Lifescript and Learning

Thinking about what we bring with us as adults going into new training and learning, it has to be important to consider historic negative learning experiences, which can leave deep, and often unattended, out of awareness psychological wounds, that become self-limiting.

A stand out for me was when I was 12 and my maths teacher asked the class to ‘put your hand up if you don’t understand.’ I put up my hand. With a scornful little smile and a sigh my teacher said ‘Ah…. Well, I didn’t expect you to understand Beverly.’ This powerful woman’s cruel words landed in my brain, reinforcing negative self-beliefs, and I took on, as a fact, that I did not have the capacity to understand maths. This lasted for around 30 years.

Check out this bit of TA theory of ‘hypnotic induction’ –

‘This is a process by which, outside the awareness of either participant, the psychological level of a message may have the power of a hypnotic command.

It is further suggested that the conditions under which this may take place, in the scripting of children or the script reinforcing experiences of everyday situations, are directly comparable to formal techniques of hypnotic induction.’

Information received by the individual in this state will not be efficiently processed by the Adult within the current reality, and may have the power of hypnotic command.’ (Clarkson, P. & Conway, A. 1987. Transactional Analysis Journal)

When people we perceive as powerful convey things to us about ourselves – a process that happens all through childhood – we very often believe them.

My thoughts then turn to consideration of the TA concept of Lifescript (Berne, E.1966). Lifescript, or script as it is more usually known, is a clear plan, that is the child decides on as the best way to survive and get by in the world they find themselves in. Clever eh?

Very clever, AND it can continue to get played out, outside of awareness and lived out in adult life even when it becomes blocking of healthy development. I sometimes call it ‘playing old records’ – rather than hearing and making new tunes – because it can be a closed script system – ‘a negative learning cycle, one not of new learning but of repetition of old experience and reinforcement of faulty theory.’ (Newton, 2006:186). It is rigid and crusty and limiting….and maybe feels safer.

Learning about, living and using TA opened my learning system, and it wonderful! As a humanist I believe that we all have, at the core of us, a kernel, which holds great positive power and potential. Ongoing learning can free and/or increase this power and enable it to radiate and ripple out into the fabric of our lives. When we take responsibility for understanding our inner learning landscape, where the resources are and where we may be stuck playing old records, then we can release this inner power and potential, this core self that holds ‘… force and vision, wants to be freed, wants to find it’s best expression in the world.”  Cornell, WF. & Landaiche, N.M. (2008)

More recent TA thinkers like Trudy Newton (2006) talk about positive learning experiences as contributing to ‘an ongoing flexible, responsive narrative’ (Newton, 2006:186) that we are continually updating and modifying in order to make meaning, to grow and expand, to be fully alive.

The exciting thing about this way of thinking – for me as a psychotherapist and trainer – is that it presents wonderful possibilities for intrapsychic change in us as adults via our learning experience. This is definitely something I have both experienced and witnessed.