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.
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