Posts Tagged ‘scripts’

Pam reynold's surgery

After my relatively recent preoccupation with dreams it seems appropriate to republish this sequence which is a fictional attempt to project my inscape into words. Dreams and day dreams feature quite a lot!

At the end of the last post I was explaining how I had forgotten a crucial insight into my childhood hospital experience even when, eight years later, I retrieved the same insight under different circumstances.

‘It’s not quite as simple as that,’ I sense a silent groan around me as I speak. ‘Just recently I was reading in my 1976 diary that, in my Transactional Analysis group at the time, I’d re-enacted the moment of my second surgery, when it took half-a-dozen ward staff to hold me down. I wrote that it left me sobbing in the absolute clarity of the insight. Even the words of the life-script I wrote in my diary the day before the re-enactment – ‘I’ve only myself to rely on’ –  are the very same ones that came like a bolt of light into my head in 1984 during the breathing meditation in Much Wenlock. OK, I can understand why I might not remember something that happened 40 years ago, even if it was important at the time. But to forget about something so significant in less than eight! Still, forget all about it was what I had done: I had no memory at all, not the faintest trace, that I’d used those words before. It came as a complete surprise.’

I knew I was labouring the point, but I could see the expression on their faces even before anyone else spoke.

‘Really?’ responded Pancake flatly. ‘How could you forget something so crucial?’ She has joined the incredulity clique.

‘It beats me. All I know is that I have learned many times over how fallible memory is: this is just one more example. More important for us now, is this. If I failed so dramatically to get full benefit from the first work I did, how could I be sure I’d clinched it the second time?’

The scepticism was still palpable on all their faces.

‘Yes, I admit I’ve been able to spot moments since, when the I’ve only myself to rely on script I’d discovered surfaces into consciousness, and I’ve then been able to stop myself acting it out. But that’s not the same as fully integrating the part of me which is still clinging to that script for dear life. Because my parents couldn’t stay with me in hospital in those days, I felt abandoned for the second time. We need to find out if that’s what she meant by betrayed.’

‘But how do we do that?’ Humfreeze asks the obvious question.

Mires has a possible answer. ‘It seems to me that this girl is listening to every word we say. We need to find a way of proving to her that we can be trusted. If she is convinced of that, then she will be more likely to explain what she means.’

Wordless spots the problem straightaway: ‘Just telling her she can trust us is not going to be enough to dispel decades of suspicion, is it?’

‘You’re right,’ Mires immediately admits.

Deep thought descends on all of us.

‘I’m not sure we can prove our trustworthiness to her at this point,’ I hesitantly share, aware that not everyone is fully behind me right now. ‘I think the best we can do – and in a way I am doing this now by saying this out loud since she can hear me – is to convey that we can only help her if she explains what she means. We can’t hurt her more if she tells us, than we can hurt her now if she doesn’t. We’re more likely though to carry on hurting her in our blindness, than we would do if we knew. We know she has suffered and we care. We don’t want her to be hurt anymore, if we can help it. And even more importantly, we will all benefit, not just her, from understanding her better. It’s in our interests to help. I’m not sure if that will convince her to share more, but it’s the best I can think of.’

‘I think I agree,’ Humfreeze replies. ‘I think we should give it our last shot now. Strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.’

‘Sorry! Can you repeat that, Chris? I never thought I’d live to hear you use that proverb as a guide to action!’ Pancake is only half-joking. Humfreeze just grins and say nothing.

Mires checks out if we all agree and we do.

We settle down into our séance positions. There is a long silence. Well, it feels long. I’ve no idea how long it really is.

Garden party

Humfreeze’s chair creaks again. I open my eyes. The slender figure of a young girl stands on the lawn a few feet away. Everyone’s eyes are open by now. Mires goes to the table behind us to get another chair.

‘Please will you join us, my dear,’ Humfreeze says quietly and warmly.

She hesitates a moment before walking slowly to sit down beside him. There is no gown now that I can see, just a long dress that trails across the grass as she moves. Her hair and her eyes are dark, as he said they were. There are dark shadows beneath her eyes.

‘Welcome. You are so brave and we are so grateful to meet you,’ Humfreeze continues. ‘Are you all right to talk yet?’

She pauses. ‘Yes,’ is all she says softly.

‘Do you know all of us?’ asks Mires.


‘Are you ready to tell us who you are?’ Mires leans forward ever so slightly forward in his chair with a gentle smile on his face, the picture of reassurance.

‘My name is Indira.’ I wonder whether her friends would call her Indie for short, if she had any friends, that is.

‘Is that the only name you have?’ He is taking this very slowly and gently.

‘My second name is Pindance.’

‘Indira Pindance,’ Mires repeats. ‘Shall we call you Indira? Is that OK?’

‘Yes. For now.’

Humfreeze picks up the baton. ‘You told me that you had been betrayed. What did you mean by that?’

‘That man,’ she points towards me, ‘was right. My mum and my dad left me all alone there.’

‘In the hospital?’

‘Yes. I knew what was going to happen. They’d done it before.’

‘The surgeon’s team, you mean?’

‘Yes. There were too many of them. I couldn’t stop them killing me again.’ She begins to cry.

‘You don’t have to carry on if you don’t want to,’ Mires steps in gently. ‘This must be very hard.’

She is quiet for a moment, the tears running down her cheeks. She has stopped sobbing. Pancake passes her a handkerchief patterned with forget-me-nots. She whispers a thank you and wipes her eyes slowly.

‘I want to explain something,’ Pindance is calmer again for now.

‘We would love to hear anything you want to say. Please stop though if you get too upset.’ Wordless shows in his face how much he cares.

‘I was so hurt I hated my mum and dad. And so angry. They’d let me down. They left me there alone. They didn’t protect me or explain properly. I know now from what you say they couldn’t help it. But then I didn’t understand. I couldn’t trust them anymore. I couldn’t trust God either. I only had myself. No one else. So I tried to keep out of sight, to stay hidden, not to trust anyone. But I’ve been trying to teach you all the same message from behind the scenes, whispering it into your minds whenever I got the chance. I just knew you had to believe this is true, or you’d always get hurt. I’m not so sure now. ’

'The Ready-Made Bouquet' by René Magritte

‘The Ready-Made Bouquet’ by René Magritte

I am not the only one to notice that something very strange has been happening since she first walked towards us: she has grown noticeably older. Either that or the chair she is sitting on is shrinking.

No, it isn’t. The chairs are all still the same size.

Her hair remains the same length even though the shadows beneath her eyes are growing lighter. Her face is fuller and somehow more confident. She meets our gaze more fully now. She doesn’t seem so scared.

‘Indira, do you feel any different now you’ve had the courage to share this with us?’ Wordless seems slightly in awe of her.

‘Yes, yes, I do. Definitely. I feel bigger inside, stronger somehow. This is the first time in my whole life I don’t feel alone.’

‘It shows, my dear,’ Miles enthused. ‘You’ve grown up before our eyes.’

‘Can we call you, Indie?’ I ask. ‘It feels like we are becoming friends, maybe even family in a way.’

‘Indie! That sounds strange. Nice though, and friendly. Yes, call me Indie,’ Pindance agreed.

As I looked around me, I saw Emmie, Bill, Chris and Fred all close to tears as she spoke.

‘Do you think, Indie, that the reason we have all argued so much, is partly because of what you were whispering invisibly into our minds? Do you think that’s why we have never been able to work together on anything much till now?’ Emmie looks searchingly around her as she speaks, clearly wondering whether we have all been wondering the same thing.

I know as I listen that Pindance’s subliminal whisperings might have affected in some way how I deal with almost anyone who might get too close, not just within my Parliament of Selves. I’ll need to think about that more.

‘Of course,’ Indie answers. ‘That’s exactly what I wanted you to do. I wanted you to be as guarded and alone as I was. Partly because I thought it would keep you safe, but as I realise now, also because it made me feel less weird.’

‘Does this mean we can all work together better now? Find ways of helping each other instead of battling for our own way all the time?’ We can hear the same longing in Bill’s voice as we all feel.

‘Oh, I really do hope so,’ sighs Chris. ‘I’m so tired of fighting a lonely battle. We could all achieve so much more if we pulled together.’

‘Am I reading too much into this,’ I ask, ‘or does it mean that we really can sit down together and discuss how to reflect more effectively? Do we all see it can help us all?’

Fred nods emphatically. ‘I think we’re all on the same page at last. We can all see the point of what you want to do. We’re all behind you in our different ways. We’ll be happy to work out exactly how best to help.’

Even as he speaks, I can see the fence behind him showing through his ribs. I stare quickly round at everyone else, and all sides of the garden are showing through their bodies. Any moment now they will be gone. Indie smiles radiantly across at me as she becomes increasingly transparent.

‘Before you fade away completely, please tell me we can continue to work together!’ I shout.

They seem to be nodding as they leave, or it could just be that the wind tugging at the branches behind their heads makes it look that way.

‘It really feels like Christmas,’ Humfreeze shouts before he disappears.

I am alone now. Have they gone back to being invisible but separate, or are they now blended into my being and part of a more integrated self?

‘Time will tell!’ I find myself saying, as a particularly strong gust of wind in the chimes outside the front door charms me out of my sleep.


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script is a personal life plan which each individual forms by a series of decisions early in her life in reaction to her interpretation of the important things happening in her world.

(Woollams and Brown: TA: the total handbook of Transactional Analysis – page 139)

Some six years ago I was struggling to come to terms with a very testing situation. I don’t want to go into detail. Things have moved on now and, in any case, I never wanted to reveal the details on this blog. The nearest I came was to translate them into a piece of fiction by way of illustration. Hence the cafe dilemma I described in 2013, after a couple of years of intense reflection and self-work.

As time went on, my thinking deepened and I did a sequence on what I called the threebrain issue. It should come as no surprise that my thinking did not stop there.

Life has caused me to take yet another look at the powerful tool/process of reflection, partly in the light of my sequence ending on the idea of the mind’s hive and reflection as collecting the nectar of love and the pollen of wisdom from experience as it flowers, but from a slightly different angle and digging somewhat deeper into the sources of the dark emotions we need to step back from. I am sharing this in the hope that my experiences will be of use to others.

To explain what I’m getting at I need to recapitulate briefly some points made in earlier blogs.

From the mid-70s to the mid-80s, my life morphed at least three times into very different shapes, the gems of transformation being held together by the threads of self-work and meditation. I went from teacher to psychologist, atheist to believer, and single to married. It was a bumpy road at times especially in the 12 months from December 1981 to November 1982.

My diary shows how I was struggling with my personal priorities. Just before Christmas 1981 I’m writing:

People whose lifestyle I wish to copy are Jung, Henry Moore and others who seemed to have vast tracts of time at their disposal to read, discuss, think, and explore their own and others’ minds and feelings. . . . . My lifestyle may be incompatible with any partner’s happiness. I am not prepared to give it up so I must either find a partner with the same priorities or live alone. I do not want to see my preferred way of living bring misery to people that I care for.

Behind these insights was a history of two broken relationships which I refer to later in slightly more detail.

What’s more, even within the context of my priorities, I am clearly at war with myself, as I state on Christmas Day:

I find myself again at Christmas having resolved again upon a new way of living, but my resolve dissolves into confusion. My urge to meditate, my urge to read and my urge to write, all compete. And I am eventually immobilised between these equal and contradictory forces. . . . When I read I hanker to be writing or reflecting and so on. If I slump in front of the television to escape the tension I become tenser than ever.

Some things don’t change – well, not that easily at least. My blog posts testify to how my core interests still conflict. I have not written as much about how the demands of a practical, religious, social and family life also pull me in opposite directions. It’s the same for many of us, I know. Finding the right balance is difficult. What I perhaps had failed to give sufficient weight to, at the beginning of this six year period, was that patterns of feeling, thought and behaviour that I had worked on many times, both before and after the stresses of 1982, had not lost all their power to disrupt my life and my relationships.

What follows in this first post is a description of my later steps along this same journey before looking back again at aspects of 1982.

Previously on this blog I have not gone too deeply into the personal specifics at the root of my gut reactions. Partly I did not want to be boringly narcissistic: partly I was just plain chicken. However, it is not possible to unpack exactly how the present triggers patterns of destructive feeling, thought and action without looking at one’s own past in some detail.

One of the clearest explanations of how our past shapes our present in this way comes in a book on Transactional Analysis, a form of therapy that was of enormous benefit to me in my early days of working in mental health. Woollams and Brown write in their book – TA: the total handbook of Transactional Analysis (page 139):

A script is a personal life plan which each individual forms by a series of decisions early in her life in reaction to her interpretation of the important things happening in her world. The most important decisions determine a person’s character structure and are usually decided upon by age two or three. Most of the rest occur by about age six, while others may be made through adolescence and some even later.

I’ll use the simplified diagram above to illustrate one of my scripts. I am aware that this does not include a whole host of things that also helped shape my character, such as my sister’s death before I was born, my parents’ grief, and their very different ways of impacting upon me as a child – my father modelling the stiff upper lip approach to the point of rigidity until his last moments, as the poem at the top of this post attempts to capture, and my mother racked with anxiety and unremitting grief. No surprise really then that I chose to copy dad’s frozen stoicism, something it took nearly three decades to melt down.

So we are shaped by a multitude of factors and devise several interacting scripts in response. For clarity’s sake I’ve stuck to only one script in its simplest form.

This schema attempts to incorporate the roots of some of the insights that were facilitated by breakthroughs via rebirthing, Gestalt and TA in an evolving process. Recent experiences definitely confirmed that scripts travel with us to the grave. We can resolve them each time they are triggered, and they may never be triggered in exactly that way again. But that does not mean that a different event later cannot trigger them in a different way. Previous work can help weaken them somewhat, but they can still slide under our guard.

So, I had to dig this one out again for another look.

I have always known that I had had two difficult experiences in hospital sometime between the ages of four and seven. I knew I needed to work out what that had meant to me. The Primal Scream approach to therapy broke me through to an inexplicable pain but shed no more light on the content of any connected experience. Rebirthing, another breathing therapy, which came much later finally pulled the connections together in a way that TA and Gestalt hadn’t quite managed to do. As I was reconnected with the moments before being anaesthetised a second time, what was new was that I vividly re-experienced the critical moment itself, the few seconds before I went unconscious. I remembered also what I had never got close to before, my feelings at the time, and even more than that I knew exactly what I had thought at the time as well.

This all came as a tightly wrapped bundle falling into my mind, as though someone had thrown it down from some window in my heart. It didn’t come in sequence, as I’m telling it, but all at once. It was a complete integrated realisation – the warm energy, the situation, the feelings and the thoughts. And yet I had no difficulty retaining it and explaining it to the therapist. And I remember it still without having taken any notes at all at the time that I can now find. The journal entry recording the event is a single line – no more.

And what were the thoughts?

I knew instantly that I had lost my faith in Christ, and therefore God – where was He right then? Nowhere. And they’d told me He would always look after me. I lost my faith in my family, especially my parents. Where were they? Nowhere to be seen. I obviously couldn’t rely on them. Then like a blaze of light from behind a cloud came the idea: ‘You’ve only yourself to rely on.’

Once I could build this insight firmly into the picture of my script I could more fully understand how it made sense of other aspects of my behaviour. My reading wasn’t only to do with my childhood illnesses, my need to do something with the time I spent in bed, and my desire to escape from my mother’s fear that I would die young as her daughter had.

The diagram attempts to map how that scripted decision shaped my reactions to events within relationships with people later in life. It’s simply here to illustrate what kinds of patterns are buried in all of us, triggering feelings that we must filter through reflection, as I will be explaining in a later post, before we act. As we will see, this is why acting on deeply held, tried and tested values rather than feelings is so important.

The stressors I referred to at the start of this post, and which I illustrated with the cafe story I linked to, reactivated aspects of the script particularly relating to trust and  keeping my distance which in turn began to trigger action patterns that would break a relationship or at least test it to breaking point.

I had not noticed this link at first because I was assuming my reactions were all perfectly natural under the circumstances, or else explicable in terms of other less sensitive areas of my scripts. In the end the penny dropped. Here I go again. Only later still did I realise this reactivation did not, as in the past, apply simply to the person who had pressed the button: it also affected my feelings about other people as well. This was an important realisation to keep hold of and reflect upon.

A simple imaginary example will illustrate how this might work. There are three brothers. They’re close but one of them, Jim, has a similar script to mine.  Chris, his younger brother, betrays his trust by stealing money from his desk. Not only does this cause Jim to cut all contact with Chris, but he starts to wonder whether he can trust his older brother, John. He begins to pull back somewhat from their original closeness just in case. John notices and gets a bit upset. Jim picks up on this and sees it as confirming what he thought and pulls back even more.

Once I cottoned on to this tendency for the trigger’s impact to generalise in this way, it helped me put potentially damaging reactions on hold so I did no further harm to other relationships in addition to the triggering one.

Putting these ideas outside me in this way eventually began to enable me to escape even further than I already had from the clutches of my scripts and drivers, but was not enough to release me more completely to reconnect more consistently with my deepest self.

Even so, this whole experience taught me that life is not a smooth ascent but a series of climbs and falls as tests come in different shapes and sizes.

The ideas also helped explain with hindsight why an early close relationship in my life splintered completely once trust was broken, and goes some way to explain why I retreated from a second when I feared it might go the same way because of our incompatibility. Books and meditation helped sustain me through the next difficult year of 1982 in the aftermath, even though I felt my fixation on books was not entirely healthy, as a poem I completed a few years later tried to express in a tongue-in-cheek take on the matter via a persona created for the purpose.

In the next post I’ll go on to describe how I developed a more positive take on my bookworm tendencies.

After that, even more reflection about reflection was required before I could disentangle myself more satisfactorily from the still smouldering scripts that I thought I had left behind. A critical skill that I have struggled to master for many years now is to recognise, right at the time it is triggered, that this pattern of reactions that I am calling a script is not who I am: it is simply a pattern of behaviour I have learned and can unlearn. I can spot it, step back and stop it, before deciding to put something more constructive in its place.

This goes somewhat beyond the simple traffic light system I discussed in the Three-Brains Revisited sequence. I’m not just disidentifying from a simple feeling but rather from a complex constellation of characteristics that I had previously mistaken for a self. This is how reflection can take us to increasingly higher levels of understanding and transformation. I needed to find a way of consolidating even more firmly my hold upon this truth.

More on that later.

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