attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Editing life

Bob and I take a walk every evening just as the sun is setting - we walk from the house to the end of Dogwood Road, and back again, a distance of about 1.4 miles.  We tell ourselves we do it so as to get in shape for Pennsic, but I want to keep doing it, because it's a fabulous time for talking about random things, like the huffle of a snail in danger, and what wildflowers are about.  Tonight we talked (actually, I talked, he listened) about life scripts.

Life scripts are the things we follow that are taught to us in childhood - the Mediator, the Star, the Brain - and also the more complicated scripts that families build, where one child always takes the back seat, one kid always does what they're told, and another always is the "bad" one, all the kids learn that fighting between parents means Dad walks out of the room, and Mum clams up and pretends nothing is wrong, or both parents yell at each other, or nothing is ever said at all, and bad feelings are not allowed.  When we're stressed, we fall into these scripts, just as a fencer falls into the habits they first learned in their early days as a student when pressed in a fight.

(This is why you should always teach your students good habits - it's not the fancy stuff that will save them in the crunch, but their ability to parry correctly.)

Home isn't the only place we learn our scripts - school and interaction with other kids teaches us as well.  Who is the outsider, who is the "popular" kid, who is the bully?  Who was shoved into a position they weren't entirely sure they wanted, but were forced to take on as a child?  Judy Blume made a career out of exploring this psychological scripting amongst children and teenagers.

However, as adults, no-one is holding us to these scripts.  Self-awareness is an amazing thing, and one of its really great benefits is it allows us to know when we're following an old script that no longer applies to us (in fact, most childhood scripts, learned in large part as a survival technique, have a negative effect on us as adults).  For instance, I was taught to mediate between my father and whomever he was dating at the time - the girlfriend would tell me what she was thinking, and I was supposed to casually pass it on to my father as if I had thought or observed it myself.  I wasn't ever explicitly told to do this, but it was expected.

(Bob tells me people get paid to do this as adults.  I think I'm owed about $30,000 in back pay at least.)

But as an adult, I sometimes find myself doing this between people I know, and I have to stop myself.  Playing "telephone" isn't a good way of allowing people to use me to solve their problems, and it doesn't do me any good (getting embroiled in someone else's drama is remarkably bad for one's mental health).  As far as scripts go, that's a pretty benign one, but it's not one I should hang on to.  But what about when people hang on to toxic scripts?  The ones that lead them to continually shoot themselves in the foot, the ones that ensure that the one constant in all their disappointments is themselves.  I always become wary when someone wails "but that's just how I am!!" when they're told they've done something that negatively affects the people around them, because "that's just how I am" is an excuse, and a dangerous one.

When someone is unwilling to make the effort to change an aspect of their personality that is toxic and demands that other people constantly forgive them their trespasses because that's "just how I am!", they're essentially saying "I am an asshole, and tough noogies, because I'm never, ever going to take responsibility for being an asshole".  This person then always wonders why they have no friends (and in the SCA, no awards).  They've decided that their childhood script, the one that maybe helped them when they were in the middle of feuding parents, or a hostile crowd at school, is the script to follow for the rest of their lives, long after the situations which created that behavior have been left behind.

As four year olds, many of us had temper tantrums when things didn't go our way (okay, I waited until I was a teenager, but I was a late bloomer), and maybe people gave in to us and we got what we wanted.  However, as adults, a temper tantrum isn't going to do us any good at all, and may well set us back quite a bit in achieving our goals.  Similarly, being rude and angry may have given us strength when we were bullied in grade school, but those bullies are gone, and being rude to people who aren't bullies merely drives away nice people who could help us and give us pretty things.

It's scary to look at our behaviour and pinpoint the negatives.  What does it say about us that we have these mannerisms?  I say, what does it say about us when we refuse to look at them and change them?  I don't want to be locked into the "girl who was bullied and abused" script forever - I'm an adult now, and no-one can bully me.  The survival behaviors of the past (in my case, being a doormat, so overly anxious to please that I drove everyone nuts by being a bull in a china shop, and so isolated that I was poorly socialized and didn't know how to behave properly around people) aren't relevant to the person I am now, so they aren't needed, and must be changed for my well-being as an adult.

The way I am is constantly changing, learning, and adapting to the needs of my life.  I will never be "just" anything.  I make mistakes, but rather than retreating behind an angry defense, I try to apologize and move on.  The big plus with trying to know when I've made a mistake is knowing when I'm actually right, and the people yelling at me that I'm oh, let's say, making people feel bad because I'm wearing a coronet *cough* are being rather silly.

Scripts are useful for a while, but when that episode of the ongoing saga is done, it's time to throw that script out and pick up a new one.

Oop, gotta go, movie's* on.  Some things you just never outgrow, like eating popsicles and watching silly horror movies.  :)

*(Legion, in case you were interested.)
Tags: blah blah blah, deep thoughts, life
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