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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Your Character's Grandparents Say About Him or Her

A great question to ask your character to determine how much influence a character's ancestors had on him or her is this: "What kind of lives did your grandparents live?" There are four general reports given for this question, and the answer can sway the outcome of the character's internal script (either winner or loser, for the purposes of this post).

Which does your character (or you) have? 

1) Ancestral Pride: "My grandfather was a pioneer in the .com industry." "My grandmother was Irish nobility." In this answer, the grandparent becomes an "euhemerus" (heroic model) from the past who can be imitated but never surpassed.

Depending on how the character would voice these type of reports about their grandparents, the character could fall into one of two categories: spoken jovially, it would be from a character with a winning script who believes him or herself to have permission to follow in the footsteps of their grandparents and become outstanding personalities themselves. Spoken solemnly, then the character could be talking from a loser script, believing that their ancestor justifies their existence, even though they themselves do not have the permission to excel. 

2) Idealization: "My grandfather lived to be 98 and had no gray hair and all his teeth." "My grandmother was a wonderful housekeeper." These would be examples of romantic idealizations. The speaker clearly wants to follow in the footsteps of their grandparent and bases their script on that. 

"My grandmother was tough as nails and down to earth, but she became senile in her later years." "My grandfather was a good provider, but he embezzled money from his company and ended up in jail." This is an example of a paradoxical idealization. The speaker recognizes the bad trajectory their grandparent took (senility, embezzlement) but clearly doesn't claim that for their own script.

3) Rivalry: "My grandfather dominated my grandmother." "My grandfather was a weakling who let everyone push him around." Therapists often interpret these kinds of responses as the internal Child's desire to be more powerful then his or her parents. (It's seen as a little neurotic.) If a child knows that his grandfather is the only person who can talk back to his dad, then he might want to be like the grandfather for that very reason. Children might idolize their grandparents simply for the fact that their grandparents birthed the child's parents, and therefore must be more powerful than their parents. 

4) Personal Experiences: These concern actual interactions between the character and his/her grandparent(s), which are strong influences in molding a script. "My grandmother took us in when my mother was sent to jail." "My grandfather sexually abused me."

If you were in my office, I wouldn't give you this information up front. I'd have you talk about your grandparents in a stream of conscious manner, and then I'd look at your answers from this viewpoint (of transactional analysis, FYI).

Let's analyze: What type of grandparents do you have? Do you see where your answers might fit into one of these four categories?