Life Scripts are learned in early childhood

I thought I had my life together. I had done lots of work on myself looking at my blind spots and biases. But something was still off. When I came across the idea of life scripts, it clicked. I was not who I was told I was. Neither are you.

Have you ever wondered why you always end up in the same situations with the same type of people? If you have, this article is for you. In it you will learn what life scripts are, how to find yours and how to begin too change it to improve your life and relationships.

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What are Life Scripts?

Life scripts are the subconscious beliefs and expectations that shape your behavior and choices.

The idea is part of a therapy modality known as Transactional analysis (TA).

Transactional analysis, developed by Eric Berne, is a system of social psychology that helps us understand how we communicate and interact with others. Berne proposed that our personality is composed of three ego states, the Parent, Adult and Child.

These ego states influence our belief system, how we think, feel and behave in different situations.

Our life scripts are formed in childhood. They develop based on our experiences with parental figures, siblings, peers other influences.

These scripts have a deep and unconscious effect so we follow them without question, even if they don’t serve us well.

Life Scripts Can Be Positive or Negative.

Positive life scripts help you achieve your goals, fulfil your potential and enjoy your life.

Negative life script decisions limit you, sabotage you and make you unhappy. They can affect every aspect of your life, from your relationships to your career and health.

Life Scripts and the Four Life Positions

Life Scripts and the Four Positions from Transactional Analysis.

From the life scripts we learned as children we adopted what is known, in transactional analysis, as life positions.

The four life positions are:

  • I’m OK, You’re OK

  • I’m OK, You’re not OK

  • I’m not OK, You’re OK

  • I’m not OK, You’re not OK

These positions reflect our self-esteem and our attitude towards others. They also affect the quality and effectiveness of our communication and relationships.

I’m OK, You’re OK

This life position is the most healthy and mature one to have.

It means we:

  • Accept ourselves and others as they are, without judging or blaming.

  • Respect our own needs and feelings, as well as those of others.

  • Communicate openly and honestly,

  • Seek win-win solutions to conflicts.

  • Are confident and assertive, but also empathic and cooperative.

I’m OK, You’re not OK

This is a position of superiority and dominance.

When we have this life script, we:

  • Think highly of ourselves, but we look down on others.

  • Believe that we are right and others are wrong,

  • That we are better and others are worse.

  • Criticize, blame or manipulate others to get what we want.

  • Communicate aggressively or passive-aggressively,

  • Seek win-lose solutions to conflicts.

I’m not OK, You’re OK

This is a position of inferiority and submission.

It means that we:

  • Think poorly of ourselves, but we admire or idealize others.

  • Believe that we are inadequate or unworthy, while others are competent or valuable.

  • Ignore or neglect our own needs and feelings, while trying to please or impress others.

  • Communicate submissively or defensively,

  • Seek lose-win solutions to conflicts.

If you relate to this script, you will find these articles helpful: Why Do I Need to be Needed? . Co-dependency and control, The Fawn Response: A Hidden Trauma Reaction that Keeps You Stuck in Toxic Relationships.

I’m not OK, You’re not OK

This is a position of hopelessness and despair.

It means that we:

  • Have given up on ourselves and others.

  • Believe that we are hopeless or helpless, and so are others.

  • Withdraw or isolate ourselves from others, or lash out at them in anger or fear.

  • Communicate minimally or destructively,

  • Seek lose-lose solutions to conflicts.

Life Scripts and Permissions and Injunctions

Within the life scrips there are permissions and injunctions. They are the parental messages that are restrictive (injunctions) or encouraging (permissions).

An example of an injunction is “Don’t succeed”. And example of a permission is “It’s Ok to be you.”

We pick these up in childhood not just from our parents words but also the way they look at us and treat us.

The non verbal messages are very powerful, especially in early childhood, when we do not have the experience to discern what is going on. So we accept them on an emotional and physical level without question.

This meta communication we receive early in life creates an unconscious pathway in our brains.

How to Identify Your Life Scripts

The first step to changing your life scripts is to identify them. This can be challenging, because they are often hidden and unconscious.

However, there are some clues that can help you uncover them. Here are questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the recurring themes or patterns in your life?

  • What are the messages that you heard from your parents or other authority figures when you were growing up?

  • What are the beliefs that you have about yourself, others, and the world?

  • What are the emotions that you feel most often?

  • What are the fears that hold you back?

  • Do you have goals or you did but gave up?

  • What are the behaviors that you repeat or avoid?

For example, if you grew up with a critical parent who always told you that you were not good enough, you might have a life script that says “I’m worthless”.

This might lead you to feel insecure, depressed and anxious.

Because of thus you will avoid taking risks, pursuing your dreams or expressing your opinions.

You are likely to attract people who treat you poorly or abuse you.

You might sabotage your success or settle for less than you deserve.

Remember, these scripts are deeply ingrained. So you will feel uncomfortable looking at them. Get help from a professional if this process is overwhelming.

The article, The 4Fs Trauma Model: Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn – Which One are You, will help you identify how your life scripts are influencing how you respond to situations.

How to Change Your Life Scripts

You Can rewrite your life scrips.

Once you have identified your life scripts, the next step is to change them.

This is not easy, but it is possible. You have the power to rewrite your story and create a new reality for yourself.

Again seek the help of a therapist if you feel uncomfortable.

Here are some steps to start with:

Challenge Your Life Scripts.

Question their validity and accuracy. Look for evidence that contradicts them or supports a different perspective.

For example, if your life script is “I’m worthless”, you can challenge it by listing all the things that you have accomplished, all the people who love you and all the qualities that make you unique and valuable.

Replace Your Life Scripts With Positive Affirmations.

Use the above evidence sought to create affirmations to the contrary.

Affirmations are positive statements that express what you want to be true. They help you reprogram your subconscious mind and create new beliefs and expectations.

For example, if your life script is “I’m worthless”, you can replace it with “I’m worthy”, while reminding yourself of all the positives you listed earlier.

Repeat your affirmations daily. You can also do them in front of a mirror or while looking at yourself in a photo.

Act as if Your New Life Scripts are True.

Behavior influences belief and vice versa. The more you act in alignment with your new life scripts the more you will reinforce them and make them real.

If your new life script is “I’m worthy”, act by setting healthy boundaries, ask for what you want and say no to what you don’t want.

You can also take steps to pursue your passions and celebrate your achievements.

Seek Support from Others Who Share Your New Life Scripts. 

Surround yourself with people who encourage and affirm you.

If you can, avoid people who criticize you, discourage or undermine you. If this is difficult at the moment, reduce the time you spend with them. This article will help you improve your social interactions: Four Branches of Emotional Intelligence.

Join groups or communities that align with your values and goals. You can also get in touch mentors or coaches who can guide you and hold you accountable.

Conclusion

Life scripts are the stories and beliefs about ourselves.

We have developed most of our life scripts by the age of seven from our parents or primary caregivers and others around us.

Although life scripts are powerful forces that shape your life, they are not a fixed life plan.

You can change them at any time and create a new story for yourself. This will be challenging and will take patience, but if you stick with it, your unconscious pathways will change and so will your life.

Also see Elephant and Rope Mindset