Recently I’ve been finishing off some thoughts on Drivers –  that is, the motivators that explain what we could do and how we could do it, e.g. Please Others, Try Hard and Be Strong.

If Drivers help identify what we can do, what about messages that tell us about our limitations or boundaries? These flip-side-of-the-coin messages are termed Injunctions (in the Transactional Analytic model).

Injunctions can help us function, but too often they limit our potential. How so? There is a useful paper on this subject at:

… useful, as it includes a list of Injunctions, with some explanation for the specific injunctions identified. along with an acknowledgement of the work undertaken by the Goldings.

However, my interest, here, is in the small safe experiments that are ‘do-able’ in the face of such messages. Let’s look at a few, selected examples:

Don’t be a child

an injunction is often learned by children experiencing the role reversal phenomenon  – that is, when the younger person is required to ‘look after’ the older one. Some parents appear to want their children to parent them. Consequently, the young person is likely to experience difficulty having fun, feeling happy or being spontaneous. Too often there is a need to ‘second guess’ the reactions of the parent and anticipate how to adapt themselves to the often-contrary behaviour the parent may present.

Safe experiment: how alert are you to  the needs of others? In a sexist society, some women may find they are on alert to notice the needs of their partners and to work hard to meet those needs. Can you identify just one small thing you want for yourself, right now? As you do this, allow the Body Scan to inform you about other beliefs and ideas connected to the ‘one small thing’. At least as important, note the feelings and sensations that go with these thoughts.

Do you observe some resistance to pursuing this exercise? If so, what are you going to do about that: comply or contradict? What are your fears associated with ‘contradicting’ the injunction and what are the rewards connected to compliance with it? As I’ve said before, note down some of your reactions as the details may help at a later date.

Don’t Grow Up

Here, the parent ,ay be be overprotective and, to the young person,  present the world as a dangerous place

Safe experiment:  Here’s a few. 1. what do you need to do to explore the world just for the heck of it?  Is there a small risk you need to take: maybe invite some-one out for a coffee, or similar? 2. Are you aware of ways in which you stay young, If this injunction applies – even in some small part, you may find some Peter Pan in you; for example, I am a fan of Richmal Crompton’s William Brown and Last of the Summer Wine‘s Compo.  I have a rebellious streak that was ‘forgiven’ as a young person, but less likely to be OK in my 70’s. 3. Notice the way you dress or how you sound when speaking. If this injunction rings a bell, is there any small thing you might want to change now that you have that awareness?

Don’t Feel

Most families identify the feelings that can be expressed, and those that are taboo.  Thus, anger might be frowned on, but anxiety is OK. As an adult, it is possible to use anxiety as a ‘cover’ for anger? Therapy is there to explore the identify a wider range of our emotions and our responses to them.

Safe experiment: In the current public health crisis, there are numerous opportunities to suppress some feelings and give vent to others. What applies for you, now? Do you find it difficult to locate any feeling – maybe, a numbness, at best. Some families pretend not to have feelings at all. Can you take time with a trusted companion to consider how your family has been? Does the family ‘map’ help at all?  If you do talk, take your time to slow down your actions just enough to to give labels to some feelings. There is a list/poster half way down the web-site page at:

Don’t think

It is not difficult to undermine the confidence of children as they learn to think. It is not such an easy skill to grasp and it is even more difficult to think for ourselves. Too often we rely on authorities to tell us how to think.

safe experiment:  1. Consider: how do your reaction to this material, and how I approach it? Do you  feel OK about it? Do you feel confused, or even frustrated by it. As ever, the Body Scan can help identify what is going on. 2. do you find it difficult to have fun with thinking? Were you discouraged from study or attendance at college? I’m not suggesting you enrol in an Access course as a safe experiment; it’s not a small, safe experiment. On the other hand, you may well be ready to do just such a thing, some time! 3. What smaller thing can you do to enjoy thinking?  Can you just notice that feeling.  As you just notice it, can you use the SUD’s system to notice how the feeling can go ‘up and down’. Can you stay with the experience long enough to feel the SUD’s go down? At what point are you able to think  about those changing feelings; just noticing is a kind of thinking.

Don’t Belong

this is an interesting one; often closely connected to the Driver Hurry Up where the message given out is ‘don’t be long‘. Some Drivers connect closely to Injunctions. In this example, the different messages work in concert and reinforce behaviour required of the young person.  Compare this with my comments, below, relating to Don’t Succeed.

safe experiment


Don’t succeed:

another interesting injunction seen alongside the Try Hard Driver. That can be a damaging connection when Try Hard  …… but …. Don’t Succeed are closely connected.

safe experiment:

how do feel about the idea that it’s OK to get things wrong, even to mess up?


Don’t be close

A child might pick up on a parent not wanting to be physically close to them and might feel rejected.  A parent might not be interested in forming an emotional attachment with the child. So in order to protect themselves from the unbearable pain of feeling rejected, the child decides not to feel close with others. If you remember that the ultimate sanction in prison is solitary confinement, this can be a particularly cruel lifetime survival strategy.  If someone is very overweight they might have a Don’t be close and a Don’t Feel.

safe experiment

affirmation work


Return to:


What is a nudge


Transactional Analysis

The Script