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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.)


( 25 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Jun. 7th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Funnily enough, I was having almost this same conversation with someone tonight. The thing I had to reiterate to them over and over in order for them to get WHY I didn't talk to a certain person was this:
When you knowingly hurt people, and you do it over and over and over, fully aware of the damage you cause, yet you do nothing to change (and in fact you revel in that damage)... This is the essence of an intentionally Evil person.
Yes, they may have some fine qualities, be talented or funny (as long as you aren't the target). But it doesn't change the fact they hurt people for kicks, just because they enjoy it, and expect to have their behavior excused after the fact because they've been "damaged". RIIIIIGHT. They can't help themselves. Sure, dude, whatever.
I don't have room in my life for Evil people. I don't want to talk to them. I don't want to be around them. And I won't make excuses for them.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, no, you do not need to make nice and be friends with bad people. Bad people rely on the general custom of people not calling them out on their evil bullshit, and so continue to wreak havoc. Get them out of your life, and don't apologize.
Jun. 8th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
What I have always found morbidly fascinating is that it's invariably the decent people that spend so much time obsessing over being "nice", trying to do the right thing, and the minute they stand up for themselves they are the one who is condemned for being unreasonable.
You, as a person, are worth more than that. You have the right, and quite frankly, the responsibility TO YOURSELF to stop allowing yourself to be hurt, used or degraded.
The way I look at it... If you wouldn't let someone treat your friend badly, why would you allow them to do it to you?

Sorry for the rant... but this is something I have to constantly reinforce to myself, too... That I'm worth more than that. So is my sanity.
Jun. 9th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
According to friend of mine who is a social worker, there is such a thing as healthy narcissism. That is what you need to have in order to take care of yourself and not allow yourself to be abused.

My sister tries to bludgeon you into doing and being exactly what she wants/expects you to be. And when you don't, get ready.... She's very manipulative and truly cruel. Not surprisingly, we don't talk. And the only way to maintain some semblance of sanity is to pick your battles,say "no" a lot, and refuse to budge or engage. Truly annoying.

However, I have sworn to myself that I will never again allow anyone to victimize me.

Never. Again.

It may happen, but it won't be because I allowed it. It took me a long time to realize that not allowing people to abuse me does not make me a self-centered bitch.
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
Evil People
Personally, everyone who comes into my life brings JOY.

Some by arriving...

Others by leaving...

Jun. 7th, 2011 02:54 am (UTC)
It's not only the damage we do to others, but the damage we do to ourselves if we continue sticking to the same negative scripts. Sometimes it's scary to try something new, but it's better than constantly hitting others and yourself in the head with a stick.

Good post, this. Enjoy the movie :)
Jun. 7th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
"...the damage we do to ourselves if we continue sticking to the same negative scripts."

This. I've been wallowing it that myself right now and had a wake-up call at an event last weekend.

Timely post. I hope more than a few of us have reenforcing conversations about it!
Jun. 7th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
I am too "yes yes this yes" to say much of anything coherent, but ... yes. This.

I might suggest that our childhoods are not the only source of these scripts - the media we consume also feeds into our set of available scripts. (Which is why I stopped reading Mercedes Lackey, for one.)

Changing your scripts is hard, but worthwhile.
Jun. 7th, 2011 06:00 am (UTC)
As a long time Lackey reader I am curious as to the scripts you saw there that you want to avoid. (Not arguing your point, but truly curious. Her books are very preachy but what else do you see?)
Jun. 7th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC)
Note: I pretty much only read the Valdemar stuff (maybe a couple of the minstrel/player ones); I am also a long-time Lackey reader (the kind that started collecting Sword and Sorceress for the Lackey stories).

The big issue for me is all around general melodrama. If I read them, I spend the next three days acting like a immature angsty teenager (again). Ugh. Plot lines which only exist because the characters involved don't communicate (at all / like adults / until it's too late). Ultimate-self-sacrifice scripts. There's some other ones, but they're more personal than I'd like to talk about on someone else's public LJ.

Lackey is, for me, one of the hard ones because I really really liked her work when I was younger, so I'm not sure if it's a great example of this issue for most folks. For another example, the entire Cheysuli cycle is rife with "you must marry me and have my babies" "nooooooo" "it is your destiny" "oh, ok then" (sorry to spoil the entire series for everyone). This is a helplessness script people should avoid like the plague. The telly is even more rife with really really bad scripts (see: The Bachelor, just about any prime-time sitcom, etc.).
Jun. 7th, 2011 10:19 pm (UTC)
Ah, thanks for that. Yes Lacky does angsty melodrama in spades. 8-> I suppose my programming isn't much inclined to that one so it isn't a problem for me but I do see your point.
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:23 pm (UTC)
The one that always gets me is "I can't/couldn't help it." Bullshit. With a big capital F-word in the middle.

You made a conscious choice. You _could_ have chosen differently, but you _chose_ not to. (1) You knew your actions/words were going to hurt/upset; and (2) you did it _anyway_. There's no lack of control there. Just a simple lack of humanity.
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)
True, dat.
Jun. 7th, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
Too frequently also expressed as, "You gave me no choice/left me no choice/I had no choice," which, too, is patent bovine effluvience.
Of course there's a choice.
One choice would be not to react; another would be to "find a way or make one" to resolve a situation or to create a path of communication to open dialogue so the situation or relationship or problem can be moved closer by at least one step to a solution.
Jun. 7th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
I'd be slightly hesitant to tar all "there's no other way" as being evil; after several years of an unhappy relationship in which it became increasingly clear that there would never be a satisfactory resolution to the issues after a lot of trying, I don't think I was evil to say that the only workable option left for me was to leave.
Jun. 7th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
I must have missed something: I was responding directly and only to mistresshri's comment, which was:

"The one that always gets me is "I can't/couldn't help it." Bullshit. With a big capital F-word in the middle.

"You made a conscious choice. You _could_ have chosen differently, but you _chose_ not to. (1) You knew your actions/words were going to hurt/upset; and (2) you did it _anyway_. There's no lack of control there. Just a simple lack of humanity."

I interpreted her comment as a sharing about a statement often used to rationalize a person's action or inaction, resulting in hurt or upset to others, and which rationalization she finds particularly annoying, irritating or contemptible. I was agreeing with her, because that particular excuse 'gets' me, too.
I didn't see the word "evil" anywhere in there.

I don't know you, or your (hopefully past) situation. I'm certainly not classifying you as evil for having chosen to leave it, nor yet for any other reason. I *am* rather surprised you'd interpret my comment that way.

There is a difference between saying, "...the only workable [or viable] option left for me was to leave," and simply absolving oneself from any or all responsibility at any time or at all times with, "You gave me no choice/I had no choice."
Where on earth did you get the idea anyone, particularly I, was trying to label you as *evil?*

In a philosophical *debate,* I would continue to maintain that in whatever that situation to which you are referring was, you did have at least one alternative (which would have been to have stayed.) I am *not* suggesting that it would have been the best choice for you to have taken, only that there was at least one other choice than leaving.

But I am definitely and absolutely not judging you for having taken the path you did.
Neither am I "tarring" anyone else at all, especially not as "evil."
Jun. 7th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
I didn't think you were specifically referring to myself or my (yes, thankfully, past) situation, no. Other people have, and not positively.

So I'm being a bit defensive. Perhaps I'll just go back and delete that post - I was hesitant to post it for such a potential response.
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
Very insightful post; you do a great job of explaining a complex phenomena in simple language. I want to force a whole lot of people to read this :) I have some friends I dearly love that I wish would snap out of some of these bad habits. It's very hard to go against the way it's always been, to see yourself and make a change. But man, so worthwhile!
Jun. 7th, 2011 02:18 pm (UTC)
Totally this.

One of my all time favorite movie lines (from McClintock! of all things) is "I DO mind. And I got the kind of manners that don't keep me from sayin' so, just to be polite."

It is very freeing, now that I am older and a little more certain in myself, to call people on their BS or evilness, even if all I say is, "Dude, not cool."
Jun. 7th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
It took me more than two decades (I think it was that long; might have been a bit less, but I really think it was at least that long) to recognize that someone I had counted a dear and close friend actually has Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder in the extreme.
A bit more recently than that it also struck me---and this really was what felt like an out-of-the-blue *strike,* where the realization seems to *bonk!* you right on your little punkin' head---that that same individual is a MISOGYNIST. (Sorry for the all-cap emphasis.)
How can I have a genuine friendship with someone who views me, because of my gender, with mistrust, detestation, and contempt?

He has been cavalier in his treatment of many of his friends, and many of them have quietly but permanently acted on decisions to effect "mutual absenting" between their lives and his.
I finally became one of that number, not because "all the cool kids are doing it," but because A), I finally realized he has a vested interest in maintaining his own status quo (in other words, if we don't like how he is, how he dys-functions and how he relates, that's our problem: his mummy thought the sun shone out of him while she was alive, so ought not we lesser beings revere him at least as much as she did?); and B), this so-called friendship brings me no joy, no solace, no pleasure.
But I confess to all of you who are reading that I wrestled with my own conscience for two years and a bit before determining that I would not, when he finally shows up on my doorstep on some holiday looking for someone with whom to spend that holiday's dinner (probably Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or New Year's), open my door to him.

Now that the decision has been made it seems to me it ought to have been recognized even before being taken as a no-brainer. No need for the self-searching ("Would I be doing this just to give him a dose of his own medicine? Is this really just spitefulness disguised as an impetus toward greater emotional health on my part?") or the agonizing for a true and correct conclusion. Trust your instinct, virginiadear, and go with that.
Jun. 7th, 2011 04:19 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful. May I forward it, with attribution, of course?
Jun. 7th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
So much to say, no way to say it.

Jun. 8th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC)
Easy, Fun, and Useful...
I think it's interesting that so many of us need to keep reminding ourselves that we don't have to put up with other peoples' difficult scripts. (This has been a conversation at my house, too.)

You know, I spend a lot of time wondering what on EARTH that other person's script is, that makes them be that way, and wondering if I can stick a wrench in it somewhere.

But it'd be more useful to look at MY scripts, and say, why do I keep engaging with this person? What script do I have that requires me to be involved with them?

For example, there's someone in my life who upsets me a lot -- and I don't have to be involved with this person to the degree that I am. I don't have to be buddies with them, I don't really need to spend much time on them. But I stay obsessively aware of what they're doing.

And (thank you AL!) I got to wondering about what MY script is, and I realized that it's an obsessive need to keep track of the wasp in the room. Because when I was a child, there was an adult in my life who had power to hurt me, and it was URGENT to keep track of that adult. This person? Not so much. Doesn't have the power to hurt me. I don't need to keep track of this wasp.

It's easy & fun to diagnose other people's scripts, but not always useful.

It's incredibly useful to diagnose my own scripts, but not always easy or fun....
Jun. 8th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC)
I know and understand my most of my own scripts. The problem is that in the press of the moment, I forget that I can ad lib or ignore the script altogether. Some of my scripts I have actually managed to reject. Some I maintain because they aren't actually bad scripts to have. The Depression Era/frugality script I inherited from my grandparents has kept me solvent for years. ;) There is a balance, though.

What is hard for the vast majority of the population is that they don't *know* they have scripts. Worse, having enough self-awareness and enough self-confidence to recognize *then* override the script seems beyond most people.

Unfortunately, these social networks are echo chambers, so the only responses you are likely to receive here are those that agree with your assessment. I'd kind of like to see an opposing viewpoint, just to see what someone actually thinks about their scripts (or opinion indicating a lack thereof).

ealdthryth and I had a similar discussion about politics--how some people doggedly continue to vote for the same people who do absolutely nothing for us, but because they have a fundamental belief that these people are "like them", any factual evidence to the contrary challenges their core belief system and triggers thinking equivalent to "la la la la, I'm not listening to you", "my candidate is affiliated to my religon/political party/agenda/etc. so they can't possibly do anything contrary to my belief".
Jun. 9th, 2011 05:04 am (UTC)
Thank you. I needed to hear this message, after the Road Trip From Hades with the SIL who slithered from the slime. Hubby is a nice person, she spits on nice people.

He loves his sister and won't understand why I won't bend over backwards for her (as he does). She's his sister, he's entitled to love her or not. I am only obligated to be polite to her, and that's all I can promise to be, especially after her ugly behavior and physical abuse of me. (deliberate stuff.)

I needed to hear I am not wrong for wanting to be safe. Thank you.
( 25 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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