The bottom line: A game-changing look into the destructive patterns we use to navigate life and how to fix them.
The basic premise of Scripts People Live is as follows: at a very young age, people unconsciously decide on life “scripts” which subsequently control every facet of their lives. The theory of transactional analysis says that people are born “OK” but choose their scripts due to external pressures. Our early script choice determines how we live and our fate—whether good or bad—and therefore if we succeed or fail, are productive or indolent, or are happy or depressed. Steiner not only revolutionizes how to perceive “banal” and “tragic” scripts in life, but also details novel approaches to therapy and personal fulfillment. In essence, no one is “broken” and beyond repair.
Scripts People Live reveals how anyone can liberate themselves (or help others to flee) from negative scripts and chart a course toward joy, fulfillment, happiness, and better relationships. If you’ve ever thought that your life moves in circles or you encounter the same old problems with the same old people, then you have to read this book.
An Introduction describes the basic assumptions of transactional analysis (TA) and defines basic vocabulary used throughout the book. TA is distinguished from mainstream psychology in that it views people as inherently good and thus are amendable to re-scripting. Section I introduces the three main structures in TA: the Child, the Adult, and the Parent, what roles they play, and how a proper understanding of their hierarchy shapes behavior and mindsets. Section II is “Script Analysis” and describes scripts from the ground up. This section also details the three basic negative life scripts: Lifelessness, Joylessness, and Mindlessness. Section III (“Relationships”) describes how scripts transact with one another and the most common male and female script archetypes. Sections IV (“Therapy”) and V (“The Good Life”) give specific strategies for helping others re-script and how to not only get by, but live a vibrant, rewarding existence. Section V is the most theoretical and philosophical section of the book and branches into several areas (e.g., child-rearing, male and female sex role liberation”) where the advice is much less objective and much more idealized.
As a side, a hidden gem of this book is that it transforms the way you counsel people in ministry and how one approaches evangelism: you are no longer rescuing “heathens” who are “not OK” but transacting with innately good humans beings that have used particular scripts in order to cope with life in a different way. Thus, they are not being “rescued” by a “more worthy” savior. This also exposes healthcare professionals who often find themselves frustrated by the “helpless” and “needy” communities that they serve, inevitably leading to frustration and dissatisfaction (another negative script).
Scripts People Live offers hopeful and practical advice to any human being who desires greater introspection into themselves, seeks to take command of their life scripts and earnestly wishes to lead a more joyful and satisfying life. While Steiner’s work will have the most applicability to those who “rescue” others, everyone can find something in this book that will forever change the way they live. It is detailed enough that a mental health professional can draw up specific therapy plans, yet simple and broad enough that laypeople can apply it to their everyday lives. Notably, Scripts People Live accomplishes these tasks in such a subtle way that if you’re not paying attention, all the wisdom and understanding may pass you buy.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal