person holding compass

Rediscovering Autonomy by Understanding Our Life Script

What have you sacrificed, believing it would make you happy? How many times have you entered a relationship or situation knowing how/that it will end? You’ve seen the red flags, something inside you recognises the ‘game,’ yet you still choose to dive in, hoping that maybe this time it will be different. And it’s not. Do you blame fate or think that your inner GPS is malfunctioning?


Not too long ago, I used to blame my unfortunate fate for meeting only people who pressed on the wounds of betrayal and injustice. I blamed myself for consistently making ill-fated choices.

The last time I made such a choice, I stopped and said: “Enough! Let’s see how I contribute to these choices, why I look only where it leads to suffering, and why I seem incapable of making healthy choices.”

In this process, I unearthed some of the needs of my inner child — the need for being loved, seen and the fear of being alone.

Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis and life script theory, suggests that we unconsciously adopt behaviours guiding us towards an imagined ‘end’, scripted in our childhood.

We do this in the hope of resolving that ‘basic need/problem’ that remained unresolved in our early childhood: how to receive unconditional love and attention.

As children, we decide on our life script because it is the best strategy we can adopt to survive in what seems to be a hostile world. When you were a child, you learned in your family that certain feelings were encouraged and others unacceptable, forbidden. To please your loved ones, you began to be inauthentic – replacing your genuine feelings with those that were allowed to be expressed.

By learning which feelings you were allowed to experience as a child, you chose a preferred experience that you will later seek and pursue in meaningful relationships throughout your life.

Every time you were told “Behave! Be a good girl!”, repeatedly in an authoritative tone, you may have internalised this as “Don’t express yourself in any way!” or “Stop being smart!” – which can  also be internalised by the child as: “Be a fool!”

Many of the beliefs cemented in childhood can still be active in adult life, defining your reality.

One way to make sure the world fits into your scenario is to selectively ignore information that is available to you about that situation.

Another way you support your script is to (sometimes) enter relationships where you reenact the dynamics you had with your parents as a child.

For example, situations in which one of the partners ‘plays’ the role of the Parent/Adult and the other plays the Child – often without being aware of it.

The good news is that we possess the ability to step out of our life stories and gain autonomy.

Getting out of the script can be done internally, by granting permissions, or externally through therapy or special life events (the adolescent’s reappraisal of parents, the bizarre protests of middle age and the subsequent shaping of one’s own philosophy).

How to identify your life script:

To initiate this transformative journey, it is crucial to identify and understand as many beliefs and patterns derived from your formative years as possible

Think about the story that represents you in the world, the one you constantly tell yourself and others about you.

Take a scroll through your Facebook profile and observe without judgment what ‘story’ you tell others through the photos you post.

Create a captivating photo presentation showcasing the chapters of your life. Share the journey with a friend and let the stories unfold. Be curious about your selections. Is your story one of success? Does it have a hint of drama? Or is it bland? Above all, notice what you have left out; what you don’t say about yourself.

Identify the basic needs that have not been met for you – then ask for a hug from someone dear, take a bath with salt, have a cup of your favourite tea, do something for your well-being.

If you have time for extra work, answer the questions below:

  • What messages did you receive about yourself during your childhood. (Write everything you remember, especially what you were criticised for.)
  • How have your parents/others told you that you should be?
  • What were the messages you heard at home, or elsewhere, that have been repeated to you about relationships, money, success, sex, etc.? What were the slogans, the ‘wishes’, the orders received? (e.g. “You are going to end up like your father/mother”, “Stop whining so much”, “Shut up!”, “Save every penny”, “Work hard to get it”, “People are mean”, “Men (or women) are all the same”)
  • Name ways in which you were led to believe that:
    • You are not enough.
    • You’re too much!

I invite you to openly look at yourself, to see yourself the way you are, with all the excuses and defences that arise, without judgment or shame. Notice only the old borrowed beliefs that no longer serve your growth. Only then will you be able to recognise them and let them go.

Remember, the process of breaking free from a life script is gradual and may require ongoing effort. It’s a journey of self-discovery and transformation.

Share your thoughts, experiences, and insights. Let’s embark on this journey of self-discovery together—comment below and let the conversation flourish.

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