Isn’t it interesting how certain situations just push our buttons? We are coasting along just fine with that boyfriend, then he makes a remark we interpret as criticism, and all of a sudden we are filled with self-doubt.
Or your best friend is 5 minutes late for lunch and you are certain he’s not taking your friendship seriously. Or three months into dating and you start to feel smothered and have the urge to flee for your life. What’s going on?
Sometimes there is an obvious reason why we are feeling the way we are, but other times, our reactions may seem as if they are coming from out of left field. When we allow ourselves to become intimate with another person we open up in ways that allow old hurts to arise. Not only old hurts from other romantic relationship; many of these hurts are really old, coming from days when we were very young and trying to figure out how this big, strange world worked.
Our minds hate and fear not knowing how the world works, so they work overtime to fill in the blanks with “best guesses.” In the absence of other data, if the same thing happens to us more than once, the mind may generalize and leap to the assumption that when x happens, y follows. This happens most often to the very young, when we are impressionable and vulnerable. Not surprisingly, many of these early important relationships involve our caregivers — usually mom or dad. This ability to generalize is an important part of how human beings learn. Unfortunately, in relationships generalization can lead us to make wrong assumptions. We find ourselves almost on automatic pilot — acting out what some call a “life script.”
A life script is a bit like a script in a play or movie. The players aren’t free agents, but instead act out the words and ideas someone else has written for them.
If your relationship script is such that falling in love leads later to feeling alone and abandoned, you’ll likely find it very hard to simply enjoy the connection with another. Instead, you’ll likely be waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you had a mother who repeatedly told you, “Don’t get angry with me, young man!” when you were 3 and 4 and 5, you may find it hard to express your feelings when something angers you later in life.
Relationships bring all these scripts to the surface, which is one reason why they can be so challenging. That’s also the reason why relationships are places that can help us heal the old wounds and grow as human beings.
A script need not turn you into a victim who is doomed to repeat old patterns for the rest of his life. You are not a robot; you can make choices. Becoming aware of patterns is the place to start. These patterns have nothing to do with your partner; they are yours alone. (Of course, the guy you are dating or in a relationship with has his own patterns and scripts.) Understand that you are creating the reality of this relationship. You can learn to make other choices. Depending on the nature of your old wounds, having this insight may be enough in itself to make changes, or doing thing differently could be very difficult indeed. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you needed.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.