Family Scripts Considered

I have written about family scripts before, but as they are both fascinating and provide excellent insights for family work, I wanted to visit this topic again.

The theory is that we learn ways to relate in our earliest relationships and through this relating, we take on various “roles” – think of actors in a play, if that helps. Some people become the aggressors, some the victims. Others become dependent, while their co-actors become dominant. The place individuals take in these social interactions may be influenced by the personalities of the “players”, but there is also the coercion of others acting in the interpersonal performance.

For example, a man who grows up dominated by his father, may then try to take the role of the dominant person in his relationships with his own children. A child who is put in a dependent relationship with a parent, may then grow up and try to take a dependent relationship with a spouse. These roles are very rarely analysed or challenged by the actors, so when a person doesn’t want to “play along”, others in the group can exert a great deal of pressure to try to force the non-compliant member to play his or her part.

How does this relate to therapy? People enter into relationships with others who don’t share their scripts. Some are able to navigate their needs and create new meaning – new scripts – while others find themselves unable to understand the interpersonal problems that exist between themselves and their partners. Trying to understand the scripts that a person follows, nominating their needs and looking for new meaning can be extremely powerful within family therapy. There are roles we want in life and there are others we feel are thrust upon us. Being able to note the difference in these and working to create a life that is what you want is the therapeutic work of family scripts.

No one tool or paradigm does everything, but the concept of family scripts can be very powerful in making clear your motivations and responses within your family unit.

If you want to work through your family scripts with a counsellor, feel free to contact us.

If you are interested in reading more, I would recommend this text:

Rewriting Family Scripts : Improvisation And Systems Change