How to Use Life Scripts to Improve Your Relationships with Others
The Role of Life Scripts in Relationships
Life Scripts, as the name implies, deals with the map that we determine our life will follow. This is not a life dream script we tend to create as children -- which is often unrealistic. Our Life Script is created on a more subconscious level of awareness.

It has been said that we have started writing our own life script at birth. By the time we are 4 years old, we have decided on the essentials of our plot. By age 7 we have filled in the main details; and by age 12, we have polished it. By our teenage years, we may revise it with more real-life characters.

Like every story, all of our scripts have a cast of characters that will play certain parts. All their roles are designed to help support and rationalize what decisions we have made about ourselves. Our experiences often help us continue to reinforce our life script. Everyone who comes into our lives will play a part. There are plots and subplots, twists and turns and themes. And most of us live our lives according to these scripts without being aware of them.

Eric Berne first developed the theory of Life Scripts. He defined them as follows:

1) Life Script is a plan. A child will construct a specific life script plan, not just a general overview. There is a beginning, middle, and end.

2) The Life Script is directed toward a payoff. In TA theory, when the child decides what his/her life will be like, it has a distinct beginning, middle, and end -- and all will lead to a final scene, or payoff. The payoff is the culmination of what the whole life plan has been about. If the child has decided, for example, that she is a victim, her final scene may be that, with her dying breath, she is still a victim of someone or something -- be it a person, an addiction, or something else. Her life has been built around this theme and all the players in her drama and events support it.

3) The script is decisional. The child, based upon his/her experiences and interpretations of these experiences, determines the Life Script. An example would be two brothers whose mother tells them that one day they will end up in an institution. They do. One is a patient and the other is a doctor. Each interpreted what their mother said in a different way.

4) The script is reinforced by the parents. Although the parents do not determine the Life Script, they can influence it by their words and actions.

5) The Life Script is outside of awareness. Since our script decisions were made early in life, we may spend most of our lives unaware of what decisions we made as children. Unless we do introspective work, we may never know.

6) Reality is redefined to "justify" the script. What this means is that we choose to interpret things that happen to us so that they meet with the theme we have chosen for our script. If we are victims, every experience will be interpreted to support the victim theme.

Life Scripts originate as the infant's best way to interpret how to survive a world that seems hostile and threatening. These decisions are made on the basis of the child's emotions and realty testing.

How the script is lived out.

Scripts are classified in three ways:

1) Winning

2) Losing or Hamartic

3) Non-winning or banal

A Winning Script is someone who accomplishes his/her declared purpose. The key is that the purpose is met comfortably, happily,and smoothly. If I choose to be a millionaire and I achieve this comfortably, happily, and smoothly, then I am successful. If I choose to be penniless and live in a tent and achieve it the same way, it is successful as well. Success is not measured by wealth or material gain. It is achieved by attaining my goals in this manner. Success is relative to what my goal is.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Healthy Relationships course?

A Losing Script is someone who does not accomplish a stated goal or declared purpose. It is to be noted that, once again, success in this area is not measured by the accomplishment alone, but the degree of comfort that goes with it. If I decide to be a millionaire and end up penniless, then I am a loser. If I have chosen to be a great leader and achieve that, and then lose it all, I am a loser. But, it is to be noted that I am also a loser if I choose to be a millionaire and become one, but I am miserable because the stress and strain of it is killing me. Winners and losers are not classified by material gain but by achieving a desired purpose and doing it comfortably.

Losing scripts are divided into three types.

1) First degree: These scripts are mild enough to be discussed in social circles. Examples might be failing a test, mild depression, work issues.

2) Second degree: These folks experience a series of events that might not be something they would want to discuss in a social situation, such as being repeatedly fired, or a hospitalization for drug use .

3) Third degree: These are the losing scripts that culminate in death, serious injury, illness, or legal crisis. Third degree script payoffs may be imprisonment, suicide, institutionalization, or any other major life alteration. These type of scripts are called Hamartic.

It should be noted that in most people, their script is a mixture of winning, losing, and non- winning.

Winners are said to always have a backup plan. If A doesn't work, I will try B. A loser doesn't. All he can talk about is A. There is no thought of an alternative.

A non-winner is someone who wins some and loses sometimes. He doesn't play big and doesn't take risks. He plays it safe.

Scripts can be changed at any time, but the person must do the work to first determine what his/her script is.

We Don't Speak the Same Language

How often do we hear that people don't understand us? Every day it seems that we witness people trying to communicate and not being successful. There are many things that affect good communication.
Understanding Our Differences

One of the best ways to be more effective in our communications is to be aware of our differences. You and I may be talking about a subject, and in reality we may see it two entirely different ways. We may not realize that our expectations from each other may not be met in the long run. How we think and see the world affects how we respond.

John Grey, in his book "Men are from Mars, Women Are From Venus," makes this very clear. He uses the example of how women want their male partners just to listen to them as they talk and work through their problems. They just want to vent. Men, on the other hand, are programmed to fix things. They may offer a series of suggestions and options to their lady that only aggravate her -- much to the man's surprise. In his world, he is fixing things and in her world, he is making matters worse.

What each person in this conversation hasn't realized is that each of us is different. Men and women come from different places in communication. Women may just want to talk, men may just want to fix; and even though they both have good intentions, the interaction deteriorates.

The key to avoiding these negative interactions is clear communication based on an understanding of differences.

For example, in relationships, one party may love to give gifts and is always disappointed when the other person seems not as thrilled by receiving them. To the gift giver, she cannot understand her partner's response. She would be ecstatic if he gave her things, but instead his response is mediocre. Why is that?

Then there are people who like to be told he/she did a good job; however the partner does not want or need to hear this feedback. Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor and author of the book, "The Five Love Languages," helps explain and make sense of it all.
Chapman found that each person has a love language that means the most to him or her. He divided the languages into five different areas.
They are:

1) Quality Time: A person whose language is quality time finds being with their mate the most important thing. If you could give them a gift or spend several hours of quality time with them, they would choose the quality time. They may thank you for the gift, but it won't mean as much to them as the time spent together.

2) Acts of Service: These people like to have things done for them. Maybe you come home and cook dinner or take out the trash. If your partners love language is Acts of Service, they will be thrilled with your efforts -- much more so than if you did anything else.

3) Words of Affirmation: "I love you." "I appreciate you and all you do." These are just some examples of this type of love language. If your love language is Words of Affirmation, it will mean more to you than anything else.

4) Physical Touch: Those who prefer physical touch like to be close. Perhaps you touch your mate's shoulder as you walk past her in a room. Maybe you hold hands everywhere you go. Physical touch, in whatever form, and no matter how brief, is very important if this is your love language.

5) Gifts: For those with this love language, gift giving is very big to them. It doesn't have to be something huge, but the idea of receiving something makes them feel loved and cared for. If this is your love language you would love to receive things from your partner and would place high value on them.

Although these languages are presented in the form of romantic relationship languages they are not limited to those. Chapman has a variety of books employing them in all types of situations. Romantic or everyday relationships will benefit from knowing these. When you know who you are dealing with, and what is important to them, it makes a relationship work better.

His books makes sense out of the times we have all done something for someone and their response, although appreciative, was nowhere near what we thought it should be.

Their love language was not the same as ours. If we had known what it is they valued, we could have done something that would have meant more to them, and told them better how much we care.

What is your priority?

In communicating with someone, it is always important to ask yourself what your priority is. Are you wanting to be right? Are you wanting to argue? Are you wanting to belittle someone? Are you wanting to appear knowledgeable? There are a variety of things that could be the true basis of why we are engaging someone in conversation.

If our true aim is to have a relationship -- friendship or otherwise -- there are three things to keep in mind:

1) Do I want to be right or close with this person? If I want to be close, then perhaps staying on my position or pursuing this line of conversation should stop.

2) Do I want to be right or happy? Which is most important? If you want to be happy, then if there is an issue, let it go. You can't be right and happy if being so will cause you a huge disagreement with the other party.

3) Feelings are not negotiable. People are entitled to their feelings, no matter how repugnant we find them, or how much we disagree with them. And despite what our ego thinks, chances are good we will never be successful in changing someone else's ingrained opinions. Respect theirs and move on.

Making Contracts
This is another Transactional Analysis concept. When you sit down with someone and try to iron out differences, you might find that you are not aware of their expectations of you, and you of them. You may also not be clear on what each other's wants and needs are. TA suggests that both parties sit down and list what each one would like from the other and what they want for themselves. Once this is done, a "contract" is written up showing what the agreement is, and both parties sign it.

Doing this may not sound like the most romantic thing in the world, but it will make your relationship better. It will be built on a firm foundation with no misunderstandings or unwritten assumptions.

For example, let's say Mary and Paul are married. Paul is an avid golfer, and Mary is an avid horsewoman. They both are passionate about their hobbies. They also have a large circle of friends they like to maintain contact with. Because of work and their hobbies, they find they are spending little time together. In addition, their house has become a pit because no one wants to take time to clean it. They need time for their relationship and work obligations. All these things are causing friction in the marriage.

If Mary and Paul sit down together in a respectful manner and make a list of what they want from each other, and for themselves, they can put together a written agreement that will settle all issues to their mutual satisfaction -- and also hold each of them accountable. In doing this, they have to be very clear with themselves and their expectations of each other and their relationship. When people aren't clear, this opens the door for them to make assumptions about what each other wants and thinks, and this can lead to confusion, disagreements, and hurt feelings. Contracts can always be changed to meet different and new circumstances.