STEP ONE: Discover the "inner child" from your past by remembering how your parents treated you.
Missildine (1963) published an interesting book about the impact of childhood experiences on our adult lives. He suggested that we all have an "inner child," reflecting the atmosphere in our childhood home, and an adult part, which tries to forget the past and live only in the present. The inner child influences almost everything we do and feel as adults; it can't be discounted and just forgotten. His book is filled with case histories showing how early experiences intrude on our work, relationships, emotions, adjustment and self-concept as adults. See Table 9.2 for several illustrations. Missildine felt that these early experiences were remembered quite well, often vividly. They are, therefore, not exactly unconscious factors. On the other hand, many people minimize the influence of these powerful forces, so their destructive effects are often overlooked. For example, adult children of alcoholics can clearly remember the drunken mother's or father's embarrassing behavior and insults, but they frequently do not realize the connection between their childhood and their current high anxiety or caretaker role or perfectionistic needs. Weinhold (1995) provides a guide to discovering dysfunctional family traits and their impact on your inner Child; that is the first step to healing the hurt inner Child.
Table 9.2 may be used in either or both ways, i.e. (1) identify the kind of parenting you experienced as a child, and then ask if you fit the suggested possible outcomes. Or, (2) identify your current personality traits or problems, and then ask if your parents parented in the suggested ways. Knowing how you got to be the way you are is a good first step towards gaining insight and changing.
STEP TWO: Finding your life script.
Chapter 9 dealt with "Understanding Yourself and Your Relationships." The parent, adult, and child parts of our personality are described there. Also, life positions, games, and life scripts are discussed. Our task here is to more clearly identify your life script and to find ways to change it, but in order to do this please refer to the important information in chapter 9.
Although our life script develops by age 5 or 6, it is a complex process. Parents and others gave us useful, growth-promoting messages and models: Be nice, don't hit, be responsible, think of others, etc. Sometimes parents modeled undesirable behavior: Hitting and yelling at each other, lying, being selfish, etc. Providing more inconsistencies, we were rewarded for good--and bad--behavior and punished for bad--and good--actions. We were evaluated: You are a good kid, dumb, clumsy, gentle with sister, strong, cute, fat, fun, a pain in the neck, etc. Parents had certain expectations of us: You will be in trouble when you go to school, you'll have lots of friends, try to be an athletic star, etc. We learned to give ourselves both possible and impossible self-instructions: Be great, do your best, always do what others want, always be strong, etc. Perhaps, one or both of our parents' child or parent ego state might subtly have given us destructive instructions: Don't outdo me, don't grow up, don't be a child, don't love, don't be sexual, don't think for yourself, etc. We learned to trust or to dislike others; we felt good or bad about ourselves. Out of that welter of cognitive-emotional processing comes our personality. No wonder we have such mixed feelings about our life roles. Chapter 9 gives more details.
From day one, we all are trying to get along the best we can in this complex, contradictory, confusing world. We, as young children, decide how to live. The whinny, sickly child gets attention; the mean, strong-willed, rebellious kid gets his way; the conforming, quiet child is appreciated; the good kid is loved. We learn to expect to be winners or losers. These are all preschool choices...and they influence us for an entire lifetime. But the scripts can be rewritten when we get older and wiser. Just as with any self-help effort, it is important to make specific decisions about exactly what behaviors, feelings, ideas, or interactions you want to change. Transactional therapists usually draw up a contract with the client, stating what the client wants to change and what he/she is going to do in order to change. Eric Berne said, "My business is turning frogs into princes."
Although we tend to be an OK winner (a hero) or a not-OK loser (a villain or a victim), one person may sometimes play several scripts, e.g. a person may be a tough, villainous boss at work, a quiet, dominated victim at home, and a heroic rescuer on the volunteer fire department or domestic violence crisis team.
Understanding your life script(s) and using that concept to improve your life involves several sub-steps: Use chapter 9 to get in touch with your ego states and decide how powerful each one is in you. In the following steps of this method, you will first assess how you feel (OK or not OK) towards yourself and towards others, i.e. your Life Position, then you will identify more about the games and roles you play. Based on this information, you will be able to write out your Life Script (or different scripts in different situations). Later, by comparing the Script of the 5-year-old inside you with the goals and values you have as a reasonable adult, you can re-write your Life Script and specify the changes you need to make in order to get what you want out of life.
Do you feel OK or not OK about yourself?
By reading in chapter 9 about the parent, adult, and child, which do you think is the strongest (most influential) part of your personality? which is the weakest part? Dusay and Dusay (1979) have a test for measuring the parent, adult and child, if you are interested.
- If you answered that your strongest part is the adult, the natural child, or the nurturing parent, you are inclined to feel positive about yourself. Rate yourself + or ++, depending on the strength of your positive feelings.
- If your strongest part is the critical parent or adaptive child, you may feel negative about yourself. Rate yourself - or --, depending on the strength of your feelings.
Remember your parents' early messages (consider the examples given above): what were you told, what was his/her tone, how were you handled, did the comments and actions "make" you feel good or bad about yourself?
- If you got more positive messages, rate yourself + or ++.
- If you got more negative messages, rate yourself - or --.
Think back on your parents' messages to you as a grade school student and as a teenager: How did they feel about your looks? your ability? your morals? your friends? your ability to relate to others? your future?
- Rate these messages as --, -, 0, +, or ++.
In method #1 of chapter 14, there are detailed instructions for assessing your self-concept by listing your positive and negative traits. Are you frequently sad? Sad people often feel "not OK" relative to others.
- Rate how you rationally evaluate yourself: --, -, 0, +, ++.
Also, consider your internal critic (method #1, chapter 14) and your critical parent (chapter 9): Do you put yourself down, like Sooty Sarah? Do you remember receiving destructive injunctions, as described in chapter 9? Is your true secret opinion of yourself very different from your expressed opinion?
- Rate how you really feel about yourself: --, -, 0, +, ++.
Conclusion: Review the five ratings above and decide if you feel OK or not OK about yourself.
Final Rating: --, -, 0, +, ++.
Do you feel OK or not OK about others?
What are your memories as a young child about your parents? Did you generally expect help, love, concern, acceptance, support, etc. or anger, punishment, indifference, unpredictable moods, "I'm busy," etc.?
- Rate your reactions to your parents: --, -, 0, +, ++.
What messages did you get as a young child about others? Were others (teenagers, casual acquaintances your age, people your parents' age, old people, strangers, "our kind" and "their kind," etc.) considered concerned or indifferent? kind and trustworthy or mean and deceptive? fair and generous or unjust and selfish?
- Rate others in general (early): --, -, 0, +, ++.
As a teenager how did you feel about others (not close friends)?
- Rate others in general (teen years): --, -, 0, +, ++.
In recent years how have you felt about others (casual friends, teachers, supervisors, co-workers, business people, politicians, professionals, parents' friends, and people in general)? Do you trust or distrust them, like or dislike, expect to be understood and accepted or not?
- Rate others in general (recent): --, -, 0, +, ++.
Are you frequently mad? This "racket" (which means one of your most frequent occurring emotions) of anger is likely to reflect a "You're not OK" life position.
- Rate how negative you seem towards others: --, -, 0, +, ++.
Conclusion: Review the five ratings above and decide if you feel negative or positive about others.
Final Rating: --, -, 0, +, ++.
Now, looking at the final ratings in (1) and (2) above, it should be clear which of four life positions you are in:
OK not OK
I am OK ____ ____ not OK ____ ____
Your life position is a crucial factor in the games you play and in your life script. Problems are associated with all three of the not-OK positions. Only "I'm OK, You're OK" position is a "winner."
What games do you play? What roles do you play? What themes thrill you? What is your Life Script?
Read about games in chapter 9 and decide if you play games to affirm that others aren't OK or that you aren't OK. You're not OK games include "Yes, But," "Rapo," NIGYSOB, "If It Weren't For You," "Blemish," etc. I'm not OK games include "Kick Me," "Wooden Leg," "Schlemiel," "Poor Me," etc. (Remember also that there are many ego boosting games which either reflect an I'm a non-winner or an I'm Superior attitude, such as the "Education Game," "Power Struggle," "Ain't It Awful," "Cops and Robbers," etc.)
Games confirm our beliefs, e.g. that I will mess it up or others will let me down. Those beliefs may be painful, yet they are paradoxically reassuring when your views are proven correct over and over that you are not OK or others are not OK. Moreover, the transactions (pay offs) in the game give you some temporary satisfaction, some pleasure. Games are our Child's way of getting attention and saying, "See, I am too OK," even if the game involves self-put downs, being mean, blaming others, or failing.
From your games you can get a good idea of some of your basic emotional needs--your unconscious, sickish motives: to put down others because you dislike or distrust them or to put down yourself because you dislike yourself, to prepare for failure, to fend off criticism by others, to seek sympathy and nurturance, to avoid responsibility, to try to hurt those who have hurt you, or to have some other motive (see method #1 in chapter 14). What seem to be some of your games? or your destructive motives?