A mental script is a set of rules and expectations learned early in life (it can be conscious and/or unconscious) that guide and influence your perceptions, feelings and behaviors. When an actor first learns a movie script, s/he must memorize lines of dialogue, but the actor must also learn what it feels like to be a particular character and how this person is likely to behave. After rehearsing the script many times, it becomes internalized by the actor (the actor takes on the attitudes, feelings, motivation and behaviors of the character), and this new persona becomes more natural and automatic and less consciously rehearsed or forced.
Childhood learning is similar to learning a script. Your parents/caregivers, siblings and peers were the directors and/or co-stars of the early unfolding of your life. By observing others and by direct experience (being told how to behave, being praised and reprimanded for certain things you said and did), your character was gradually shaped. Ideally, your parents/guardians were the kind of directors that allowed you to experiment with different scripts and personae that felt most natural to you—allowing your authentic self to emerge and take root. But unfortunately, the parent-director can set overly rigid rules and constraints on a child so that little in the way of spontaneity and authenticity is encouraged. When this occurs, you can end up feeling lost or not fully alive within the constraints of your overly-scripted self.
Relationship Help: Are Your Sexual-Scripts Hurting Your Sex Life?
Over the course of your life, you developed scripts to help you navigate family life, social relationships, work environment, and romantic relationships. Within the arena of love, you are guided by scripts for intimacy, how to communicate, how to express feelings and emotions, as well as using your body as a means for connecting with your partner.
Your sexual-scripts are your attitudes and feelings about sex—these are often unspoken, and linger behind the scenes of your conscious mind where they exert a powerful influence over your experience of physical intimacy.
Here are some sexual scripts that people often hold:
- Sex is an important expression of love, affection and intimacy
- It’s healthy and perfectly acceptable to have physical and sexual needs
- I enjoy receiving pleasure and giving my partner physical pleasure
- I’m open to experimenting sexually with my spouse/partner
- Being a sexual being is an important part of being human
Note how each script has a particular feeling and motivation associated with it, as well as an action/behavior that will likely result from the script. Inherent to these pro-sexual scripts is an attitude of acceptance and openness.
- It’s wrong to have physical/sexual needs and desires
- I should be ashamed for wanting to have sex
- I should not find others attractive
- My partner should not ask me to give her/him physical pleasure
- I’m too old to feel passion and sexual arousal
Note the constricting, judgmental nature of these negative sexual-scripts. As you might imagine, they can rob you of the joy, pleasure and vitality inherent to healthy sexual expression.
Assessing Your Sexual-Scripts
Take a moment to reflect on your sexual history (how you learned about sex; your first sexual experiences; your parents’/role models’ attitudes about sex) and see how these formative experiences shaped your attitudes about sexuality, sexual pleasure and sexual expression.
Are your sexual-scripts allowing for a fulfilling sex life? Or are they blocking you from the gifts of sexual intimacy?
If you would like to read more about how to create a more passionate, fulfilling sex life, check out my Sex and Passion Ebook.