Jan. 31, 2023

How to Have Boundaries with Our Life Scripts


When we start healing and become aware of the life scripts that bind us, it can be especially frustrating when we find ourselves succumbing to "old ways".  When this inevitably happens, how can we remain serene?

In this episode, I share some tips on how we can learn to co-exist with the old scripts that get triggered even as we grow in strength to live more authentically and be our true selves.

Share this episode via this episode page.

Cf: EP 8 | The Necessary Practice of Making Space

(00:00:27) - Introduction
(00:02:14) - Being Aware Of What Our Bodies Are Feeling
(00:07:19) - Boundaries With Our Scripts
(00:13:46) - How Can We Have Boundaries With Our Scripts?
(00:14:06) - Identifying Our Scripts & Their Triggers
(00:24:10) - Giving Ourselves Buffers & Space
(00:25:37) - Awareness of Expectations
(00:30:53) - Being Compassionate with Ourselves
(00:33:38) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:35:40) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to my sharing in this episode, was there anything that resonated with you?
- Was there something that really connected with your own experience?

- What is the script in your life right now that has the greatest hold over you?
- Is it a script that dictates how you act in your family? Is it at work?
- What are the triggers?

- Think of one way that maybe you can draw a better boundary with this script that is having a hold over you.
- What is one way you can start to draw a healthy boundary to coexist with this script?
- How can you maybe build some buffer into your life right now around this script and the triggers that tend to set it of?

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I've learned that when we give ourselves time and space and buffer – and when we don't abandon ourselves, actually, we can be quite creative. And usually there is another way – there is another way; some kind of a compromise that isn't even necessarily a compromise. A way to honour the spirit of what is being asked for and needed while also honouring ourselves. 

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life, and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners and Happy New Year. Welcome back to another season of Becoming Me. So, those of you who are celebrating Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year – Happy Year of the Rabbit. And you should be hearing this new episode drop still within the season. So, when I was thinking about how to start or restart, you know, the podcast in the new year, there were a couple of ideas I had but I kept coming back to something that was actually very near to what's going on in my life right now in this festive period. So, while on break from the podcast, there has been actually kind of two festive seasons that I went through. One was Christmas and the other is still kind of happening now – is Chinese New Year. And if you have listened to some of my earlier episodes, you would know that I struggle with – well, with festive seasons.

For some reason or the other, even before I became aware of the reason why, my anxiety levels tend to be heightened during festive seasons. I am more hyper-vigilant, like always kind of like waiting for something to go wrong – and something usually does go wrong, right? So, my stress levels are higher. Even now, while it's been so long since I've had acid reflux as a chronic problem, usually around Christmas time and Chinese New Year – that's when acid reflux can come back.  And you know, it's my body's way of letting me know that I am stressed – even if I am not yet fully aware of what the stress is about.

So, something that I've noticed is that when I started embarking on this interior journey, actually, festive seasons became, in some sense, both harder and also easier. Okay, so what do I mean by that? Festive seasons become harder because I have grown in awareness of how I'm actually doing, what I'm actually feeling.

So, I'm actually more aware, for example, that I'm anxious. And because I've learned to stay with my emotions – not to just brush them away or, you know, bypass them – in some way that has become more difficult because I'm more aware of the difficult emotions that I feel. Okay, so the stress, the anxiety, repressed anger – sometimes from maybe from very long ago. 

And at the same time, some things are getting easier because I am learning how to deal with these emotions in a healthier way, apart from just being driven by them or running away from them, or just, you know, trying to kind of push them down until the emotions explode at a later point, right?

So, both harder and easier. So, I'm speaking to fellow interior journey pilgrims. If you're listening to this podcast, I assume that, you know – you are interested in becoming more authentic and more integrated. And part of that is learning how to befriend our emotions, how to live with our emotions – the difficult ones especially. And how to coexist with the scripts that actually run our life.

So, I have spoken about life scripts in quite a few different episodes. Now, when I talk about scripts, I mean kind of like the programming that we have that we often just act out of without our awareness. Right, so this programming comes from – a lot of it comes from our nurture; from the way that we are brought up, from our families of origin, from places of huge influence for us – maybe our schools to societies and cultures that we grew up in – perhaps the religious community that we belong to. So, we all have these kind of like scripts that tell us how we should act – kind of give us that sense of what is expected of us. And they are so automated, like there's so much a part of us, we don't even think about them – they're automatic, they are reflexive.

When decide that we want to know ourselves more truly – when we decide that we want to grow in authenticity – we will become more aware of the times in which we can't be free or that we can't actually act in the way that's congruent with how we actually think and feel. So, when we bump up against these challenges to our authenticity, oftentimes, we are bumping up against our scripts, okay? Because our scripts have trained us, or we have defaulted to our scripts to act in a certain way, in certain situations; ways that give us some degree of love and affection, okay – may not be for who we truly are but we have learned that when we act a certain way, when we perform a certain way, we get some degree of affection.

Maybe we get some praise, some affirmation, or we get some respect. And so, you know, it's kind of like a – it is a reinforcement, right? So, we know there are certain things that get us, that feel good – sense of attachment, right? That we are seen maybe, that we are heard – that we are noticed.

And we've also learned what we need to do or how we need to act to avoid negative repercussions. Or what we need to do to avoid being criticized, to avoid being nagged at, to avoid experiencing rejection or judgment. Okay, so all these things tend to be in operation without our conscious awareness – most of the time.

But when we begin to make this interior journey – because we cultivate our awareness, we become – well, we become more conscious when the scripts are in operation. And the reason why I want to talk about scripts today, in this episode – particularly about how we can coexist with our scripts and have boundaries with our scripts while we're growing in authenticity, is because – you know, the festive seasons that we've all just kind of like gone through are usually huge triggers for, you know, kind of like sending us back into this automated script responses. Okay, so I know, at least some of you, may resonate with what I'm about to describe. Okay, you may have, let's say in the months prior, in the year prior, been doing some, you know, serious interior work. Or maybe you've even gone for counselling and therapy and you're beginning to see – or beginning to feel that there's some kind of results, right?

That you are able to maybe draw boundaries with your family or with work or with your colleagues. And you may find that you're better able to regulate your emotions when – you know, when you're getting very upset. You know how to be with yourself a little bit more than before. You are building that relationship with yourself.

Maybe you are starting to connect with your inner child. But then comes, you know, December – the festive season, right? And especially if Christmas is a big deal to you and your family – if you celebrate Christmas. And then after Christmas, if you, like me, also celebrate the Lunar New Year. And this year, Lunar New Year – it's pretty early in the year and comes pretty close to, you know, Christmas. Suddenly, it can feel like all the progress that we've made in our interior journey is lost. We may find ourselves losing our tempers, getting very antsy, angsty, having meltdowns, or finding that suddenly, we're not able to say no again.

You know, like we may have been building up to learning how to draw boundaries. But suddenly, we are acting out of compulsions. We are – in a way, back where, you know, we started. And it can feel very discouraging. 

So, that's why I want to speak on this topic today and just talk about a few ways that we can have boundaries with our scripts when it is so clear that these scripts still run our lives – that we can't get rid of them. Right, even when we are aware that growing in authenticity requires some distance from our scripts and being able to choose against the scripts that have dictated how we act – especially when we become more aware of what is the truth of our desires, what is the truth of how we feel and what we actually want to do. And so, you know, claiming our authenticity sometimes means going against the wishes of others or the expectations of others – whether they're cultural expectations, familial expectations, religious expectations, right.

There's always this sense we need to negotiate that if we can't negotiate the difference between how we actually feel, right – the truth of what is within us, what we need and what is asked of us, then we are no better than, you know, I don't know – I mean, kind of like slaves, alright – slaves to the scripts in our lives.

Okay, so our scripts are temporary solutions that we have learned to get us some degree of love, right – as I said. Or to help us avoid punishment, rejection, or disdain. When we play to our scripts, we can feel like we're doing our part and what is expected of us. And usually within our family systems, our communities, when we act according to the script, it's also part of a larger script, right? – It's a part of the system script. And then things move a little bit more smoothly. When we act against those scripts, we will feel resistance, okay? Because sometimes, then we get noticed, maybe we'll get criticized, nagged at, et cetera. But when we just go along with those scripts, while externally, there may seem to be harmony, what often happens is that we can be very far from our inner-selves. And when we are far from our inner-selves, we are incapable of being truly present to ourselves and to others.

So, we can be there in person, right? Think of the, you know, let's say, the times that you're with family or friends and relatives during these festive seasons. You're there, you're doing the thing – you're eating, you're laughing, you're toasting, you can be making jokes, you can be playing games. But how present are you to yourself in the moment, and how present are you to the people that are actually around you? Or are you all just acting your part?

And because it's become such a habit over the years, that's what you're comfortable with. You kind of like switch off your inner-self – your connection with your inner-self – so that you can go through the motions of what you need to do. And you may even cognitively be unaware of any discomfort or unhappiness you might actually be feeling.

You may be unaware of fatigue, you may be unaware that actually, you feel like you're letting yourself down. Or you're betraying yourself because all that is too difficult to feel, right – especially during a time when we are expected to be happy – we're expected to be smiling and enjoying ourselves, right?

So, when we are in that mode of just acting out of our scripts, we can be very hyper-aware of how we are being perceived. And that awareness of other people's perception of us – that actually fuels our actions. And so, we cannot just enjoy being ourselves. Right, it's a very non-restful way of existence when we are acting out of our scripts. It's not restful because we are constantly having to perform.

So, given that this is a reality, and a reality that is especially pronounced at certain times in our life, such as during festive seasons when we are thrown into, you know, an extended kind of like period of time with fixed expectations, even – you know, certain set expectations.

What can we do to have boundaries with our scripts? Well, I think first of all, it can help us to be aware of what our scripts are and what tends to trigger them. So, what tends to set those scripts off and make us kind of like default and start acting out of them? What are our scripts and what are their triggers?

So, all of us, we will have several scripts for different situations or – you know, when we are playing different roles. So, for example, I have, of course my, you know, my family script, which would consist of being good daughter, being good sister, or being good wife. I also have my religious script, you know, my good Catholic script.

Kind of like, you know – what that looks like are what I should be doing, saying acting, even maybe posting on social media to reflect what a good Christian or good Catholic I am. And then there is also, you know, my caring and responsive friend script – one that sometimes I struggle to live up to when I'm so busy with everything else.

You know, this is the script that makes me feel like, oh, people will think that I am a good friend. Like, my friends will think I'm a good friend – that I'm there for them, that I'm caring, responsive – that I remember them, I'm available to them whenever they need me, right? And then I have the, you know, the perfectionist script or the "my competent and capable, I will impress you with how brilliant I am or how capable I am" script. All of these, you know, I tend to toggle between them, right? And when I'm acting or performing according to these scripts, I'm not really present to myself. I'm being driven. I'm being driven by these scripts. And different settings will set off a different script – will tend to trigger a different script.

So, for example, when I'm with my family, it triggers the family script. Now, my husband used to tell me – so he'd be, you know, as someone who's the outsider who didn't grow up in my family, but then married into the family – he used to tell me, this was many years back, that I really change. Like, I become a different person during family gatherings, right?

And this is true whether it is just my immediate family, like my parents and my brother, or with the extended family. Like, there's a switch that flips, you know, and I talk faster. I am more, hmm – he would say like, I'm more restless, right? There's a certain nervous energy about me. I'm less present and less relaxed.

At the start, when he would share these things with me, I didn't take it very well. Because I think there's a part of me that feels like, well, what do you mean that I'm different? Are you saying that I'm not authentic? You know, or it kind of like feels like there's an implied criticism about my family and I – it made me feel defensive.

Right, or implied criticism about me. But as I grew in spaciousness within myself, and you know, I developed the ability to observe myself even in the present moment. So, that's something that happens when we develop the ability to, again, have boundaries – even, I guess, with our own emotions. In the moment, I can notice myself, like how I'm responding, how I'm acting, what I'm saying.

And, well, of course, soon I realized that he was right – I am different. In fact, I realized that the switch flips – it doesn't even have to be when I am already with my family. The switch begins to kind of like flip when I'm anticipating meeting my family. Like, when I know that we're going to be having a meal together or when I know that I'm going to be visiting, you know, family. It's like I start – there's something that changes.

My nervous system is anticipating something. And for me, I know that there are two pronounced scripts that I've identified with myself – I mean, in myself when, I'm with my family. One is I get super – very hyper-vigilant and very sensitive to any hint that a conflict might be on the horizon. 

So I'm very, very – become very sensitive to any hint that someone might be getting upset or that someone may be saying something that will make somebody else upset. And I feel like I have to swoop in and manage the conversation – either redirect the conversation, interrupt and introduce a new topic, or introduce some kind of distraction, you know, into the situation so that we can avoid conflict. 

Okay, and when conflict is unavoidable or when it seems that it's imminent, definitely there is a rising frenzy in me. So, the energy in me becomes more and more frenzied and nervous. And then there will be a sense of, you know, giving up – there comes a sense of kind of like giving up.

Another script that I have –this tends to be with one of my extended families. Whenever I'm in that space with them, I just switch off. How should I put this? It's like I just decide I'll just go along with whatever I'm told to do. Okay, and it didn't matter that I was a fully grown adult – that I, you know, have maybe my own preference and whatnot.

I have learned, since my youngest days, that when I'm in this situation or I'm in this environment or with these people, the way to play along – to get along with everyone – is to let them make the decisions for me. They will ask my preference, I will say what I prefer, and then sometimes they will come back with, oh no, I think we think this other thing is better.

You know, and it's just easier to just go along. Right, and go along, I will. I am not present to myself when I'm with the extended family because it's very hard to be present to myself and at the same time play along. Right, because as it turns out, I think my own opinions, my thoughts and my feelings and my wants, and even those things that are within my rights to choose – often are quite different from what I feel, or what is expected or what people want to see, right? 

So, if I want to remain in people's good books, well, then I'll just play along and don't be present to how I'm actually feeling, right? So, now that I know, for example, that these scripts that I will fall into or trip into – when I'm about to be present, with, let's say my family and these scripts are especially pronounced when the stakes are high. So, an example of the stakes being high would be a festive season because then layered on top of the usual family scripts, there are even more expectations of, you know – that are placed on us, based on what we're celebrating.

So, now I know. And weeks before – even sometimes when I can – even weeks before like the festive season, I try to build in more space and more buffers for myself to check in with myself – to try and slow the pace down as much as I can. Sometimes, it's hard because as we come around closer to festive seasons, usually the pace picks up.

So, I have to make very conscious decisions to take things off my plate. Something like, for example, I no longer write and mail Christmas cards. I think it's a wonderful practice. I love receiving cards and, you know – I mean, I actually love being able to write to people that I care about and to, you know, send them a Christmas card.

But given everything else that's going on in my life, I've realized that keeping up that practice, which I used to enjoy when I was younger – when I had less things on my plate – was really a matter of social obligation and feeling guilty that I don't keep up with the practice, especially when people sometimes still mail me those cards.

But making that conscious choice not to do that has saved me a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of space. It's given me more buffer. All right, so this is just one example. Or being very deliberate about which invitations to take up for gatherings or being very deliberate and choosing not to host more than, let's say, one or two small gatherings.

That always means, of course, missed opportunities, right? Missed opportunities with, let's say meeting more people, experiencing maybe guilt of saying no to friends who keep asking you to come for a gathering. But I choose these things consciously, intentionally because I know I need that space, I need that buffer.

Or else – or else – what's the point of going for all these gatherings and not being present when I'm there? What's the point of, you know, obliging and feeling like I'm living up to the expectations, while at the same time I'm nervous,I'm feeling insecure, I'm driven and more prone to explode at home – you know, emotionally and losing my temper, for example.

So, planning space and buffers into our days, into our schedules when we know that we're entering into a season where we're likely to be triggered - that is my second point, really, about how we can have boundaries with our scripts. Okay, so the first point is to become more aware of our scripts and what tends to trigger them.

And the second point is to intentionally plan more space, more buffers in our days by saying no to things – to other things because we know that we will need that extra capacity to deal with our scripts when they kick in – when the triggers kind of set them off. So, what can happen is that we will feel the pull of our scripts. And sometimes we may still act according to our script. But when we have more space, when we have more buffers, that means that we have that pause between the stimulus – which is often the trigger, right – and then our automatic reaction, there is more space to pause. 

And if we can pause and connect with ourselves, sometimes we can find a way to not just react to the script or just act out of the script. We can have a way of finding – you know, an alternative way that in some sense, takes into consideration the needs and the desires and expectations of what people have of us – because we can't just completely disregard that.

Right, so it's good to be aware what is it that they want or hope, especially if we know that that's what they need to feel like we love them, or to feel like, you know, we're part of the family. It's good to be aware what is the need behind the expectation, right? What is the need behind the expectation? And then secondly, to ask ourselves, is there some way I can try and meet that need behind that expectation that is different from what my script is commanding me to do. Okay, let me repeat that.

Once I identify what is the need behind the expectation, the need of, let's say, my family member, my parents, you know, whoever it is that has certain expectations on me – what is the need behind the expectation? Is it because they need to feel connected to us, and that's the only way they know to feel connected to us, so they expect us to connect to them – you know, in this very specific way. But if that specific way that they want us to be connected to them is something that we find difficult or that actually goes against our needs, and we feel that just by doing what they want is actually violating our own – I'll say a strong word – but even maybe our own dignity of having our own needs being met, our selves being seen. Is there an alternative way? Is there a different way?

Is there a different way for us to meet that need? So, let me give you an example. There was an incident several years ago now, where there was a big family celebration – this is the extended family celebration – and the expectation placed on me was to do a performance literally in, I guess in the spirit of celebrating this happy occasion.

The performance that I was asked to do is so, so – it's like, it's not me at all. It's really, really not me at all. And I felt like I had no choice because the script would be to just do what they ask, right? Just do what the elders ask. And actually, if I just went along with it, you know, maybe we would just get it over and done with it, and then people would be happy.

But I was already aware, by that time, of actually what I felt, and I knew I didn't want to do it. I felt that it went against who I was. And it stressed me out. Until I figured, you know what – I mean, this was actually an occasion, celebration of a birthday. So, why don't I ask the person in question – whose birthday we're celebrating – if she didn't mind that I did something different?

Now the truth is – and I kind of already had the hunch – the person whose birthday that we were celebrating – I'm just not giving too much details right now, just because I still feel it's a little sensitive to the people who are involved. Okay, but the person whose birthday we were celebrating really didn't care.

She really didn't care what, you know, what performance was being put on. Okay, and she was more than happy when I told her, look, there's this event that's being planned, you know? And there's this performance that's being planned that we were all asked to kind of like do – but that's really not me.

And I want to celebrate you in a way that is congruent with, you know, the person that God created me to be. And can I do something different? Can I do something that would come from my heart, something that I want to do – something that reflects my relationship with you. And she was very happy to say yes to that.

Now, the difficulty was, that I knew, although the person in question whose birthday we're celebrating was happy – very okay with me doing this other thing, this alternative thing. I knew that by doing so, I would be offending other people because I was not going according to their wishes. And I was not going according to that script that was expected – which is that you do what you're told. We don't say no, and we don't make things difficult for one another.

So, I decided though, to go ahead with that, in a way that was reverent and respectful. And I knew I was within my rights as an adult especially, to choose to say no to being asked to perform in one way and to do my own thing that honoured the person that we were all honouring, right? And then the person whose wishes was most important – the one whose birthday we were celebrating – was very happy with what I did in the end, which was basically storytelling because that's what I was great at.

And I told stories of many recollections from my experiences with different family members, different relatives, since my earliest childhood. And I have an incredible memory for that kind of thing, right? So, it was a celebration of life and for me, at the end of that night, I remember there was a – it was a sense of victory that I found another way – and that's just one example.

I've learned that when we give ourselves time and space and buffer, and when we don't abandon ourselves, actually we can be quite creative. And usually there is another way – there is another way; some kind of a compromise that isn't even necessarily a compromise. A way to honour the spirit of what is being asked for and needed while also honouring ourselves.

Okay, so that's space and buffer so that we be creative and think of alternative ways. And finally, you know, we will find that there will still be many times when we can't help but default. Now, finally – and I need to say this because we will always find that no matter how hard we try, there will be many times where we will still default to our scripts.

[00:31:48] When the pull of those compulsions or the pull of our wounds, right – our fears and our insecurities still make it difficult for us to act freely with integrity and aligned to our authenticity, right? And so, we will fail. There will be times when we will fail. And I think if we are realistic about that and know that, you know, it's to be expected because we're still on the way.

We can make these times when we kind of like, you know, fail or default to our scripts less painful than they have to be. We can have compassion for ourselves and see how brave we are being in spite of not being able to kind of like, you know, be as free as we would like to be. Because this is an ongoing journey. It is an ongoing journey.

So, there you are. I hope that this episode has made you think about what scripts you may have and that have been activated in just this recent festive seasons. What are the triggers, maybe that you can begin to start  identifying? And once you have identified, you can actually start anticipating before they happen.

Maybe think of ways that you can start creating more space in your life. So that you can have more grace, you know, to navigate those triggers, to navigate those challenging situations, where you have to consciously choose between authenticity and maybe, being accepted. And then finally, to always, always be gentle with yourself and have compassion for yourself.

So, here are the praxis prompts for today's episode. One: Listen – as you listened to me share this episode, what was it that maybe really resonated with you? Was there something that really connected with your own experience?

Two: Ponder – I'd like to invite you to ponder what is maybe, the script in your life right now that has the greatest hold over you? What script has the greatest hold over you – you kind of feel like you always don't have a choice when a certain situation comes up and you just act according to that script. Is it a script that dictates how you act in your family? Is it at work? Is it maybe in your religious community? What script is that? And what are the triggers?

Three: Act – think of one way that maybe you can draw a better boundary with this script that is having a hold over you. What is one way you can start to draw a boundary, like a healthy boundary to coexist with this script? So that even while it's still present, right, you're not trying – you know that you can't just get rid of it totally. How can you coexist more healthily with good boundaries with this script? How can you maybe build some buffer into your life right now around this script and the triggers that tend to set it off, so that you can have more grace to consider alternative ways to act?

So, that's what I have for you today. I hope that you've enjoyed listening to this episode. God bless you, and until the next episode.

[00:35:40] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingmepodcast.com and to subscribe to my newsletter, as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode. Happy becoming!