Pam is 32 years old. Ever since she can remember, her mother called her “meek” and “plain”. She recollects as a child feeling isolated and lonely at school. She will tell you that she has walked through life feeling inferior, weak and broken. Yet, if you knew her, you would say that she is attractive, intelligent, a leader and one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.
Cindi’s parents were divorced when she was 8. After the separation, she became her mother’s confidante and her mother began to turn to her for companionship and advice. Though the message was never explicit, Cindi was given to believe again and again that she was “the strong one”. As an adult now, Cindi often has trouble identifying what she needs, reaching out to others and asking for help. In fact, even in the worst of times, the thought never occurs to her that someone might be willing to be there to support her and help her out.
John was not athletic the way his parents would have liked. His father who loved sports did not know how to relate to him. Instead of acknowledging this and showing curiosity in his son’s interests, he felt inadequate as a Dad. To cover up these feelings of inadequacy, he criticized his son for being “effeminate” and “soft” in his interests. John grew up thinking that he was not manly and that women might see him deficient because he did not have more masculine interests.
When Louise was 12 years old, a music teacher told her that she could not carry a tune. She decided that she had a terrible voice and became embarrassed to sing out loud in public. How sad is it when old messages such as these stick and end up playing themselves out in our lives repeatedly? It is as if we have been programmed and are playing the same movie over and over again, often without even knowing it. It is not what we were told that is the problem. It is that we believed it, often because some powerful authority figure told us so. Though seldom malicious, such labeling can become so internalized that it takes conscious work to decondition ourselves. Often such messages have become so much a part of the tapestry of our psyche and how we see ourselves that we do not even realize that some outdated script is controlling our lives.
Ken’s experience dramatically changed when he realized to his total surprise and delight that the script he was living which was creating all sorts of problems for him could be modified! He had been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. He was making good progress, however, visits to the doctor were stressful because he would always imagine the worst possible scenario. He said that his mother had been a worrier and that he had followed in her footsteps by internalizing the message that if you could count on one thing in life, it would be that something was bound to go wrong! Having been a T.V. producer, he came to understand that he didn’t need to be bound by the negative script that his mother had passed onto him. He realized that he could take charge and rewrite the script using more optimistic thinking. Now, he refers to his former way of thinking as the “black dog script”. He said that now, he seldom tips over into the “dark side” and when he does, he changes channels and redirects. His conclusion which he wanted to share with others was: “You cannot allow old programming to control you. You have to write your own story, take control and make your own choices about the script you are going to live!”