So What is Transactional Analysis?

September 17, 2017

This time I am looking at Scripts and just what it means in relation to the theory of Transaction Analysis.

 

I can remember when I was growing up I wrote stories about how I imagined I would become a super hero; Superman with special powers, saving the world at aged 8 or 9. Of course my world was very small then, a few streets in a small town called Kirkby on the outskirts of Liverpool. I, of course had no idea what the world was, other than what I was surrounded by and the things I saw on our black and white TV.

 

When you think of scripts you may, like me, have first come in touch with them when you were given a few lines to read in the school Christmas play. I can remember mine, I was one of the soldiers who arrested Jesus, my line was,  “Are you the man who calls himself the son of god?”  I clearly remember just how nervous I was in the build up to delivering those few words on the big night.

 

So what is the idea behind Scripts in Transactional Analysis? It is a way to connect with the idea that we are all engaged in writing our own scripts throughout our lives, starting at a very early age.

 

We don’t sit down with a piece of paper and write or draw it out, but we do start to form opinions and make decisions. These are in response to our significant others such as parents, guardians, child-minders, grandparent etc. those who are closest to us during our early years. In my case that also included older brothers and sisters, as being one of ten and one of the youngest, they played a big part in forming my early script decisions.

 

As an infant we make our script decisions in response to the world and the people around us. This is based on a child’s reaction to feelings and what we call reality testing. One of the fascinating things in life is watching how a child tests and responds to their environment and to the people around them. Naturally they challenge and test what is being said or directed towards them.

 

OK, so what are Script messages? These can be verbal, non-verbal or can be a combination of instruction, action and modelling. Even before the child is born parents are busy building an environment for a boy or girl. These are gender-based decisions in respect of clothes, colours, toys etc.  All contribute to forming a world that influences what it means to be a boy or a girl in their society.

 

As the child grows up significant others and society impose many ideas, thoughts, ways of behaving and also just how to respond. This relates to constructs in terms of attitudes and ways of being, this we call modelling.

Young children are always observing the behaviour of people around them. How often have we watched and laughed as a child repeats what we say or copies what we do.

 

The verbal script messages they receive when growing up can be in the form of commands:

Don’t go near the fire!

Don’t play with matches!

Do what you’re told!

Don’t rely on others then you won’t be disappointed!

Whether they become script messages that the child will take forward will depend on just how often they are repeated and the non-verbal connections that accompany the words.

 

I am sure if asked we could all write down many such instructions, commands, attributions, positive and negative responses that were directed at us as children.

 

Attributions relate to what he or she is:

YOU’RE STUPID!

WHO DO YOUR THINK YOU ARE!

YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY LITTLE GIRL/BOY!

YOU’RE AN IDOT!

YOU’RE HOPELESS AT EVEYTHING!

YOU’RE MY LITTLE PRINCE!

 

These are examples of attributions spoken directly to the child. As you can see from the examples they can be positive or negative, but will be accompanied by non-verbal gestures and these give them power in relation to the effect they have on the child.

 

An example of this could be: “YOU’RE AN IDOT!” Repeated over many occasions and delivered with a scowl and harsh voice, the effect will be significantly different if it’s said with laughter and a smile. The combination of statement, voice, body language and expression will determine the effect it has on the child.

 

These attributions can also be family wide, shared by every member of the family. For example, in my family the belief that when something bad happens and it can be both something simple like breaking something, dropping things or major, such as losing your job, the phase, “THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS TO ME!” is always used, but of course it doesn’t. This is the belief. Of course these things happens to everyone and not just members of my family.

 

 

 

As we have now established Script messages can be positive or negative.  In therapy we explore Script messages to help us understand a persons beliefs about themselves, others and attitudes towards the world around them.

 

I have only just touched the surface of the subject of Scripts and Script beliefs. If you would like to understand more about this fascinating and complex aspect of Transactional Analysis I recommend you take a look at Claude Steiner’s book ‘Scripts People Live.’ This is a clear and detailed account of the importance of Scripts and their influence on our everyday behaviour and response in all are transactions. So now when I talk about your Script beliefs you will have a basic understanding of what I am talking about.Part £

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