One of the questions I use on my psychotherapeutic sessions with people who’ve used drugs in the past, is exactly that: what makes you happy?
It is a seemingly simple question and the answer should appear spontaneously, with an obvious pleasure in the facial expression and it should encourage awareness of moments of happiness. But, people are often confused and don’t know what to say. Happiness is a leading force in a person’s success, it gives us the necessary power and motive to set objectives and move on in life.
Encouraged by this insight, that people are not aware about the little things that make them happy, and seek happiness in unrealistic objectives, I decided to write about the unconscious plan that drives us through everyday life.
Since early childhood, people are continuously exposed to various influences, and they develop models of identification and early experiences which are the basics for building a person’s emotional life, cognitive scheme, value system, but also the image for oneself and the world in which one lives. The influence of these experiences may cause pleasant and unpleasant experiences that are then the basis for forming this unconscious life plan, i.e. life script that drives people through all aspects of living.
The life script may be constructive, destructive and boring, or winning, losing or banal.
What does it mean to be a winner?
A winner is a person who achieves everything s/he wishes for, and is happy at the same time. Mistakes can happen, but there’s always a second plan. S/he is aware that the true road is not the shortest road, but the one with the least barriers. In a winning script, a man achieves the objectives he has set for himself, but not doing any damage to oneself or others. When s/he reaches his aim he feels happy and satisfied. Objectives may vary. Somebody may set up to be rich, another person will want to be lonely and isolated, a third one will decide to become a famous artist etc. People who have this unconscious plan know how to keep it.
A loser life script
A loser life script is characteristic of people who fail to reach their objective. They unconsciously choose the hardest road, with the most burdens. Regardless whether they sometimes reach their purpose, the road itself is hard and the enjoyment of the success at the end is lacking. Many people are not aware of their loser script. When life becomes exceptionally hard, they start complaining and seeking ways to get out of it. Undertaking new activities and involving other people will help them go through the negative aspects, but it won’t help them achieve genuine satisfaction because they simply don’t know how that’s done.
A banal life script
As opposed to the previous two, there are people who live their lives without wins or lose, uninterestingly and boringly, i.e. they live their banal life script. Fearing loses and tragedies, these people take no activity to achieve happiness or pleasure, but simply wait for the conditions and the occasions to win. Regardless whether they will live to see such conditions come alive, they don’t have the courage to make the first step towards achieving their aims. They may sometimes win, or sometimes lose, but they will never feel the full pleasure of it, because they don’t want to take the risk if things go the wrong way.
Life scripts among people using drugs
Most people have a mix of loser, winner and banal elements in their own life script. Decisions in childhood may be brought in regards to work, then you are a winner, in regards to personal contacts you can be a loser, and in regards to bodily activities you can be banal. That is why this analysis through this psychological theory, will be taken relatively because each individual will have its own criteria for happiness.
Through my practice as a psychotherapist at the Centre for re-socialization and rehabilitation at the Association HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje, I managed through different cases, to confirm that the destructive script of people who use drugs can be changed. The only precondition is the awareness of the person that s/he exists, what that being’s contents and processes are, but also the areas which it influences. In addition to awareness, the individual should first want to make a change because nobody can change lest they wish to do so. In order to get out, you need new decisions, specific skills and activities. It is exactly the role of the therapist who works with people who have used drugs in the past, to change their level of awareness and provide an appropriate manner of building the persons’ new script. Although it often happens that movement will often happen will be moving from one loser script to another, banal to loser, or winner to loser, in the process of rehabilitation, experience has shown that through the analysis of this unaware activity with the consistent and proper support by an expert working with the user, and his/her family, finally can expect success, pleasure and happiness in several of life’s aspects.
Although my experience with the application of transactional analysis in working with people who used to use drugs is relatively brief, I can offer specific examples, and among those who come regularly at scheduled meetings and actively work on themselves, positive changes as to coping with life’s challenges are already visible.
As a psychotherapist it was very important for me to evaluate the aspects that reveal a life script well. If a person becomes aware that it has a winning script on a certain field, it will help him apply this successful strategy on other fields as well. People who have used drugs in the past often have the impression they are not happy and that they “are waging a difficult fight with life”.Through conversation they manage to see that there truly is a possibility to make a change and that they can make a strong step towards victory and authentic pleasure.
People coming to the Center for rehabilitation and re-socialization, who have used to use drugs, think of the banal life script as a true attack on themselves. Used to living in extremes, they see this calm type of life as a survival, rather than living, i.e. like an impatient awaiting for the next phase. Choices in that next phase can very soon turn to be a loser script again, but it is exactly the job of the psychotherapist to provide full support in choosing positive decisions that will make any damages neither to the person nor to the environment.
Treating addiction or abstinence are the phases in which people most usually get the impression that they are losers. Although they had made the first step to get out of a destructive script, and think of the positive result and the happiness as unachievable. The rehabilitation and re-socialization process is in itself a winning step, but facing all the accompanying temptations, make it seem difficult, hard, unbearable, loser-like. At our psychotherapeutic sessions they themselves say that they do not see the way out, but they soon realize that this phase is easier to bear if they actively face their life scripts and define their aim clearly. My role as a psychotherapist is to lead them through the process of personal development through awareness about the moments when they destructively behave towards themselves and the environment, but to also make an adequate change in regards to their loser life script.
Life led by an unconscious life script is a life with unnecessary limitations. A change can come about in two ways: if a cardinal change in the form of a tragedy or a big stroke of luck happens, or if one works on oneself through a continuous process of psychotherapy through which one would become aware about one’s life scripts with the support of an experienced and dedicated psychotherapist.
The second road may be longer, but it surely leads to a positive development, strengthening own needs, living with authentic experiences of genuine satisfaction and personal development and most importantly, achieving true personal happiness.
Story about the boy
Led by my need to learn more about the world of people using drugs, I decided to buy some books on the topic, both non-fiction and fiction. For that aim, I went to the woman selling old books on Macedonia Square who was happy when I told her what I wanted this time. She said:
– Can you believe that only yesterday a boy came and brought a whole bunch of books exactly about drugs? He said he owned all of them.
– Тthat’s great! – I said.
I looked through them, some ten books, and decided to buy them. I was trying to decide which one I should start reading that night, and finally made up my mind to start with the oldest edition. They were pretty worn out, but that didn’t matter. The book had been published `88 and offered an excellent professional description for the drugs of the time. I soon noticed that the previous reader underlines parts and wrote his notes on the side. The parts on different drugs were underlined, and the experienced they offered.
I looked through the other books impatiently. In the other several books he had underlined those paragraphs that referred to the effect drug use has on the overall family, professional, emotional life, and so on.
Then, in what I guessed were the books he read last, he had dedicated most attention on how addiction can be cured and how can you help with the re-socialization of the user.
I made an image in my mind about this boy. I don’t know if it’s true, it doesn’t matter. Two questions remained open in my mind:
– Did he sell the books because he came to the end of that „story“, and he didn’t want to have anything to remind him to that period of his life?! Or, was he losing „the war on addiction”, he was giving up, and didn’t need those books?!
Making a psychological analysis to a virtual character is not easy, even impossible. But, in order to explain the function of our unconscious drives, I tried to do this through this boy which somewhere really existed.
Wishing to make a change in his life, and get out of his banal script which wasn’t attractive at all to him, the boy, completely accidentally, enters a whole new world, a new life adventure in which happiness and pleasure are a daily business. Searching after even more excitement, he loses sight of his aim while enjoying the „trip“. He socializes, hangs out, goes out, informs himself through books what to „take“ and what he’ll feel next time. After some time he starts failing in other fields. He understands that a person who is fulfilled in only one field, while everything else is falling apart, is not a winner. His peers are in „a whole other film”. While they are reading expert literature in various university areas, he is reading how his life is going in an undefined direction. That wasn’t his purpose when he wanted to run away from banality. The next step is an active work on himself, change of own criteria for happiness, return of the lost and search for freedom.
I don’t know if this works, but I hope that it does.
Finally, the possibility remains open that he sold his dear books for „goods”.
Psychologist, psychotherapist. Works for HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje, with a specialty for treatment of marginalized communities and at the First Family Center in the City of Skopje, as a psychotherapist of domestic violence victims. Uses transactional analysis in her practice, an integrative psychotherapeutic approach.