Friday, January 20, 2006

Analyzing Transactions in the XXI st Century

After fifty years as a transactional analyst, and as I endeavour to make sense of the changes upon us in this new millenium, I have come to believe that Transactional Analysis, the creation of Eric Berne M.D. (1910-1970) has a unique contribution to offer; the thoughtful, systematic, compassionate analysis of transactions between people.

Berne ended his hugely successful 1964 book Games People Play with the words "This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it." As a faithful disciple, follower and eventually developer of his views I answered that statement with one of my own when I ended my 1974 book Scripts People Live, with: "without hope for the whole human race there can be no hope for individual members of it."

I believe that transactional analysis (TA for short) can be an instrument of hope for individual members as well as all of humanity.

Today TA is a world-wide movement not just of psychotherapists but of counselors, educators and organizational consultants who have a philosophy in common: That people are OK, that they have a tendency to health, and that they can learn and change in an autonomous and self directed manner. Berne claimed that everyone is born a princess or a prince and that while some are turned into frogs, the initial universal existential position of the human being is “I am OK you are OK.” He suggested that a person who deviates from an OK/OK to a not-OK script position can re-decide and become princes and princesses again. He insisted that we speak and write crisply and let go of the “jazz” that characterized the psychotherapy of the times. He said that “anything your patient can’t understand is not worth saying” thereby asserting the need to respect the individual’s capacity to understand anything that makes sense, and to stop talking over people’s heads.

Another crucial contribution he made had to do with strokes. “If you don’t get strokes your spinal cord will shrivel up” he said and that concpet binds people in the TA movement together; they are a strokey, positive bunch, aspiring to learn, to be of service, to be OK/OK. As a global movement TA has the capacity to promote these principles, worldwide. The only other such global, albeit much larger, human potential organization is the twelve step movement, which shares many of our views.

In the past few years I have been scanning the literature for research in the behavioral sciences that supports our ideas. The significance of the OK/OK attitude and the importance of strokes are being validated by extensive studies in positive psychology and well proven findings about the importance of contact, support, connection, and attachment in human mental and physical health.

What I see emerging is a world-wide movement not just of psychotherapists but of counselors, educators and organizational consultants who have a philosophy in common: That people are OK, that they have a tendency to health, and that they can learn and change in an autonomous and self directed manner.

Why this blog?

This brazenly secular and humanist view is no doubt in direct opposition to the powerful Right wing evangelical wave that is sweeping the US. We believe in the OKness of every human being, whatever religion, race, gender, sexual preference. We believe that all deserve autonomy, love and equal treatment. We believe as Berne taught us, that spontaneity, awareness and intimacy should be taught and made available to all.

While I see TA growing and spreading world wide I am concerned that we don't lose the essence of Berne's powerful contribuition namely that we are analysts of transactions, that is analysts of the real and observable, the objective and scientifically verifiable. Unlike those who prefer to analyze the psyche we believe that the answer to human tribulation is the understanding of how people interact with each other, how they exchange strokes how they feel when they do so and most importantly how people's transactions can be modified and improved for the benefit of the individual and the social group.

I am hoping that my postings and the postings of those who read them will make a contribution to that end.

If you like (or dislike ) what you read here click on the word "comments" directly below. That will lead you to a page where you can make and publish your own responses to and on this blog.



Blogger Ann.Rink said...

Dear Claude Steiner -

Having read your article "Analyzing transactions" right now for the first and definitely not for the last time, I am grateful and I admire it. I highly appreciate the insight of the development of TA and the review of the literature given in this article for many reasons, some may be worth mentioning as follows.

Studying organizational communication in a master program, I believe that TA is strongly valuable in this field and especially in coaching. By now I have spend several months writing and doing research on this idea. Doing so, I became more and more aware of the deep and huge value of Eric Berne's work, which I honestly admire, while some literature related to TA makes me wonder whether the authors ever have read Berne's work at all.

And by the way, I find that with his book "The structure and dynamics of organizations and groups" Berne clearly stated the application of TA in organizational and work group settings. I have the impression that many people ignore this work.

In addition, I am wondering about the reason for the lack of well grounded scholarly research about the application of TA in organizational communication.

Now, unfortunalely I am not a transactional analyst, but only past one year of training in TA for counselling many years ago and kind of stick by it since then. Also, English is my second language, so, I hope this comment is understandable. And I will certainly keep working on the idea of the application of TA to coaching as well as I will further emphasize the need for more and significant research in this field. Therefore, I would appreciate any reply to this comment.

Thank you - Claude Steiner - again for all your great work and for this article with its informative critique and honesty.

With best wishes to you and the community of TA in honor to Eric Berne

Annegret Rink

9:11 PM

Blogger vasudev said...

I fully endorse the views of Annegret Rink. TA after the untimely demise of Eric berne had deviated from its core concepts.

Personally, I owe stability in life to TA. fortunately or unfortunaltely ' I am ok you are ok' was my first book.
Then I went on to read 'staying OK' and then 'What do you say after you say hello'.

I had read Steiner's 'Achieving emotional literacy...'
That helped me a lot.

Thanks steiner for trying to revive TA to its original pristine purity.

best wishes.

4:45 AM

Anonymous fgarcia99 said...

My mind know that Mary has left us as we knew her, honest, staight-forward, smart, fun and fun-loving. There is another part of me that still does not belive it; the truth is "sinking in" slowly and i am greiving in episodes. i will miss a lot about Mary; mostly, i will miss our laughing together, which we did a lot; i will miss her caring and receptity and support. i greived while seeing the movie "Milk" becasue it was the type of movie we would call each other about and encoruged to see or share our enthusiasm if we had both seen it. I am sad that she is not there to share Milk with. She would have loved it and i kept thinking she was probably marching in the candalite vigil back then. It is still difficult for me to write about Mary as if she is not here. As i mentioned; Mary will be present in our lives in many ways for many years. I'm with Steve Karpman, I hope that Mary is having the suprise of her life as she embarks on this next journey. I love remembering Mary.
Felipe Garica

8:16 PM

Blogger Don said...

Thank you Mary, thank you Bob, for teaching me that a bird need not apologize for having the ability to fly. Much love, Don Ryals

11:00 PM

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