Scripts—more than just the stories we tell ourselves

November 25, 2015 LifepsychologyThoughts  4 comments

Scripts are more than the stories we tell ourselves.

Scripts—programs—are so deeply ingrained into our psyches that if you were to reset your entire brain (get to the code, if you will), you would remember: how to breathe, water and food are essential, and your scripts.

Scripts are things that we know as truth, even when logically and cognitively we know they are not.

Scripts are typically programmed during your childhood. But they can also be wired in later on in life too.

Scripts determine your life. For good or for bad. Because you play them out over and over again in your life. Most of the time, without even realizing it.

Scripts are what makes people enter into bad relationship after bad relationship, or exist in a perpetual cycle of self-destruction, or become extremely successful (many CEO’s of the most lucrative and successful businesses have the script that success is inevitable).

It’s only by become aware of them (everyone has them) that you can begin to challenge them.


In the past few months, I have been doing some deep soul-searching.

Brought on by:

1. Moving to the place I most want to be in the world after three years of back and forth struggle.

2. My self-imposed deadline to make a decision about whether I want to go to grad school or not (for Social Work or Psychology).
( I believe in well-placed and adequate deadlines for making decisions. Nothing good comes from living in limbo permenantly.)

This soul-searching has led me to begin to unearth my scripts; some detrimental, some life-saving, some I’ve met before.
(And almost all of them have fed into the fear, guilt, and self-doubt I’ve struggled with.) 

Let’s dive in shall we?


My needs and desires are not important. And therefore, I must spend my life giving to meet the needs of others.
            And also, underneath that, my mere existence causes pain to others.

Oh, boy. This one’s a fucking doozie, isn’t it?

To boil it down: as I was growing up, I saw that my parents were not (always) able to meet my emotional needs because they had too many other demands placed upon them. So I learned, explicitly and implicitly, to hide those needs, bury them down, and to, instead, help meet the needs of those around me so that they wouldn’t be so overburdened. This was further compounded by my experience in the church during my formative adolescent years where the message of “To live is to give yourself away” became crystalized in my mind. And then, there was that one sociology course I took in college.


If my life isn’t ever going to be ordinary (calm, normal, stable), than I’m going to make it extraordinary for a good cause (ie: going into social work, law enforcement, or non-profit work).
            And something a little more subtle: If I have to experience the bodily sensations of fear and chaos and adrenaline (ie: constant survival mode), than I will live a life that gives context and meaning to those sensations. If I have to live with those experiences and sensations, than at least let them serve a purpose. 
(I actually think this is why I started working out: to allow and befriend the sensations of adrenaline, to feel it and know that it’s okay.  Besides for the fact that it was one of very few things I could control.)

I’m pretty sure this one came from a combination of church, Blood Diamond, and Law and Order: SVU. I’m not even kidding.


Get out. Get out. Get out. One day, you will leave this place behind. You will pursue a (traditional, respectable) career that gives you purpose, fulfillment, and independence. You will not have to rely on anybody.

This is what I told myself to get me through. And fair enough, lots of people probably have this script. That’s probably why they become so successful. But for me, this plays out in this compulsion I have to “go out there and find a real job” ( a traditional respectable 9-to-5 career) even when what I really want to be doing is pursing my writing. My happy place is being at home, writing, having time and energy to do stuff and hang out with my husband. My idea of hell is an office with florescent lights and cubicles. So why do I keep finding myself looking up jobs or career paths on Indeed? My script. It is also sometimes a source of contention and resentment for me towards my husband. He’s all, “Dude, I got you. Do what you want to do. Go make your art.” And I’m all like, “But no, I need to be financially independent. And blah, blah, blah…” Even when, it is the bigger, better life to trust him to support me, to do my thing with writing, and not live within the constraints of a traditional job (till ever a time comes when this is not feasible). Like right now, I can literally go anywhere I want at any time. If someone’s like, “Hey, let’s go to California this weekend!” I can be like, “Yeah, dude. Let’s do it.” Not like, “I can’t. I have to work. And I have no more vacation time.”

psst. I’m currently exploring this theme in my current work-in-progress.


Marriage does not last.

To be honest, I never had any intentions of ever getting married. I saw what marriage was to my parents, to my friends parents, to my extended family. The end result was hurt and pain and divorce. So, what was the point? But then, I met someone who showed up for me in the ways that mattered, who never let me down in the big things (he is only human, afterall). I don’t necessarily believe in marriage (not that I mind it), but I do believe in him. And I believe in us.

We’ve been intentional in creating a stable, solid, honest relationship that works for us. And yet, despite the fact that things are good, better than good, I find myself thinking, “When we get a divorce…” And it’s like whoa. Hit the brakes. When? This is one of my most insidious demons. Sometimes, in the darkest hour of the night, it screams at me: This will never last. This will break. It always does. It’s inevitable. That’s your inheritance.

 It’s one that I have to cover my ears and close my eyes and claim back: No. Where I come from does not have to be where I’m going.

(As my mom pointed out, my husband has the script that marriage does last. No matter how tough it gets. Thank you, Renee and Gary.)

 It is only by being aware that this script is just that—a script—that I am able to combat it. Identifying a thought process as a script reveals that it is not inherently true, that it is not a program you have to be enslaved to. You can trace it back to it’s origins and boil it down, release the pressure. And that, right there, is freedom.

 Scripts can be rewritten. In fact, they often go through several drafts before you get to the end result.


 But, alas, we come to The Goodies (often more difficult to get to, because they often get lost in the noise of the Baddies):
(enter self-pep-talk mode)

 No matter what, you will be okay. You’re a resourceful MF and you will always be able to figure it out. You’ve got this shit.


At the end of the day, all you’ve got is yourself. So you better be happy with yourself, with your life. Be true to yourself. 


What do you think? Do you know what some of your scripts are? Or do you think I’m totally bullshitting you right now?


In my next post, I’ll go into more depth about how to go about identifying scripts (a good therapist always helps!) and how to rewrite them.


Until next time, farewell, & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity.



photo credits: Manuel Estheim



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