You Don’t Have to Stick to the Script

“Each person decides in early childhood how he will live and how he will die, and that plan, which he carries in his head wherever he goes, is called his script.”

Eric Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello

When you experience strong negative emotions your emotional memory records the situation, the characters involved, your thoughts and actions. These become part of your danger or emotional database and if any of the components of the memory are activated a threat response may be triggered. Hence if you have been taken advantage of by an unscrupulous trader or been misled and deceived by a co-worker you will be more likely to identify such behaviour in the future and take preventative action.

danger databaseRecords have been added to your emotional database throughout your life and where there was high emotional intensity or experiences were repeated several times, records remain easily accessible. Moreover, your brain’s innate proclivity for pattern recognition can lead to childhood experiences eliciting emotional reactions from situations which superficially have little connection. For instance, if Sofia as a child was bullied by an elder sibling or humiliated by a teacher for making a mistake in class, these memories and associated emotional responses may be triggered by an overbearing or highly critical boss. In an instant, Sofia is transported back to her childhood feelings of powerlessness or shame, though without necessarily comprehending the source of her feelings. In effect, she has imported what psychoanalysts refer to as a ‘script’ and the danger is that she falls into the impotent role she played as a child.

In order to avoid danger we are constantly, unconsciously, scanning and comparing the current situation to the danger database and the problem is that our pattern recognition is sometimes too sensitive and we sense a threat where none exists. Once the threat, however unconsciously, is felt, our brains, always preferring ‘better safe than sorry’, seek out confirmation of the threat and innocent remarks and gestures by others are easily misinterpreted. Through the approaches I will outline later in the book, you can become conscious of your own scripts and consciously intervene so that you avoid false positive alerts. Furthermore, you will be able to address more easily unresolved emotional issues from earlier in your life. I must emphasise that I am not talking here of self-psychoanalysis or childhood regression, just practical steps to help you to become more aware of your unconscious thought processes.