Transactional analysis (TA) and Creativity

I hope you watched those videos about transactional analysis (TA), games, and gimmicks that are in my February blog, Ethics at work.  I’ve been thinking of TA ever since, especially in reference to “White House” (USA) communications.

I want to focus a bit more in depth on TA before I present another organisational concept in my Ethics at work series because I think TA is helpful when you are frustrated by your interactions with others.

A quick lesson on origin:  TA is credited with Dr. Eric Berne in the late 1950s-early 60s.  It is knowns as a process of analysing transactions between people.  There were  a couple of bestseller titles around the 70s about TA, namely Berne’s own Games People Play, and I’m O.K. – you’re O.K. by Dr. Thomas Harris.

I have a book (1973) called Success through Transactional Analysis by Jut Meininger.  I got this book when I still believed in Success as defined by Society, which probably was around 1973.  Since then I realised that success isn’t capitalised and that it’s very individual.  What this volume really deals with is TA in an organisational context (it calls this ‘business’) and it does summarise important parts of TA  – so let’s leave out the ‘for Success’ and concentrate on the concept of TA.

Chapter two of the Meininger book describes neurological studies by Dr. Wilder Penfield who was studying epilepsy and, in the process, tapped into stored memories.  This is what got me to pull this book off the shelf – I’m interested in the creative process, and in how our subconscious can be encouraged to let go its secrets, its lifetime of memories.

Some of the concepts of TA that are worth considering besides games and gimmicks are your life positions, life scripts, impulsive responses, and strokes, how your expectations of how a person will respond can upset your intentions, and it mentions silent contracts.  This is important especially – ESPECIALLY – if you’re in a leadership or managerial role and therefore, have a degree of power over others – or you hope to be one day.

TA can often simply explain things when you’ve had a bad experience, but it is also a useful tool to help you get out of dysfunctional communication cycles you’re in.  Believe me, sometimes it’s so much more fun to respond to the critical Parent by being the Belligerent Child than it is to be rational and Adult.  But you actually benefit more from Adult interactions at work (or if you’re the president of the US) than you do by letting yourself say WHATEVER it is you think at exactly the MOMENT YOU THINK IT.

A Salient article in March 2016 is a good example of how useful it is to be aware of the concept of ego states.

In February 2016 neighbours around Kelburn Park complained of student behaviour in Kelburn park one weekend.  Their complaint included problems related to “drinking, littering, excessive noise late into the night, and property damage”.  The Vice Chcncellr, Grant Guildford,  responded saying that it appeared that the students’ behaviour had breached the Victoria University’s Student Conduct Statute.

I quote from the article:  “In a statement on March 3rd, Guilford said that the university has a student code of conduct and “reminding students about their responsibilities to themselves, the university, and the community is entirely appropriate.”  Guilford is concerned that the behaviour of a small number of students over the last few years  “has begun to seriously undermine the reputation of Victoria students, the vast majority of whom contribute very positively to Wellington.” ” (Robertson quoting Guildford).

Students complained that this was too hard line an approach.  Jonathan Gee, president of the VUWSA, responded:  “in everything else the university does students are treated like adults.  Suggesting a maximum penalty of exclusion is a disproportionate threat to students who have only just started uni. Students aren’t being treated like adults.”

Yes, but.  Adult by age or by behaviour?

Consider this interaction in light of the Parent, Adult, Child model.  First, were the students behaving like adults?  You could argue that many adults behave this way, but is that a useful argument?

Taking it from the perspective of TA, it’s easy to see that the ratty child (okay, belligerent) was at play here (in the case of the students) and Gee was performing the role of protective parent in his response.  Guilford could have also been said to be responding as Parent, but, I felt, he remained factual and stated the case as a rational Adult would.  The behaviour of VUW staff and students do affect the community and while noise is often seen as a temporary problem, it is getting more out of control  (I am a neighbour of VUW students so I know this first hand) and the issue of property damage is serious.  It is part of Guilford’s role is as a VUW spokesperson to the community.  He is responsible for bring to the table these sorts of issues and finding solutions, and in this case, drawing a line of how serious this is.  And the code of conduct is there for a reason.

I remember reading that Salient issue back in February 2016, and thinking that  Gee was looking at numbers, i.e. age, to define adult.  But here we have Trump, a 70+ year old who behaves as if he’s still in high school (sometimes primary school) via his reactive tweets.  Hardly an example of adult behaviour, which  includes being emotionally and mentally mature, basing decisions on facts, and communicating rationally, with well measured responses.  And respecting others’ rights.  Definitions From Oxforddictionaries.com.

As a side note:  I often talk about Reaction vs. response in my reflective practice (ePortfolio) workshops.  Here’s some information about that concept.  How does this relate to Transactional Analysis?

Psychology Today

The Huffington Post (about the book I am Malala)

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