Changing "Negative Scripts": We Are the Authors of Our Own Lives
Have any of you found yourself saying the same thing repeatedly to your husband, wife, children, students, co-workers, colleagues, or employees, and although your words or actions have little, if any, positive effect, you continue to say them anyway? Or can you imagine the following scenario? Suppose there was a miniature Bob Brooks in your ear and I whispered just as you were preparing to say something, "Do you think that what you plan to say is going to work this time even though it has never worked before?" In response you honestly answered, "No," but proceeded to say it anyway? Many people say or do things knowing that their words or actions will not lead to the desired results. I have been impressed during my career by the number of well-intentioned people who continue to repeat the same ineffective behaviors, but somehow expect a different result. While I believe in perseverance, I also believe that when an approach obviously is not working, it may be time for a new approach.
I as well as others have labeled the practice of repeating ineffective or even harmful words and behaviors as "negative scripts." Perhaps the term "negative scripts" is self-explanatory. I have found that most of us are very predictable, sometimes to a fault. We follow the same routine, respond the same way to others, and often assume that when the script involves other people, it is they who should change, not us. It seems as if we are actors and actresses reading a script, and rarely will we stray from that script even when we are not too happy with its wording and direction.
Before continuing I should be clear that not all scripts in our lives are "negative." For example, if you are a manager and greet your colleagues in a warm fashion each morning, or if you tell your spouse each day how much you love her or him, or if you are a teacher and find time to say something complimentary to each of your students and these behaviors improve your relationship with these other people, I would characterize this as a "positive script." These positive scripts typically are not in need of modification since they result in more satisfying experiences for ourselves and for those with whom we interact in our different roles.
I have written and lectured about the scripts of our lives for years, but perhaps the theme is accentuated during the beginning of a New Year. The New Year is often accompanied by that time-honored tradition of New Year’s Resolutions in which we make a list of things about ourselves that we promise we will change, a promise that for most people lasts but a few days (in some cases just a few hours, especially if it has to do with modifications in our diet and exercise). When we make such resolutions, even if they are short-lived, what we are really saying is that we have made a commitment to change a certain behavior or pattern in ourselves that we believe needs changing.
In several of my previous articles as well as in my other writings I have offered examples of individuals displaying the courage to move from their "comfort zones" and changing scripts that were bringing them and others in their lives little joy or gratification Yet, it is intriguing how many people say they would like to change something about themselves, something that is within their control to change, but obstacles keep them from doing so, whether it is fear of change or a belief that the other people should change first. It may be useful first to examine several illustrations of negative scripts. Then I would like to share a few principles to guide us to make changes in negative scripts that permeate our lives.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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