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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

 Every pastor can be a valued and competent counselor.


In the life of every individual the dramatic life events, the roles that are learned, rehearsed,
and acted out, are originally determined by a script.

A psychological script bears a striking resemblance to a theatrical script.
Each has a prescribed cast of characters, dialogue, acts and scenes, themes and plots,
which move toward a climax and end with a final curtain.

A psychological script is a person’s ongoing program for a life drama which dictates
where the person is going with his or her life and the path that will lead there.
It is a drama an individual compulsively acts out, though one's awareness may be vague.

A person's script may resemble a soap opera, a wild adventure, a tragedy, a saga,
a farce, a romance, a joyful comedy, or a dull play that bores the players and would
put an audience to sleep.

Different dramas contain varying degrees of constructiveness, destructiveness,
or non-productiveness -- going nowhere.

The drama of life starts at birth.
Script instructions are programmed into the Child ego state through transactions
between parent figures and their children.
As children grow, they learn to play parts -- heroes, heroines, villains, victims,
and rescuers and -- unknowingly -- seek others to play complementary roles.

When grown up, people play out their scripts within the context of the society
in which they live, and which has its own dramatic patterns.
As Shakespeare said, “all the world is a stage”.

Individuals follow scripts; families follow scripts; nations follow scripts.
Each individual's life is a unique drama which can include elements of both family
and cultural scripts.

The interplay of these scripts affects the drama of each person's life and thereby
unfolds the history of a people.
Some individuals accept their cultural script, some do not.
If individual's life dramas fit the expectations of their culture, they receive acceptance
and approval.
For example, if "making money" is the cultural focus, people who do well financially
are highly regarded for their scripts are harmonious with their culture.

Other people in the same culture may be considered failures if they choose to pursue
their own interest, ideas, or talents and reject the "making money" theme.
Because their personal scripts are out of harmony with that of their culture,
they are likely to receive disapproval, ridicule, or punishment from others.

While it is likely that some individuals will always blame their lack of achievement on the culture,
it is also likely that history is filled with men and women who were themselves autonomous,
thoughtful people but who existed within a cultural script that could not tolerate
their introducing new, dramatic possibilities.
It is also true that history is filled with women and men who were able to remain
autonomous and exist and grow even though they were surrounded by a cultural script
that was hostile to them.

Subcultural Scripts

When a culture is large and complex, many subcultures exist within it.
Some cultures are often defined by geographical location, ethnic backgrounds,
religious beliefs, sex, education, age, or other common bonds.

Conflict often erupts between subcultural scripts: rich versus poor,
liberal versus conservative, Protestant versus Catholic.
Conflicts may also occur between scripts of a subculture and scripts of a larger culture.
Such as uneducated versus educated, Black versus White, and others.

Family Scripts

When cultural and subcultural scripts are perpetuated, it is usually done so through the family.
Naturally, all families have dramatic patterns which contain elements of the cultural scripts.
Some families, however, develop unique sets of dramas and insist on the children's playing
the appropriate traditional roles.

A family contains identifiable traditions and expectations for each family member
which are successfully transmitted generation after generation.
The scripts are passed from Parent ego states to Parent ego states.
Historically, they are observed in wealthy families that for generations have produced
philanthropists, politicians, professionals, dictators, and others.
Losers run in families.
Winners run in families.

When family scripts are perpetuated, the unity of family members and expectations
for certain behavior are indicated by such phrases as:
"Our family has always been known for our good deeds."
"Our families have always lived off the land and always will."
"In our family, we would starve rather than ask for help."

Some family scripts include long-held traditions about vocational expectations:
"Every member of our family has graduated from college."
"Every woman in our family has been nurses."
A family member who does not live up to the script expectation is often thought of
as the "black sheep."

Many family scripts have an explicit set of directions for each individual and the family,
with different expectations for each sex.
Not all families perpetuate family scripts.
Many individuals and/or families work at deliberately throwing off the script traditions
of the older generation.
Some traditions simply die because they are difficult to maintain when circumstances
are changing rapidly.

Family scripts can be changed by an outside influence.
Certain families in the United States, poverty stricken for generations, have low expectations
for themselves and others.
The children are scripted for failure.
This is particularly true in reference to education.

If a strong corrective is applied, family scripts of poverty and failure can change.
Failure scripts can be rewritten toward self respect and achievement.
Potential losers can become potential winners.
When old expectations and traditions are thrown off or are no longer possible,
new scripts can emerge.

The experience of change can be painful or pleasurable, disrupting or unifying,
for better or for worse, or a mixture of all these things.
Some family scripts promote success, and some promote failure.
Some families rewrite their scripts by promoting change.
However, in the life of any one individual, the most important forces in forming
his or her script are the messages received from parents.

A person's script will always be based on three questions that involve personal identity
and destiny: Who am I? What am I doing here? and Who are all those others?

How Scripting Occurs

Scripting first occurs non-verbally.
Infants begin to pick up messages about themselves and their worth through their
first experiences of being touched or being ignored by others.
Soon they see facial expressions and respond to them as well as to touch and to sounds.

Children who are cuddled affectionately, smiled at, and talked to receive different messages
from those who are handled with fright, hostility, or anxiety.
Children who receive little touch and who experience parental indifference or hostility are discounted.
They learn to feel they are not-OK and perhaps may feel like a "nothing."

Children's first feelings about themselves are likely to remain the most powerful force in their
life dramas, significantly influencing the psychological positions they take and the roles they play.
Within their first few years, children begin to understand the scripting messages
their parents put into words.

These messages that the child later feels compelled to follow:
"You'll be famous someday."
"You'll never amount to anything."
"You're a great kid."
"We'd had been better off without you."

A child is scripted occupationally when parents say:
"John was cut out to be a doctor."
"That kid will never hold a job."
"She will make a good nurse."
"He's too lazy to wor

Each child receives specific script instructions related to his or her sex and marriage.
For example, "When you get married …" sends a different message from "If you get married …"

A child's future sexual roles and attitudes are influenced by such judgments.
" She's like a little mother."
" Why couldn't you have been a bo

Failure or going nowhere scripts may result from unrealistic or inaccurate programming.
For example, a person may be encouraged to be a doctor or lawyer but at the same time
may not be given any messages about that time, intellectual ability, education,
and money it takes to get there.

There is some truth in the cliché, "It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it."
Sometimes, a parent may script a child by saying one thing while implying another.
Regardless of what a parent says, a child is most likely to respond to nonverbal messages.
A tender, affectionate "Of course I love you" is quite different from an ulterior, incongruent message:

A tense "Of course I love you."
An angry "Of course I love you."
A disinterested "Of course I love you."

Scripts With A Curse

Although parental messages contain varying degrees of constructiveness, destructiveness,
or non-productiveness, some parents because of their own pathology, send blatantly destructive
injunctions to their children.
Later in life, these destructive orders can be like an electrode in the Child ego state
which, when triggered off, compels the person to comply with the command.

In the book, Born To Win, there is an illustration about a young man, named Ronald,
who hanged himself at the age of 25.
He had devoted his life to care for his ailing twin sister.
After her death at age 18, he became increasingly depressed and more and more withdrawn.

In discussing his suicide, here is what his parents said.
His mother said: "I'm not really surprised, it was inevitable. 
We've had several suicides in our family over the years.
In fact, my brother slit his own throat.
I warned Ronald many times he might kill himself.
Even his sister wouldn't take her medicine.
No wonder she died so young

His father said: "All my life I have felt defeated and gloomy.
In fact, my father owned a funeral parlor.
When Ronnie would ask me for advice, I've tried hard not to give it to him
and would just quote the parables of Jesus.
What else could I have done?
For years I've been depressed and have drunk myself off two jobs.
Guess I haven't been too good an example.
Maybe Ronnie's death wasn't so bad

Ronnie had lived under the expectation that he would kill himself and his suicide was the result
of direct and ulterior messages -- a tragic ending to his script.

Ulterior messages are like curses that cast a spell on a child.

They are destructive injunctions that given either directly and verbally or indirectly
and by implication -- like a "witch message."

Direct commands a child might hear are:
" If they gave a prize for being ugly, you'd get it."
" Get los

A child may infer a command based on parental actions:
The boy whose every act of aggression is stopped can infer, "Don't be a man."
The child who is criticized for emotions can infer, "Don't feel."
Or "Don't show your feelings."

The child who is punished for disagreeing with his or her elders can infer, "Don't think."
The child who is manipulated with guilt often infers ",Torture yourself."

These commandments, often given in the form of injunctions or permissions, are felt by the child
to be imperatives.
They are difficult for the person to break because, in a sense, the person is being a "good boy"
or a "good girl" by following his or her parents' instructions.

A person who lives under destructive commands -- a curse -- and refuses to do his or her
own thinking is spellbound.
When older, the person may feel helpless in the face of what they would call "fate."
Spellboundness may be verbalize:
"I'm trapped."
"I can't help myself."
"I'm a born loser

Every person is born a unique individual who has inherited capacities and potentialities
to develop, experience, and express.
Very early in life some children receive messages from significant people that discount them
in some way causing them to function below their real potential.

People who live their lives under the spell of a curse they refuse to give up by blaming their parents.
We know that parents are not always right.
A person can always blame the parents if they want to play the blaming game,
and can make the parents responsible for all their problems.
Or, they can accept responsibility for their own lives, and change their script.

People who become aware of their script can determine the course of their own
life plans and rewrite their dramas in accordance with their own uniqueness. 
Such people can come in touch with their possible selves and redirect their compulsion
to live life within one's specific framework.
For many, this is not easy,
In fact, it is often painful and involves much hard work.

People who learned a thing by themselves as something they aren't can re-decide in favor
of their real potential.
They can become winners.

So, a script can be briefly defined as the life plan, very much like a dramatic stage production,
that an individual feels compelled to play out.
A script is related to the early decisions and the positions taken by a child.
It is in the Child ego state and is "written" through the transactions between parents and their child.
The games that are played are part of the script.
When the positions and games are identified, a person can become more aware of this life script.

The ultimate goal of transactional analysis is the analysis of scripts, saying the script determines
the destiny and identity of the individual.


People wear many masks and have many forms of armor that keep their reality confined
and unknown, even to themselves.
The possibility of encountering one's reality -- learning about one's self -- can be frightening and frustrating.
Many people expect to discover the worst.
A hidden fear lies in the fact that they may also discover the best.

To discover the worst is to face the decision of whether or not to continue in the same patterns.
To learn to be the best is to face the decision of whether or not to live up to it.
Either discovery may involve change and is therefore anxiety-provoking.
But this can be a creative anxiety which may be thought of as exciting -- exciting meaning to enhance
one's possibilities for being a winner.

Transactional analysis is a tool a person can use to know himself or herself, and to know
how he or she can relate to others.
Transactional analysis can also be a tool which would help one to discover the dramatic course
that his or her life is taking.

The unit of personality structure is the ego state.
By becoming aware of your ego states, you can distinguish between your various sources
of thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns.
You can discover where there is discord and where there is agreement within your own personality.
You can become more aware of the options available to you.

The unit of measure in interpersonal relationships is the transaction.
By analyzing your transactions, you can gain a more conscious control of how you operate with other people
and how they operate with you.

You can determine when your transactions are complimentary, crossed, or ulterior.
You can also discover what " games" you play.

Transactional analysis is a practical frame of reference from which you can evaluate old decisions
and behavior and change what you decide is desirable for you to change.

The information above can be found in “Born To Win” by James Muriel and Dorothy Jongeward.

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