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Calm • Perspective

Rewriting Our Inner Scripts

Unfortunately for everyone, we go around the world with scripts in our minds. A script is a collection of expectations about how events will unfold and how we should best respond to them – built up out of the worst moments of our childhoods and our most immature and frightened deductions therefrom. Here are some representative scripts:

  1. When I make a mistake… I will get shouted at uncontrollably. Therefore I must never admit I’m at fault.
  2. When I trust someone… they betray me. Therefore I must never open up.
  3. If I get too emotional, there will be chaos. Therefore I must be very stern and detached.
  4. If a partner is out of contact for a while… it means they’ve abandoned me. Therefore I need to flare up at any threat of absence.
A photograph of a couple in a well-furnished apartment: one reading a newspaper, the other standing by the window.
Jessica Todd Harper, Interior Exposure

These scripts tell us a lot about our pasts, but the tragedy is that, unaware they exist, we let them determine our futures. We insistently layer them onto situations in the here and now that could have had far more benevolent endings. A boss very gently points out a mistake and, out of a fear that this is a prelude to relentless humiliation, we snap back. Our partner lets us down in a minor way and, sure this means they are about to destroy us, we start to insult them.

The solution is to recognize that there can be different endings:

  1. Yes, I made a mistake, but the result doesn’t have to be cruel reprimand.
  2. Yes, the partner let me down, but they can – and do – still love me very much.
  3. I could get annoyed, but the emotion doesn’t have to escalate uncontrollably. 

In other words, what happened originally doesn’t have to keep happening. But only if we can first understand what actually happened. And to help us with this, we should explore the past by completing the following sentences:

  1. When I make a mistake…
  2. When I trust someone…
  3. If I get too emotional…
  4. If a partner has to be out of touch for a while… 

The end goal of maturity might be defined as the ability to approach as much of life as possible life without a script.

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