Patrick Kennedy and his “scripts of life”

Today, Patrick Kennedy, of the famous Kennedy clan, has appeared on various television shows promoting his new book that breaks the silence of the Kennedy clan family protocols. His story is a classic example of families following familiar “scripts” generation after generation. His “cri de coeur” is a plaintive one as he reveals the psychic cost of keeping his personal life subjugated to the family legacy of the Kennedy “script”.

I will leave you and him to share his interviews and his book. Put simply, he cries out for the end of families that suppress the existence of pathologies that any and many families possess. The denial of them is more poisoness than the admission of them. In my book “see my book” and these blog pages I have often analyzed family behavior as that of a script that each participant learns as their role and plays it out each and every time the family assembles. This caustic re-enactment denies the authenticity of its cast members, and foists generational habits that grow more corrosive as each generation employs and imposes them.

The script of behavior that the Kennedy clan embraces, caps and represses (according to Patrick) each member’s own personal needs and truths versus the clan’s over-arching value system. You can explore his book itself for the details.

But such familial by-laws are not unusual. Some are more repressive and oppressive than others. But any such over-arching list of commandments is most always detrimental to the health and authenticity of its members. This is a heritage of the old world order…of the English/Irish old world traditions of a “stiff upper lip”, of “enduring without complaint”, of “making no excuses”, of “bearing up under life’s many hardships”. All of these values worked well in centuries past when life was filled with terrors and tragedies we could not control. And sadly as we know, the Kennedy clan has had more than their share of calamities within their family. The need to “bear up” was understandable.

That Patrick, as a later generation, would break this code and confess his own hardships from it, and urge others to speak out as he has, is appropriate for his generation and more modern modes of thought on how to handle personal and psychological problems, other than denying them.

He advocates abandoning that old script. It is too repressive…too dishonest. You can draw your own conclusions, but his current book tour and interviews brings vividly to our attention the many unhealthy “scripts of life” that haunt us all as others try to write our destinies to their preferences. Life evolves, and familial scripts that do not evolve accordingly grow evermore repressive and corrosive as they maintain themselves against the tide of modern thought. Patrick brings these lessons of a famous American and revered family into the current and doubting daylight. Apparently he is not popular among the clan for doing so. He gives courage to those among us who would also seek to improve their lot by breaking family taboos and speaking their own truths.



2 thoughts on “Patrick Kennedy and his “scripts of life”

  1. Again, thank you for this one. It’s a bookend to the previous post, spanning the two horizons of “scripts.” I recall as a teenager working on Cape Cod about 1974 and one day the word came out that the Kennedys were in town. The temperature of the small village rose. Danger, romance, the possibility of a newsworthy event loomed. It was as if their presence were heralded by trumpeters and flag bearers. Their scripting was infectious, almost artful. I wonder about the success of scripts, which your post cites. Scripts worked. Some for good reason. May be that’s the point. They worked! A good thing and a bad thing. Perhaps, it’s not the script itself, but that we hang onto them long after their usefulness. Scripts become roles, roles become identities and those identities become inauthentic because the scripts have ceased to serve us but, instead, enslave us, maintaining the roles and the resulting identities, severing us from really what’s going on inside us and around us.( I realize I’m paraphrasing your book and many excerpts from your posts, but I do so to internalize this insight you’ve shared here). Worse yet, and this may be the Kennedy example, or any dysfunctional family, the scripts become, just as you write, toxic. What may have been once noble becomes grotesque. When a father says, “we don’t talk about such things,” one script is affirmed, another and more healthy one is dismissed. It’s really sobering. These family scripts may be the seedlings for the greater, societal scripts that play out. After all, back in 1974, we were all getting in line, playing our parts to revere the Kennedys, wondering if a little dusting off their scripts might settle on us.


    1. A wise anecdotal observation from your own past with the “Kennedy Mystique”. The entire Kennedy epoch in American history….their multi-generational sequence and JFK Presidency is one vast and complicated simulacrum. Moreover, as we can see now, it was written both by the family itself, and the press, sycophants and historians around them. Patrick’s book is an early crack in the unmasking.


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