by Barbara Findeisen, M.A., M.F.C.C.
Peeling off roles and examining life scripting can lead to dramatic life changes. In the regression of my clients, it is possible to discover life scripts within the traumatic situations they have experienced. By returning to the traumas, the etiology of the scripting is uncovered, because during early traumas the organism imprints on survival patterns. As these experiences are relived, it is clear that the child makes decisions based on his interpretation of what is happening at the time and these decisions form the core belief behind the script.
In her regression to her prenatal state Anna at first experiences the womb as safe and comfortable.
Anna: The Light is here with me.
I move her forward to when her mother learns she is pregnant.
Anna: Oh, oh, she doesn’t want me here! She’s scared. She doesn’t want me! She wants me to leave…
In utero, Anna’s relationship with her mother disintegrates into one of little trust. She begins to believe that she cannot depend on her mother.
Therapist: What’s happening to your mother?
Anna: She’s saying, “I don’t want this baby. I don’t want to get married. I’m too young. I’m not ready. I don’t like him.” (Sobbing) She wants to kill me. It’s all my fault. I’m bad.
Here are seen the beginning of feelings of guilt and self-hate. Through the stages of uterine life and then through the birth process we continue to look for sources of later pathology.
Therapist: Move ahead and tell me what happens as your body grows.
Anna: It’s black and cold in here, and I’m scared. I don’t like it in here.
Therapist: What’s frightening your mother? (The baby is affected in utero as much by the mother’s moods and feelings as by what she is eating and drinking.)
Anna: He’s scary. He’s frightening her and she can’t do anything. She can’t protect me. Maybe if I’m very still she will forget I am here. Then I’ll be safe.
She continues to expand her script to seek safety in being invisible, and it is not surprising that later as a child she becomes shy and withdrawn and fearful of her father.
Anna: I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. My head—they are crushing my head. They are killing me!
Anna experiences a traumatic premature birth during which her mother was drugged and not able to help her. She is pulled from the birth canal with forceps. Subsequently she manifests severe respiratory problems. Again she has learned that life is dangerous and that people want to hurt her. I ask what happens after she comes out.
Anna: I’m all alone. I’m in a box. No one is here. No one wants me (crying).
Her mother is not able to be with Anna through the critical bonding time after birth. She is placed in an incubator for many weeks and this reinforces her initial script that no one wants her. This initial failure in bonding occurs often. After what is frequently a life threatening struggle filled with stress and fear, the newborn finds herself alone, feeling abandoned and with no human comfort. Basic life attitudes of compulsive independence or dependence, trust or mistrust, are begun in utero and in those precious first hours after birth. One such event doesn’t necessarily determine a life-long pattern, but it lays a foundation. Later events either reinforce it or cause it to fade.
As Anna grew, she generalized her mistrust to almost everyone, as she learned that her world was a dangerous and inhospitable place: post-natal life was a continuation of her uterine scripting. She became increasingly quiet, separate, and tried to take care of herself. She learned to suppress her needs and feelings and to ask for nothing—to “disappear” as much as she could. If she couldn’t disappear physically, she would disappear psychologically and emotionally. Later, her childhood in a dysfunctional family with a sadistic and cruel father reinforced her script to go away, which she translated into suicidal terms.
When Anna first came to me she was in a suicidal depression, actively planning to finally physically “disappear” as well. She did not want to be here. These early scripts may lie dormant for years, exerting an unconscious influence over one’s behavior and feelings, but in a crisis they may assume control over the individual unless they have been uncovered, re-experienced, and changed. They can be changed by rescripting or reframing, using a higher power to assist in the transformation.
In later regressions Anna reviewed her prenatal and perinatal experiences until we felt she had released most of the painful memories and had a clear picture of what had occurred. After that we were able to change the damaging scripts and to reframe what had happened to her. In order to connect with a strong positive experience we were fortunate that we could return to the beginning of her first regression, where she had clearly felt the presence of the Light. She realized that she had felt it was her light, was her.
Therapist: Go back to the time you felt your Light. Do you remember?
Anna: Yes…my Light…Yes, its here again. I thought I had lost it (crying). It’s back.
Therapist: Keep the Light with you as we move through these early experiences. Take the Light with you and go to where your mother discovered you were in her body.
Anna: I wanted to be there. I wanted to come…It’s not my fault she is upset. I didn’t ruin her life. She didn’t have to stay with him. She could have done something else. It’s not my fault.
Therapist: Continue to move forward. Be sure you take your Light. Tell me what you see.
Anna: Oh…She wanted to die. She wanted me to die, too, but I wanted to live…I wanted to live. Those were her feelings, not mine!
This was a dramatic turning point in Anna’s healing process. She said over and over, “She wanted to die!…I wanted to live.” Her script continues to be, “I want to live: this is my life and it is safe for me to be seen.” No longer the lost child, she has found herself and is continuing to work with the child within her, to love herself and to create in her inner and outer world a safe place in which to live and share her talents.
Helen’s rescripting took several forms, both conscious psychological rescripting and transformational rescripting, processes which often take place together. Heavily burdened with guilt, she had spent her life adapting to others’ wishes and needs by denying herself, and then taking care of everyone in her life. She wanted to “let go of the past” and end the chronic feeling of guilt that lay over her life like a heavy blanket. She wanted to learn how to be comfortable with power, especially her own.
In a regression to her uterine life she sensed her mother’s resentful anger at being pregnant. Helen felt that she was already a mistake; that she was “wrong” to be there. Later she felt she was “wrong” for being female, another mistake. Her birth was breech, which almost killed her mother—another reinforcement of “I’m wrong, bad, a mistake”—she even came out the “wrong” way. Her fear of her own power was there. Her low self-esteem and the resulting script to adapt and take care of others stemmed from these pre- and peri-natal experiences.
In a subsequent session conducted with Helen lying on a mat on the floor, she was regressed back to her birth and found herself crying that she didn’t want to come out. In an instant, to my surprise, she physically reversed herself 180 degrees on the mat. Then, after a short rest, she felt herself being born “right.” Later I asked her about this. She carried no conscious memory of having “righted” herself. When she viewed the video tape of the session, she expressed amazement. It was as if, at a psychophysical level, she was rescripting herself from being “wrong,” a mistake, to being “right and okay to be here.”
In her next regression, Helen found herself in a past life confronting a guilt-producing event which was to be re-stimulated by her birth in this lifetime, when she felt she had hurt her mother.
Helen: I’m in that room where I work with an older woman. She’s angry—has been angry for a long time. She doesn’t like anything I do. I know I’m not what she is saying. She’s walking back and forth, talking real mean, lots of words. “I’m arguing with her, trying to out shout her. I’m very angry, like I’m pushing her…I’m hitting her…I hit her…I killed her! I can’t believe it. I can’t live with that. I couldn’t have done that. It’s not true…I’m holding her. I’m sorry. I love you…I despise myself.
She continued relating the events of that lifetime following the murder. She ran away, and later she was killed by some passersby who found her in the woods where she was hiding.
Helen was distraught through this memory. The guilt felt for killing her teacher and friend, plus the guilt from early in this present life, felt overwhelming. Even though in this life she had tried to be exactly what her mother wanted, and had adapted herself to always making her mother happy, she had never succeeded. Her script had enabled her to survive, but only at the expense of her own identity and self-esteem.
I used rescripting techniques to help release the guilt and anguish she was feeling. She moved back to the scene wherein she had hit and killed her friend. I suggested that she see if there was another way she could have chosen to deal with the situation.
Helen: I could turn and walk out the door.
Therapist: What would have happened then?
Helen: She’d be furious for a while, and then she’d settle down and be okay. I don’t have to fight her. There is power in walking out the door…real strength.
Therapist: What would you want to communicate to her?
Helen: I want to do things the way you want—but the way I want, too. I deserve respect. Together we can do good things…She would understand that. She’s sorry that I had to go away, and she’s sorry for me…for what I did to me! She’s forgiving me (Helen cries and sounds astonished). It feels humbling…I tried to be God and judge myself.
Through process, Helen began to see power in a new and more positive way. She had consciously rescripted her attitudes about her own power, and realized that power can sometimes be having the courage to “walk out the door.” Power is not to be feared, and it is not necessarily characterized by anger in its expression. She now realized that she had choices in how to use her energy. As she said, “Real power is in knowing what to do.”
The sense of forgiveness Helen gained through her regression was transforming. She experienced a wave of compassion for herself and for her friend. Her script of guilt and adaptation then began to lose its power in her life. After the session ended, she walked to the creek, listened to the water gurgling over the rocks, and then, alone on a hillside, danced in the warm February sunshine. She described herself as dancing and laughing like a child, in a way that she had never felt like doing before.
Jonathan was a client who spontaneously rescripted himself during a regression back to the time of his birth. He and his mother had been in labor for 40 hours. By the time he was finally born, his exhausted mother had become unconscious. He felt abandoned, helpless, alone and powerless in the world. He was terrified. He then grew into a clinging, dependent, frightened child, determined that she would never leave him again.
When at 27 he came to see me in therapy, he still lived with his mother, dependent and clinging as ever, afraid to travel away from her. During his birth regression he experienced the long struggle to be born, the exhaustion, the anger, the hopelessness, the helplessness and panic that are often associated with long labor and oxygen deprivation, leaving lifelong scars of anxiety. He had finally gathered strength and pushed himself out, feeling that he had no help from anyone. Then he appeared to shift gears, moving to another perspective. He smiled and spoke enthusiastically.
Jonathon: I did it! I did push out! I did win! If I could do that, I can do anything.
He had spontaneously rescripted himself.
Within a few months, Jonathan had enrolled in a graduate school in another city and had moved into his own apartment. The realization that he had birthed himself gave him a surge of energy and power which freed him from his long need to cling desperately to his mother.
Spontaneous rescripting frequently occurs in regressions to the pre- and perinatal period. When it does, it seems particularly effective in changing life patterns. Sometimes, as with Helen, I intervene to change the negative beliefs and attitudes which form life scripts. Regressing to the trauma, asking if there could have been other choices made, suggests the option of completing relationships and communications, often by asking how the client would have liked it to be. These are a few of the suggestions I make to facilitate rescripting. One could argue that this is not the truth. I would counter that the truth is that the past is no longer present except in our minds. To continue negative and destructive scripts left over from the past keeps one from ever fully living in the present. To see the past projected on the present is to distort the truth.
My own philosophy is that there is within each individual a central Core Self, a knowing Self—call it Soul, Conscious Being, or Higher Self. This Essential Self exists before and beyond concepts of the personal self. The process of psychotherapy and healing examines the scripts and roles, and it effects the necessary self-rescripting bringing this personal self into synchronicity with the more profound and loving and wiser patterns of the Essential Self This rescripting is usually facilitated by the therapist, as in the cases of Anna and Helen. To be a valid and healing experience, such rescripting must move in the direction of the Higher Self.
Spontaneous rescripting, as in Jonathan’s experience, seems to spring—without invitation—from deep within, and to resonate to the Essential Self. It is related to realization or insight, and it works toward a long-lasting correction and freedom from scripts. Chet Snow speaks of this experience as a state expressed as “grace.” It comes directly from a transformational domain and is always healing for it brings one into harmony with the Self which lies beyond and before roles and scripts.