Life Scripts come in all descriptions: The self-conscious man who can never relax, the worrier who is only one mistake from depression, the woman repetitively attracted to abusers, the addict who can’t quite kick the habit, the man or woman who sabotages their own prosperity, those who always manage to sabotage themselves with anger. These are just a sample of the “script characters” people tend to play their whole lifetimes.
Think of a Life Script as a blueprint of your life. Some are constructive, some aren’t, and some are just plain going nowhere. And all of us have one.
In Scripts People Live, psychologist Claude Steiner says, “We cannot consistently behave in ways that are different from the core beliefs we have about ourselves.” These core beliefs determine the roles we play throughout lives. Unless they are edifying, these beliefs can destroy our autonomy to live authentically, and give us difficulty finding our True Selves.
Transactional Analysis, a school of psychology which pioneered Script Analysis decades ago, tells that our life scripts tend to begin in our original family situation. There a child assumes, or is thrust into, a particular role to which he clings for his place (think survival) in the family unit.
Most psychologists agree that the script is firmly in place by age six, some would say as early as three. Later, the person adjusts this role to adolescence and then adult life, but the plot remains generally the same. Love, hate, jealousy, and revenge are common themes, as are loneliness, joylessness, and mindlessness. Scripts also show up in repetitive, compulsive games like winner or loser; happy or sad; achiever or slacker; lover or fighter; accepted or rejected, giver or taker, one-up or one-down, success or failure, among many idiosyncratic script themes. More, we’re not just the actors in the play. We’re also the director, stage manager, and casting director.
Some people spend their whole lives keeping their show on the road. This is fine so long as the script is a healthy one. But often our carnal nature designs a lousy one.
Of course, all bets are off when a person accepts the Lord as his Savior, but even then stubborn life script demands can interfere with our new life plans. Those stubborn child-to-adult life scripts can be so demanding that a person going for a new life gets bogged down, feeling “type cast” in the familiar role. If this is stopping you, these questions may help you determine if you’re in a compromising life script:
What keeps happening over and over that leaves me feeling bad?
What makes my relationships end the same way time after time?
Why am I always afraid of the outcome?
What keeps giving me the feeling that I’m not OK?
How do I keep getting myself in the same situations?
Why do the same feelings come over me again and again?
Do I like myself? Why not?
These cyclical disappointments can usually be traced to a pattern of: childhood experience > childhood decisions > psychological positions > story selected for script > rehearsal in adolescence > adult script in action > final curtain (Murial James). James says, “Scripts are chosen in childhood and are designed to last a lifetime.”
Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit is greater than anyone’s life script. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do plenty of ground work to come into the life Christ has promised. Faulty life scripts can be corrected by bringing to awareness the negative script, recognizing the error, and revising the script. (Which might be a pretty good definition of conviction!) This makes way for a cleaner, more successful “role” so that no barrier exists for the good the Lord has for you.
At Marketplace Counseling Ministry, we do Life Script Analysis. The core of it is a 48-item questionnaire that uncovers your script origination as well as the script adaptations made in adolescence and adulthood. Once the title, main characters, and plot become apparent, the client is free to make decisions about shutting down the marquee and opening a new production more in tune with their True Self and their Savior. Once the client acknowledges the faulty blueprint, work is done with a thorough application of 2 Corinthians 5:10 as well as the Book of Proverbs. And, to change the script, you’ll need the Lord’s help in changing your thinking about yourself from “Not OK” to “Yes, OK”.
Accepting Christ is a change of life script. Often, it competes with an entrenched life script directed by the carnal part of us. That part must lose its executive power and give way to a New Director. In this way, psychology and Christianity can join forces to direct a new life with a new purpose.
Robert Ellis is a counselor at Marketplace Counseling Ministry, a low-cost Christian counseling center in Grand Rapids. For contact, visit Marketplace Counseling Ministry online or 616-949-4911.