D.I. Shustov, PhD, TSTA 

An image of the three Ryazan Saints, a calling card of the congress, illustrates its main subject “Biographies and Scripts”, as if the biography reflected some widely recognized, conscious framework of human destiny, and the script – its “hidden” part. The Holy Prince Roman of Ryazan is at the centre of the image. Raised during the time of the Tatar-Mongol Yoke, he had heard many stories of his forefathers’ heroic deaths. Summoned to the Horde, he chose the martyr’s death but refused to change his Faith. In his case, the biographical description of life coincides with an early script decision.

The Holy Prince Oleg of Ryazan (on the left hand of Roman) had lived a long life full of intrigues, which N. Karamzin, a secular historiographer, called a “life of a traitor” (Oleg didn’t take part in the Battle of Kulikovo and was a formal ally of Mongol Khan Mamai). Nevertheless, the Church canonized Oleg, having declared him to be a protector and a defender of the Ryazan people. Prince Oleg seems to have got two mutually antithetical biographies and his internal motives and script decisions might serve to explain such biographical ambivalence (Oleg had to fear relatives rather than foreigners from his early childhood).

The figure on the right hand of Roman is St Basil of Ryazan. His biography of a common bishop of Murom had been blackened by a gossip that Basil had had an affair with a woman. Moreover, the townsfolk had seen that woman and, in order to escape their anger, the saint left for the River Oka, spread out his mantiya on the water and stood upon it, and sailed against the current from Murom to Ryazan (D.I. Illovaysky,2009; A.F. Govorov, 2010). It is possible that the miracle had had to take place in order to “overcome” the script, which had once broken through to the surface.

Concept of Human Destiny in Transactional Analysis

Berne stated that «the forces of human destiny are foursome…: demonic parental programming, abetted by the inner voice the ancients called the Daemon; constructive parental programming, aided by the thrust of life called Phisis long ago, external forces, still called Fate, and independent aspirations, for which the ancients had no human name, since for them such were the privileges mainly of gods and kings. And as a resultant of these forces there are four kinds of life courses, which may be mixed, and lead to one or another kind of final destiny: scripty, counterscripty, forced, and independent” (Berne E., 1972, p. 56). One way or the other, scripty, counterscripty, and independent (autonomous) kinds are determined by the person’s early decision and, therefore, can either come into awareness and be redecided in the course of psychotherapy[1], or therapy can provide a new permission not to follow the original plan. These two options are at the core of the classical TA life script therapy.

Let’s dwell on the Berne’s classification of human destiny.

Scripty Destiny

This kind of destiny is chosen by the Little Professor – the rational part of the infant’s psyche – long before he/she is 6 years-old. The Little Professor compromises between injunctions and permission – demands of the biological parents, while taking care of his / her own survival needs (getting food and shelter), safety (attachment formation) and love. The latter 2 needs support personal growth, and the first one is prerequisite for physical growth. Injunctions (negative parental messages) and permissions (positive messages) are most frequently given non-verbally. They include such messages as: Don’t be; Don’t be yourself; Don’t think; Don’t feel; Don’t belong; Don’t be healthy and/or sane etc. Permissions are injunctions without “Don’t”. Parental messages create the script framework, or the script, which is beyond our awareness, but functions successfully to maintain family loyalty so that the child could adapt to the family, in line with unconscious expectations of the parents, and later, of the society. The diversity of the human scripts results from the difference in mother’s and father’s expectations, ability of the Little Professor to make an independent and, sometimes, unexpected choice. Decision-making (containing unconscious parental messages – injunctions and permissions) is based on fairy tales, short stories, biographical narratives, family myths and legends, whose meaning is sometimes unclear even to the adults. At an earlier period, this basic material includes emotional outbursts of the parents; circumstances of birth, nursing and feeding; potty training, physical contact and a name given at birth (see P. Florensky, 2009). Destinies of monozygotic twins exemplify an unexpected choice of a script: despite the fact that the two were identical genetically and received identical care until the age of 6: one became a killer and the other chose the profession of a surgeon. On the contrary, a boy whose grandfather was a junk-dealer and whose father was a sanitation engineer who had lived all their life near a Vesuvius of the city dump, made an expected choice of being an epidemiologist. Fanita English, a classic of TA, said that when she was little, she marveled at a gypsy fortune-teller who had received money and sweets from her mother in return for a positive prediction. “I decided at the time that was what I wanted, and have been doing this all my life!” (Prague, the ЕАТА Conference, 2010).

Counterscripty Destiny

The counterscript is developed basically in the adolescence as a behavioral stereo kind allowing the person not to fulfill dangerous injunctions (the script). The teenager building a counterscript imitates the parents’ behaviour keeping in mind that being obedient will enable him or her to live to the parents’ age and to achieve something in life. The main Parental messages — verbal and more or less clear to him\her — are heard in the teenager’s head as orders and guidelines. There are 5 typical counterscript programs called ‘driver behaviours’: ‘Be perfect (the first)’ (perfectionist’ behaviour), ‘Be Strong’ (don’t show your weaknesses and feelings), ‘Try Hard (work hard)’ (do something proper so that you are not punished and insulted), ‘Please others (make others happy and don’t think of your own needs), “Hurry up” (don’t waste time, you will lack it anyway).

A colleague recollected Valery Chkalov, a Russian aircraft test pilot: “Valery Pavlovich hurried to the cabin, and I had hardly managed to say that he’d had better pilot “Norton”, but, having let my words go by, he started climbing the stepladder to the cabin and having given an abrupt wave of the hand towards the big brass: “Oh, damn them…”, and added while boarding, “They are always in a hurry”. Valery Pavlovich died two hours after the crash, and his last words were, “Don’t blame anyone in what had happened. It’s my fault”(V.N. Stepanyan, 2005)

The counterscript messages can “revoke” the script messages or entitle the person with a right not to act in accordance with them. Sometimes, at the last moments of life, the counterscript messages “fail” to operate, and there come injunctions which have been avoided by the person throughout his / her life. Having been hospitalized to a cardiac intensive care unit,  Agniya Barto – a children’s writer, — asked doctors to transfer her to a different room where she would have been able to work. Ramos Sucre, a Venezuelan poet, left a suicide note, “The machine has gone out of whack. I am afraid of losing my desire to work”. We could ask, “So what? What is there, behind the loss of capacity to create and work? Which forces? Why do they need us to die?” One more quotation, “I write so as not to go mad”[2] (А. Lozino-Lozinsky, a mentally ill writer) (V.N. Stepanyan, 2005).

Independent or Autonomous Destiny

Independent or autonomous destiny is a life free from the script. Berne considered autonomy as a capacity for intimacy, spontaneity and awareness. “Autonomy is the ability to act in response to here-and-now reality and the individual’s own needs, wishes and view of reality and not to be controlled by the script beliefs, the demands of an internal Parent ego-state or the views of others. Autonomous behavior is characterized by an awareness of self, others and the world, spontaneous behaviour, open expression of authentic feelings[3] and a willingness to enter into intimacy by forming respectful real: real relationships with others” (Tilney T., 2001, p.6).

If you remember people you know, you’ll find it difficult to believe that their life is determined by a program adopted in their early childhood, or a program adopted in the adolescence so as not to follow the early one. Most of them are self-sustained people who are consciously planning their life (birth of children, professional choice, spending money, holidays). One can hardly say they have no autonomy: after all, Mr. Jones could have given up drinking so much vodka in the evenings and no one doubts that practical Mrs Jones has changed three husbands so far “unconsciously”. In fact, if Mr. Jones remembered his relatives who had been brought to an early grave and gives up vodka, and Mrs. Jones decided to love her husband and fell in love with him, their life would be enriched with some autonomy and free choice.

Forced Destiny

In terms of a forced destiny external circumstances (e.g. long-term imprisonment, slavery, inherited brain-damaging deceases etc.) become an invincible obstacle to manifestation of internal human capabilities Nevertheless even in this case there are always options for autonomous behaviour – an escape or an escape through suicide. There was a law in the Ancient Greece according to which the seller had to reimburse the buyer if a slave committed suicide within 6 months after the deal (G.Sh. Chkhartishvili, 1999).

There still may be no forced external context but in some people the mass culture creates an impenetrable Chekhov’s “coat” that limits both an internal essence of the script and inborn drives to “self-improvement” and “personal growth”. G.I. Gurdjieff (1993), a philosopher and a mystic, believed that every person has two separate parts – the Essence and the Personality. He believed that the “Essence” means Self, heredity, human nature, person’s responses to other people, something that is formed in childhood. The “Personality” is something that a human being gets from external sources, knowledge, skills, rules of life. The Personality can develop as long as possible (it is influenced by upbringing, education, information, life in general), it is “like people’s clothes, an artificial mask”, but in his/her essence the human being remains who he/she is. Sometimes the Essence is developing alongside the Personality. The Essence always knows what it wants but the human being is not able to express it and often doesn’t suspect that he/she has an internal Self. Most people live through their Personality. People think that they know who they are. However they don’t know that all they have – ideas, likes and dislikes, love and hatred, attachments and habits, taste and desires – are not theirs, but hired from someone else. An underdeveloped essence brings about strange paradoxes. The man can be both a great scientist or an artist and a rascal and a blackguard in his essence. Sometimes the Essence dies but the Personality stays alive. It gives speeches, rules people, writes books, but doesn’t exist in its essence. Gurdjieff states that there are many people like that. He says that people would have gone mad from fear if they had known how many dead people rule their life (G.I. Gurdjieff, pp. 22-25).

Mixed destiny

We believe that this kind of destiny is most common. One biography combines scripty, counterscripty, autonomous and forced destiny kinds. However, one or another kind of destiny may occur in the course of one’s life with different frequency. Predominance of some kind may characterize the person as “scripty”, “counterscripty” or “autonomous”. The clinical practice shows that the script material breaks through in critical distress situations. In situations of chronic stress, the person builds on his\her psychological defense mechanisms and becomes “strong”, “perfect” – that is, lives a counterscripty life. Still, autonomy and beauty show up even in the gloomiest or most adventurous (scripty) life (Alexander Green, Caravaggio), or the most boring one – like Kant’s or Andersen’s counterscripty lives.

In order to understand how much time in life the person spends unfolding his / her script or defending against it with a counterscript or acting autonomously, it may be necessary for a therapist (who is familiar with TA and life destiny theories) to be with that person from the age of 14 (the suggested time of the counterscript development) till death and register the time periods when the person under observation lived in one or another way. It is the first option. The other option of observing a scripty destiny in the short period of time was described by Berne: “…in a diluted form, the whole script may be repeated every year (Christmas depressions due to disappointment) within the larger framework of the lifetime script (eventual suicide due to a very big disappointment). Also it may be repeated every month within the year (menstrual disappointments)” (Berne E.,1972,  p. 344). The third option is a structured analysis of autobiographical narrations. The fourth option may consist in validating (or disproving[4]) a hypothesis that the end of life or a death scene when related to one of the three destiny kinds, is a reflection of a destiny kind that dominated in the life course of the deceased person. The fact that circumstances of death represent circumstances of life to a great extent is fairly well described in literature. We have started an investigation to get an objective picture showing shares (%) of the three destiny kinds (scripty, counterscripty and autonomous) in lives of people depending on their sex, age, activity, and would like to share some preliminary findings.

Analysis of Death Circumstances from Perspective of One’s Lifecourse

We have analyzed circumstances surrounding death, last words, and words of witnesses and close people of 596 outstanding people as described in the book “Last Words of Famous People” (Stepanyan V.N., 2005). The book was published as a result of analysis of 352 literary sources. If necessary, we studied the original sources and a fundamental work of A.V.Shuvalov (2004), a famous Russian pathographer. The following basic features of the destiny kinds reflected by the death episode were used (1) content of the death scene, accounting for circumstances surrounding death; the last dialogue (exchange of transactions) or content of a death note; (2) the Parent, Adult or Child ego-states, with all kinds of TA diagnosis; (3) content of epitaphs in relation to death scene content.

The diagnosis of a scripty death was made when the death scene content had been a reflection of already-known features of the scripty behaviour. The identification of the latter had not been difficult as the famous people’s biographies were publicly available. As an example, Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay made his wife who didn’t speak Russian, burn some of his papers and journals trying to hide a love affair.

Extrapolation of the kind of death to the whole life of N.I. Vavilov (a geneticist, Director of the Plant research institute, who created a unique seed bank of crops, and a victim of Stalin’s repressions) may be disputable. Vavilov, dying from starvation, addressed his last request to the prison governor: “I am asking your permission to give me at least one glass of rice-water”. His death was scripty, but his life was counterscripty (fight with hunger!). At the end of his life, all his work, feat, gigantic efforts to avoid hunger in the world collapsed, the whole system of defense from the scripty payoff turned out to be useless. Sometimes the counterscript complements the script like two sides of the same coin.

The diagnosis of a scripty final was also made when there was a predominance of the Adapted Child ego-state and the Adult ego-state contaminated with the Child.

Counterscripty deaths were most frequent. We identified them using drivers “Please others”, “Be the First (Perfect)”, “Be strong”, “Hurry up”, and through negative Parental roles of persecution and revenge. For example, “Please others” – Roman Emperor Galba offered his neck to the conspirators and said «Strike, if it be for the good of the Romans!» “Be the first (perfect)”, – Robert Scott (a polar explorer) dying from the cold and starvation, wrote the last words “To my wife”, but in the last minute changed “wife” for “widow”. “Be strong” – at the foot of the scaffold Danton was telling himself, “Courage, Danton ! No weakness”. “Hurry up” – see the Chkalov’s case. “Try hard” – shortly before his death, Tutchev (a Russian poet) wanted to express something but failed to find words and said with anguish, “Oh how unbearable it is when you can’t find words to express the thought”.

There are multiple exаmples illustrating autonomous deaths. The diagnosis was based on the Adult ego-state and positive Natural Child ego-state. Two examples are described below.

N.I. Lobachevsky, a Russian mathematician, told his wife Varvara before death, “I told you one day that the man is born in order to learn how to die….” “Oh, stop, dear. Don’t frighten me.” “No, Varvara, I don’t want to frighten you. It’s time. Time for the grave. Time to die. Won’t see the cedar cones. Farewell!»

Having felt that he was going to die, Dmytri Bortniansky, a Russian composer and Director of the Imperial Chapel Choir, invited the best singers of the Choir, and asked them to sing his best concerto «Why Are You Downcast, O My Soul?» (Psalm 42:5). The singers obeyed. Bortniansky died sitting in his armchair listening to the sounds of his favorite music piece.


Based on the initial hypothesis that the kind of death is a reflection of the kind of life, all 596 male subjects were divided into the following groups: the counterscripty life was found in 45.3 % (267 people) of the subjects, 31.3% (185 people) stuck to the scripty destiny and 24.4% (144 people) were autonomous.

We also compared destinies of 3 groups of outstanding people. The first group consisted of 300 people: representatives of royal families, courtiers, states people, military commanders, revolutionists. The second group consisted of 76 people: scientists, explorers, medical doctors, philosophers, orators. The third group consisted of 220 people of art.

The findings are summarized in Table 1.

Table 1

The destiny kinds in the studied groups

Group No Counterscripty Autonomous Scripty
1 51.7% (155 people) 20.6 % (62 people) 27.6% (83 people)
2 47.4% (36 people) 38% (29 people) 14.6% (11 people)
3 34.5% (76 people) 24% (53 people) 41.5% (91 people)


Table 1 shows that states people and people of science choose the counterscripty destiny, people of art choose the scripty one. We would like to emphasize that scientists are more autonomous, that is, they use the Adult and Natural Child ego-states which are most appropriate for scientific work and creativity.

Nevertheless, our findings are preliminary and need further investigation.


The relation between the biography and the script is like the relation between the tip and the bottom of an iceberg. The concept of destiny is like a course of the whole iceberg that has melted and joined the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and the world ocean.

The biography can be seen by others, is conscious, and can be improved (if we can say so) by its owner. It can be supplemented with memories of past personal events, events involving one’s close people. The past can be integrated with the present through a supportive environment of a therapy group or family. The biography can be consciously extended to the future using imagination, the future events can be optimized through influencing an action result acceptor. In addition to self-treatment using the biography, psychobiographical methods applied by specialists, can improve awareness of one’s life mission, appreciation of time’s value and quality of life in general. It is certainly assumed that destiny should be autonomous.

The unconscious script is a different story. Others often see it as a sequence of inexplicable failures or an accidental run of luck. It is suggested that the share of the script (and a counterscript as a part of the script) in the person’s life course be 77 per cent. What is beyond these figures is quite clear. Changes in the scripty life course improve autonomy and awareness. The script changes in the course of psychotherapy – that is, in the course of a specific “therapist-client” interaction – in a way that the client becomes able to “block” an upcoming tragedy, for example, through giving up an idea of suicide or something like that; or the client may find out what had really happened in his \ her childhood and the origin of a chapter of accidents, and with this knowledge he\she may redecide and stop being a loser. It is more difficult to change the mother’s style of reflection of the child experience in his\her early years. In this case, narrative psychotherapy, tales and stories of oneself, verbalized biography which is perceived and reflected by a professional listener in a coherent way, become very important.


  1. (Govorov A.F.) Говоров А.Ф. Великий князь Роман Рязанский (документальная повесть).- Рязань: Издатель Ситников, 2010
  2. (Gurdjieff G.I.)Гурджиев Г.И. Вестник грядущего добра.- СПб: Издательство Чернышева, 1993
  3. (Illovaysky D.I.) Илловайский Д.И. История Рязанского княжества. -М.: Кучково поле, 2009
  4. (Karamzin N. M.) Карамзин Н. М. История государства Российского: в 12-и т. — СПб., 1803−1826.
  5. (Stepanyan V.N.) Степанян В.Н. Предсмертные слова знаменитых людей.- М.: Зебра Е, 2005
  6. (Florensky P.) Флоренский П. Иконостас. Имена.- М.: АСТ, 2009
  7. (Chkhartishvili G.Sh.)Чхартишвили Г.Ш. Писатель и самоубийство. – М., 1999
  8. (Shuvalov A.V.) Шувалов А.В. Безумные грани таланта: Энциклопедия патографий.- М.:АСТ, Астрель,
  9. Berne E. What do you say after you say hello?- N.Y.: Grove Press, 1972
  10. Tilney T. Dictionary of Transactional Analysis.- London: Whurr Publ., 2001

[1] Berne stated (1972): “…it is clear to the psychotherapist, as to the drama critic, that Medea had her mind up to kill her children, unless someone could talk her out of it; and it should be equally clear to both of them that if she had gone to her treatment group that week, the whole thing would never have happened”. (р.36)

[2] ‘Don’t-be-sane!’ injunction. It is covered by a counterinjunction “Try hard!”

[3] Authentic feelings in TA are feelings adequate to the rеal situation and helping to solve the issue. They are different from the learnt racket feelings supporting the script choice and encouraged by parental figures.

[4] Disproval results in validation of the null hypothesis though.


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