – at a very early age. Based on how we perceive we are treated by significant others, we devise a set of personal rules to live by. This ‘script’ then becomes so familiar that we don’t even realise that it is there, let alone that we can change or update it at any point in our lives.
I wish to emphasise the point that troublesome scripts have often been put together when we were very young and that the conclusions we might have made about life as small children might be very different to those we might have made had we been seeing through the wider perspective of adult eyes. Often (but not always), it is not a parent’s intention to hurt, humiliate, abandon, suffocate or ignore their child and they might be unaware of the effect they have had. Parents looking after small children might be struggling with their own difficulties – such as bereavement, mental health issues or lack of support. Also, a parental response that might have a lasting effect on one child in the family, may be disregarded by another child with a different personality and attitude towards life.
Once we have got to know each other, I turn my attention to the assumptions you might be making about how to be in the world. The way you respond to me is often a good indicator of the way you respond to others in your life. By exploring the therapeutic relationship and also the ‘stories’ you bring about how you interact with other people, together we can uncover the script by which you are living your life. Most people’s scripts are largely based on some good assumptions that keep them emotionally ‘safe enough’ in the world. Sometimes, however, certain parts of these scripts have the potential to hold you back from living a more resourceful and enjoyable life.
By examining these assumptions, it is possible to amend our scripts to allow us to live our lives in different, more fulfilling ways. Often, just the sheer experience of bringing these assumptions into our awareness is enough to produce a shift in perspective and behaviour. As well as uncovering the assumptions we are making about how to be in the world, therapy can provide a safe space in which to explore and practise alternative scenarios.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to counselling and psychotherapy interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
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