TA: An Elegant Theory


The Scripts and Games Cluster

There has been an upsurge of interest among theorists and researchers in autobiographical recollections, life stories, and narrative approaches to understanding human experience and behavior. The concepts that in transactional analysis are referred to as “life scripts,” “script decisions,” and “redecisions” are represented in the wider psychological culture by the concepts of “narratives,” “maladaptive schemas,” “self-narratives,” “story schemas,” “story grammars,” “personal myths,” “personal event memories,” “self-defining memories,” “nuclear scenes,” “gendered narratives,” “narrative coherence,” “narrative complexity,” “core self-beliefs,” and “self-concept.” All of these highlight life stories, myths, plots, episodes, characters, and so on.

Berne postulated that people make decisions in childhood that shape the rest of their life “script.” Script theory hypothesizes that people can choose lifelong tragic scripts-such as suicide, murder, or alcoholism-in childhood. These choices are supported by routinely recurring games and the roles that people habitually play in them.

A compelling example of the manner in which Berne either contributed to or anticipated major trends in behavioral science can be seen in the evolution of the concept of scripts. McAdams, Reynolds, Lewis, Patten, and Bowman’s (2001) thorough review of the literature on the psychology of “life stories” contains about 200 references, the majority of which were written well after Berne’s introduction of the concept in 1965. Sadly, Berne is not recognized as a pioneer in this review. Most of the relatively few research articles in this area focus on the scripts inherent in short-term events, such as friendships, sicknesses, transitional periods (e.g., from school to work), gender, sexual and abuse scripting, picking sexual partners, and habitual ways of dealing with emotions, such as anger. The narrative literature includes the notion that people are bound to follow certain preconceived behavioral paths and that some of these are harmful to the individual. The notion of an internalized life story or script ties together a number of important theoretical and empirical trends in developmental, cognitive, personality, and cultural psychology.

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