Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life script analysis - Part 3

For a larger verion of this go to my flickr.

Scene: A water pipe has exploded outside the kitchen window and water is spraying everywhere, including in through the window into the house. We have just moved into this new house and no one knows where the water main shut off line is.

Dad: flies into rage, screams at us, eyes wide, trying to be both angry and as terrifying as possible. Yelling. Swearing. Looking for someone to blame.

He feels: rage, like he is personally wronged by the pipe, like just when he couldn't take any more (his chronic mood), this happened, personally, specifically to him.

He wants: no idea, he is fucking crazy.

Mom: scared of father but also sees humor in the situation. Scared of potential violence in scene. And yet, it is kinda funny, water is spraying everywhere, there is a slapstick element to all of this.

Mom says, "I think the shut-off might be in a pipe that is in those vines outside the front door."

Dad roars: "Oh yeah? HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO PUT YOUR HAND IN THAT FUCKING...FUCKING...SNAKE PIT?" (We had recently discovered that there were snakes in the area we had moved too and all around the house.)

Me and Mom share a look and almost get the giggles. Though he is our personal torturer, he is sorta ridiculous.

Me, age 13 or so: I am scared of John's (not his real name, but I in my mind always refer to my father by first name) rage, but also trying hard not to laugh because that will just make it worse. It's scary. He turns violent quickly. He's probably sorta drunk.

I feel: afraid, hate this situation, hate my father. I want: for him to just go away and leave us alone and never come back. I want out of this crazy life, where everything is scary and something as simple as a broken pipe is the scene for major drama and angst.

I want: someone to just act like a fucking adult and handle things. For my mom to leave him. I want to be able to laugh at this without being afraid; it IS funny.

My brother, age 10 or so: watching horrified yet also appreciates the humor. He wants: to go to a friend's house and get the hell away from it all. Not sure what he feels specifically - like fear or anger or whatever.

Things I notice about the drawing after doing it:
- the way it is the three of us huddling away from John, it was always like this.

- that I am between my mother and him - I didn't do this deliberately, but it is true, I had to take the brunt of his rage and the adult role. I was the focus of his negative attention more than anyone. I fought back while she ignored or avoided.

- my brother is sort of an afterthought - his usual place in the family.

- and I guess I did write in there, without thinking, "I want out of this crazy life..." I think that thought had appear
ed long before this age though. I should do a younger one. Similar scene, age 3.



Which way is your father facing?

The first thing I notice about the drawing is that it is asymmetrical. It is not balanced. In this instance the placement on the page could be important. Here are the usual interpretations of page placement:

So masculine features dominate and controlled behaviour with depression and insecurity. You actually even go so far as to do what is called ‘Paper basing’ You run out of space on the bottom of the page and have to squeeze things in

Paper basing - Generalised insecurity, depression - from HTP test

S says

“I had to take the brunt of his rage and the adult role” and your mother and brother did not.

This is an example of the masculine features. There maybe a tendency for you to ‘wear the pants’ in relationships particularly with men.

This would equate to early decisions like “Don’t be a child” or “Don’t get your needs met”.

Your father looks like something out of the terminator movies and heavy sharp lines are often associated with aggression. This could be you perceiving him as angry or you are angry at him or both

An early demand of your life script is clear:

“Someone to just act like a fucking adult and handle things”

“Stop yelling at me and just give me a hug, hold me”.

“therapy fantasy just to have someone hold me when I no one ever really did. Just once.”

If this script early demand still remains unsatisfied in your life today then this may mean that you have trouble self soothing and provides clear goals for a treatment plan.

Second there may be a contradiction in you and why there may be problems in relationships with males, which is why I asked you before if your new counsellor was a male.

One part of you will want to take the dominant male control position in relationships and yet your early demands are to be passive and be taken care of by others. If your father’s face is projected by you onto your therapist then these contradictions in wants in the relationship may manifest.

I am not suggesting you look for a female therapist, indeed I suppose the best scenario would be a male therapist who has the focus and ability to handle a complicated transference relationship with a client.

Other Early Decisions could be:

“Everything is scary”

“I want out of this crazy life”,

Before you have talked about a possible Don’t exist decision.

S: “And yes, I could imagine, not quite my father telling me it would be better if I were dead...... And also that anything I might want was useless. I was going to be what he wanted me to be, period. Nothing of my needs or wants was relevant, and, in fact, whenever I expressed them, I was harshly punished (ie hit with iron when I stated that I didn't want to go to the special education program in second grade). Maybe that's a kind of "don't exist" command.” (end quote)

Your statement - “I want out of this crazy life” - is an interesting one and raises an interesting question about the suicide decision (Don’t exist)

The seven usual suicide decisions are:

If you don’t change I will kill myself

If things get too bad I will kill myself

I will show you even if it kills me

I will get you to kill me

I will kill myself by accident

I will almost die (over and over) to get you to love me

I will kill myself to hurt you.

They are all active statements (decisions) about killing, being killed or dying. Your statement is not this as it has a passive quality - “I want out of this crazy life”. It does not contain any statement about killing self or dying. Some however do argue that there can also be passive suicide decisions and this would be one of them. Others one hears are, “I just want to go to sleep and never wake up” or “I just want to leave and get away from everything for good”. My personal view is that they do not constitute suicide decisions (The don’t exist injunction), however it is an interesting distinction to make. It is probably safe to say that the more passively worded the early decision statement is the less likely it will result in a serious suicide attempt.

The other thing about the drawing is the odd combination of emotions. There is the whole funny humorous feelings mentioned by you and mother. Then there is the scare (horror) and anger feelings also mentioned. An odd combination to say the least. Usually if one was feeling strong fear then that would clearly dominate over any humorous feelings. I would be interested to discover how you manifest funny, humorous feelings as an adult.

Other drawing interpretation points are:

Stick man - those who find interpersonal relationships distasteful

Paper basing - Generalised insecurity, depression

Feet long - need for security and to demonstrate virility

Profile - withdrawal and oppositional tendencies.

Hands absent - Reluctance to make intimate contact

Centrality: who are the central figure(s). These are seen to have the predominant power in the personality of the drawer.

Placings - who is between whom and who is in the middle

Alliances - Who is allied with whom and who against who.

Action relationships. Are the various people engaged in some way. Conflict, acceptance, withdrawal, eye contact.

Size. Accounting for developmental expectations who is the large and small ones.

These of course provide the relationship templates that you will take into life. When you get involved in or start to feel part of a group of people then these templates will tend to manifest. Your Little Professor ego state will be endeavouring to re-establish the same kinds of relationship dynamics from the past (drawing) onto the group you are involved with in the here and now.

The angry, scary father figure. The emotionally impotent mother figure who you sort of end up looking after rather than the other way around and the aloof peer figure who wants to move away and feels scared.



  1. Sara,
    please confirm that I can make a response to your comments and drawing

  2. I'm sorta interested in what all of this is based on. The diagrams of space on a page and so on.

    My father is facing us. He was the first thing I drew, the most dominant (or obviously dominant) thing in the scene, looming large, and I think he's in those hard lines because he always seemed stormy and unpredictible. He did feel very terminator-like.

    The layout of the room seemed to me more practical than anything else - that is how the kitchen was laid out and that is where we really were standing.

    I did wonder about many of your posts about reasons/thought processes of suicide, because I never did notice one of the reasons you listed as "ringing true" to me - maybe the closest was "If it gets too bad I can always kill myself." All of the passive examples you listed now sound closer to what I've felt.

    And any of them only appear during bad depressions. Once I come out of them, I'm always sort of bewildered at how I actually thought/considered that. A little horrified too.

    Sometimes when really depressed that's sort of a coping mechanism - it reminds you that you have choice, even if a bad one, and you're choosing to stay in. Restores a feeling of some kind of control.

    About the gender stuff, you're right - and I think that's from a very young age. I was always a tomboy and envied the privilege men have. Most of my life I got ahead in school and so on by working to be better than any male competitor, and even today I work in a male-dominated field. I do feel very competitive with males about professional stuff. That said, I'm probably not too different from the super-macho-latently-gay type, hiding something underneath it. Though I do think boats and tools are cool. :)

    In personal relationships also, somewhat. My partner is certainly more dependent, and I definitely "wear the pants." But it suits us both (complementary pathology?) so it's ok with us. He is in a lot of ways similar to my mother.

  3. Crap, won't let me put it all in one commment, too long or something. So here's the next:

    I'll disclose a maybe relevant story to the issues of "someone be the adult": when I was 17, I left home for good and got on a plane and went to work in public health in a developing country. I remember stepping off the plane and not knowing where I was to sleep that night, having only a marginal understanding of the language, and I remember it as being one of the most relief-filled moments of my life. I just breathed easier than I ever had before.

    The reasons were something like this: now I was in the real adult role, not trying to do it from a child's powerless spot. I realized that I could just *handle things* as they came up, that very few things had to be the crises and end of the world drama that they were at home. That I'd just find somewhere to go, to sleep. Or I wouldn't, and I'd work it out the next day. That I could just deal with life, without having to deal with all the crazy and panic and drama around it. That a pipe can break and you can just clean it up. I remember feeling a million tons lighter, or like I was being born. An overwhelming sense of doom just lifted. Not everything had to be so scary or violent or a cause for great emotional turmoil. I did not have to continue like that. That people could be scared or sad or whatever without it having to mean the end of the world, that I could have a negative emotion or event and just function during it. Being upset didn't have to mean "STOP THE WORLD TURNING EVERYONE DEAL WITH ME!" like it seemed to at home.

    As a kid or teen I remember always being frustrated that I was expected to be the adult, but also not allowed the means (authority, financial, whatever) to do so. It was this tremendous mixed message: take care of everything, but obey and you're just the kid and don't you dare try to tell us what to do. This was the source of a lot of rage. I'd take care of the bills or whatever, and then some whim would come down onto my father and he'd start trying to put me in a child's place and that pissed me off.

    The message that everything is scary sure was there, I hope I have been able to attenuate it over the years. I'm probably still more skittish about some things than most people...but fortunately my saving grace has been curiosity and a sense of adventure that pull me to do things even if I'm terrified. I don't want to miss out on something just because it scares me. I can do something while being scared. I won't die from it. I may do it with my heart in my mouth, but at least I do it.

    It would be nice NOT to be scared like that or to react on a gut level like that, but I do for the most part understand that it is not rational and that I shouldn't guide my life by those feelings.

    What else?

    The feet - most interesting is that my mother has none, if we use the "power/virility" interpretation. Accurate.

  4. Self-soothing? I've heard this term a lot and I'm not sure what it means. As a kid, I had one main escape - after this shit I'd just sometimes go into my room, maybe cry or whatever for a little, but mostly read. I spent most of my childhood reading. Or daydreaming, elaborate fantasies of how this wasn't really my father, or of a different life. When I google, it seems like they are talking about these really concrete things like taking baths and so forth.

    I don't think that's what you mean, I mean, I think real self-soothing is something more on a basic emotional level. Mostly when I'm upset I go read (still) or if it is an active angry emotion, I might go run. I'm not sure what self-soothing exactly means on a more basic level, or quite what lack of it means either. I am, for whatever reason (born temperament, learned behavior) more easily moved to any kind of emotion than a lot of people, but I know that, and try to just deal with it as best I can...and try most of the time not to blame myself for being that way (though when I'm depressed I often feel guilty that I can't just feel better or feel less). Explain what self-soothing is, please.

    When I flip through Google about that, looks like they place the angry child and vulnerable child as opposites but part of the same scale. I think probably the anger dominates over a hidden vulnerable for me. There's definitely some truth to the opposition/defiance statement...a continuing problem for me, especially in such a hierarchical field as I work in. Men in authority both scare me and provoke defiance.

    About depression - I'm definitely a little bit there now, and I tried to put myself in the mindset I was in at the time of the incident, when I probably was too.

    About humor...hmmm...I am trying to think. I guess I do get "in trouble" for using humor or finding something very funny and pointing it out when someone is trying to be very impressive, or angry, or dominant. It does pop up during very bad times and probably seems inappropriate often. I joke around a lot, probably one of the main things close friends would use to describe me (though I know it doesn't show on the blog you are familiar with). Probably some inappropriate timing of humor too...maybe I'll have to think about watching the jokes that make people uncomfortable during rough times.

    Hope you enjoyed doing this. It was fun for me...and I do want to hear what self-soothing means not as a bunch of activities, but on a more basic level.