The holiday script and losing the plot
During summer holidays, Christmas and many other occasions, we find ourselves with family and friends where at least one person will have written an internal script giving everyone else a part in the drama with an expected outcome.
I remember Christmas when I was young and I think my mother wrote scripts every year that went like this:
- Husband gives me a romantic gift - perfume, lingerie or jewellery; certainly nothing very practical.
- Children don't wake up too early and all are delighted with their gifts and 'play' nicely until lunch time.
- Phone calls from relatives abroad occur at just the right time and not in the middle of Christmas dinner.
- No one gets drunk and husband forgets about watching the Queen's speech.
- The children volunteer to do all the washing up and have written a list of the 'thank you' letters they plan to write on boxing day.
- Husband forgoes brandy and cigar to come to bed early.
August holidays might be:
- Children pack for themselves and are quietly excited about sitting in a hot car for three days while family drives to the south of France.
- Miraculously husband has developed a natural immunity to mosquito bites and very white children tan super easily.
Well, you get the picture...
So when my Dad gave my mother a box which was lined in velvet one Christmas we were hopeful, but it contained an electrical adapter plug that could work anywhere in the world. My mother then retreated into a depressed silence for the rest of the day. The trouble with these scripts, and counsellors can see them a lot in the couples they work with, is that the partner doesn't have a copy of the script.
So it is August now and families, couples and individuals are heading off for what they hope will be a relaxed and fun time doing something different and interesting. This year I suggest no one writes the script without sharing it with the cast. Also - forget about the stage management instructions - as we cannot count on the curtain rising on the weather we might hope for, or on the scheduled timetable of trains, boats or planes.
It is about welcoming the joy of uncertainty, and that is a challenge for most of us. Despite a ‘perfect script’, if such a thing exists, there is no guarantee of the outcome even if the players have seen a copy. Participants may choose to improvise on it rather than have it imposed upon them. It isn’t about just packing clothes for all weathers, having heaps of sandwiches and bottles of water in the boot for emergencies, sun cream and insect repellent, but having the mental state of being open to the unexpected. It is also about considering someone else’s script and seeing if we can tolerate stepping on their stage for a scene or two. I suppose I am talking about ‘mindfulness’ as much as anything, and wondering if I can go along with our son’s teen script for some of the time rather than write his for him.
I imagine this may involve being a very quiet, almost invisible mother. Maybe I need to be open and curious about my part in 'his script' and not make assumptions.
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About Selena Doggett-Jones
Selena Doggett-Jones is registered member of BACP and a COSRT accredited relationship and psychosexual therapist working in private practice in north and central London. She has also worked within the NHS for many years as a therapist and specialist nurse in sexual health and reproductive health. Website is www.highgatetherapy.co.uk