Muriel James, a psychotherapist, educator, and bestselling author who wrote 19 books about subjects from personal growth to spirituality, has died. She was 100.
Muriel helped popularize the ideas and methods of transactional analysis, which were pioneered by her mentor, Dr. Eric Berne. She gained acclaim in the 1970s and 1980s through popular self-help books, including the bestseller Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments, which she coauthored. She lectured to groups and conferences around the world about the concepts of “self-reparenting” and other approaches to psychotherapy and encouraged participants to come to grips with painful past experiences and become more aware of their behavioral “scripts.”
Muriel advocated using simple methods to brighten the mood of others, such as giving an unexpected compliment or encouraging people to laugh “as an aid to breaking free.” With her smile, energy, and infectious sense of purpose, she helped those she counseled to discover their positive qualities and find meaning to their lives. As she put it, “That’s why I became a psychotherapist, to help people.” She believed everyone has some positive qualities they may not have developed or negative qualities that may have overwhelmed them. She encouraged purposeful positive thinking, believing people can live happier lives by being aware of their internal conversations and turning those thoughts toward the positive.
Muriel died peacefully in her sleep on 10 January 2018, in Pleasant Hill, California, where she had lived for the past 3 years. On this Valentine’s Day, she would have been 101 years of age.
She was born Muriel Marshall in Berkeley, California, on 14 February 1917. Her father, John Albert Marshall, was a medical doctor and a captain in the U.S. Army. He was a professor of music, biochemistry, and dental pathology at the University of California. Muriel’s mother, Hazel Knowles Marshall, was an internationally recognized concert pianist. Like her parents, Muriel had a love of music. As a teenager, she briefly performed as a singer with a band at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco until her father discovered her wayward ways.
Muriel grew up in San Francisco and lived in St. Francis Wood. She attended Lowell High School, from which she graduated in 1934. On 29 May 1934, she married Ralph Bertram McMurtry, with whom she had two children, Gail Ann and Duncan.
During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross teaching swimming safety for naval recruits on San Francisco’s Treasure Island and first aid for the prison guards on Alcatraz Island. During the war she also worked in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, as a safety inspector, joining other “Rosie the Riveter” women in performing tasks previously reserved for men.
After divorcing her first husband, Muriel in 1943 married Paul Wellesley James, a foreman at the Richmond Shipyards, with whom she had her third child, John.
After WWII, she worked as a secretary for the Montclair Presbyterian Church from 1951-1954.
Interested in history, religion, and education, Muriel enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1954, at the age of 37, graduating in just 3 years in 1957. She simultaneously attended the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (an Episcopal seminary) in Berkeley, where she earned a Bachelor of Divinity (B.Div.) degree, and thereafter attended the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, where she earned a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree. Later she earned a doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Education.
Muriel was ordained as a minister and began serving at a church in Orinda, California. In 1959, she founded the Laymen’s School of Religion, which was an interdenominational school meant to bring together all religions to address their commonality rather than their differences. It was located in Berkeley, California.
In 1965, she married again, to Ernest Calvin Brawley, a California State Prison administrator.
Muriel was a strong advocate for women’s rights and civil rights. In March of 1965 she joined demonstrators who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama.
In the late 1960s, she co-led teacher-student trainings in multicultural awareness at California high schools, seeking to help improve relations between black, white, and Latino students.
The idea for the book Born to Win grew out of Muriel’s conversations with coauthor Dorothy Jongeward, who was also interested in transactional analysis after they participated in a panel discussion at a YMCA meeting. When it was published in 1971, Born to Win became a bestseller and was praised for clear writing that brought helpful psychological tools to a broad popular audience. The book eventually sold more than 4 million copies and was used as a college textbook.
Muriel traveled widely to lead counseling sessions, train therapists, and deliver lectures to groups in countries such as Mexico, Japan, and India. She became president of the International Transactional Analysis Association.
In addition to Born to Win, James authored other popular psychology books including Born to Love (1973), Breaking Free: Self-Reparenting for a New Self (1981), It’s Never Too Late to be Happy! Reparenting Yourself for Happiness (1985), and The Better Boss in Multicultural Organizations (1991).
For many years, she led summer workshops and trainings at Lake Tahoe. She often worked together with her son John James, who was also a psychotherapist. They coauthored the book Passion for Life: Psychology and the Human Spirit (1991).
Strongly independent-minded, Muriel branched out to explore historical subjects in books such as Hearts on Fire: Romance and Achievement in the Lives of Great Women (1991) and Religious Liberty on Trial: Hanserd Knollys, Early Baptist Hero (1997).
She later moved to Walnut Creek, California, where she participated in a writers group and continued working on book projects. Into her 90s, she remained fascinated by spirituality, psychology, history, and genealogy. One of her last projects was to arrange for the publication of her grandmother Josephine Knowles’ autobiographical manuscript about her experiences during the Klondike Gold Rush. The book, Gold Rush in the Klondike: A Woman’s Journey in 1898-1899, was published in 2016.
Muriel was preceded in death by her husband Ernest, her older brother John “Jack” Albert Marshall, her younger sister Shirley Marshall, her daughter Gail Ann, and her son John. She is survived by her son Duncan M. James, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At Muriel’s request, her family does not plan to hold a formal memorial service and will instead honor her memory in other ways.
Condolences may be sent to Muriel’s grandsons Ian James (email@example.com) and Raymond Riddle (Riddleyou@verizon.net) and granddaughter Gabriella Schlesinger James (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Those who wish to honor Muriel’s memory with a charitable donation are encouraged to give to the ITAA Scholarship Grant Fund or the Authors Guild Foundation.
Bob Hempel, TAP, is USATAA’s Facebook host and has created a space where members and interested individuals can connect. He recently launched a new FB group: Where in The World is TA. This interview reveals how he expanded the USATAA community on social media
Cheryl: Tell us more about you and how you use TA professionally.
Bob: I discovered TA two years before I was ordained as a Christian minister. When David Kupfer and Bob Goulding introduced me to TA in 1967, I immediately understood that I could use TA as a psychological tool in my ministry. Between then and now, TA poses no conflict with my Christian values. Human life is valuable for both disciplines — I am valuable, OK, and you are valuable, OK. TA has been helpful model in moving me though the mazes of human relationships. I learned now to use intuition to discover how to respond to a grieving spouse and make a precise comment to ease their discomfort. (To a young member whose husband suddenly died, “You two were madly in love.” To which Beth nodded her head after a hug.) How to listen to a phone call from an angry, drunken parishioner. (Bob would drink and unload his pent-up anger in a phone call about once a year.) To discover when a game was occurring within a group or with an individual. Then, I would figure out how to respond appropriately. (I say, “My gut says our discussion is stuck. I hear everyone saying, “Yes, but ..,” in their responses to each other.”)
Cheryl: What has it been like applying TA to your work?
Bob: Frankly Cheryl, TA has been resource in order to keep my sanity, especially in times of crisis. A woman angrily attacked me for voting for Marriage Equality at a national church governing body. She argued with me that that I couldn’t vote on a matter that her church didn’t approve. I reminded her I represented her church and a hundred more churches plus my personal theological conscious. Later, I performed a “spiritual” wedding (non-legal) for her and her long-time boyfriend. Also she read her daughter’s diary after her death. She thanked me for my TA therapy with her deceased child. I use this case study to say TA has been a “blessing”.
Cheryl: What motivated you to start the USATAA FB group?
Bob: I have used the internet and was editing websites for many years. When I first started on the Council (2012), I was managing another FaceBook page for my church group reaching hundreds. At my first Council meeting, I asked the how come we didn’t have a FB page. I heard some “waffling” and comments, “I don’t how to start one.” Catherine OBrien asked me if I would create a FB page. I said, “I will have one up before the day is over”. They agreed. And, I created the page that afternoon. As I write this, the USAATA FaceBook page has 681 members from around the world.
Cheryl: What motivated you to start the Where in The World is TA FB Group?
Bob: Family, friends and others told me that TA was dead. Many church people said that TA was a ’60’s fad. They were once in a book study for Berne’s Games People Play or Harris’ I am OK, You’re Ok. I knew that those clergy and church people who had bothered to train themselves as a TA therapist remained. These folk knew TA was much more than a “self-help fad” or a “flash in the pan” psychology. I am still angered by the psychiatrist who told me to “watch out for third-degree burns.” Thus, those experiences were my motivation to create the page. The final motivation came from my work at the USATAA Council meeting in Tucson, AZ, USA, this past April. I chose this FB page as a way to “grow” TA by locating the people in world who are using TA. In one month, we have 51 members from around the world, including Arizona; California; Colorado; Illinois; New York; and, North Carolina in the USA. In other countries, members included are from Canada; United Kingdom; Pula, Croatia; Bucharest, Romania; Germany; Poznań, Poland; Helsinki, Finland; France; Switzerland; and Scotland. My goal is to to develop a world-wide TA support community where we can meet and greet one another. Where we can share our “brags” and come to the aid when one needs help. Thus far, we are off to a good start.
Cheryl: What can you tell USATAA members about Facebook connections. What are your observations/thoughts/feelings?
Bob: FaceBook is like any another social arena. The heaviest thing I know is—it is not the circumstances in life that are important, it is how I chose to respond. FB may be used as a tool for communication—positive or negative. It is the responsibility of the user to govern its input and output. The recent FB miss-uses where human life is at stake is scary. I believe FB management should take them down as a matter of public safety within reason. Our TA pages have had minor problems. Advertisers (the “sun shade” ads–anger me the most) and people not promoting TA have been removed. More of these problems came in the past while most new members are legitimate people who want to support TA.
Cheryl: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Bob: If you are not a member of either page. Join ASAP. You will find a welcome community on both pages. I would add a “shout out” from my shameless commerce department. I offer three workshops: “Recover your Joy”; “Love Yourself; Use Your Devices” (social media); “Joyful Pastoral Care”; and, custom designed workshops. For detailed information, visit the link: resurrectionpastoralcare.org for dates and fees for the workshop of your choice.
Robert L. Hempel, M.Th. T.A.P. , La Grange Park, Illinois, U.S.A.
“The OK Boss” is available used, on Amazon
“The OK Boss” is one of Muriel James’ many reader-friendly guides on how to apply TA to everyday life situations. As she states in the introduction, “ At one time or another, almost everyone is a boss: Parents, spouses, teachers, and employers”. Here, she shows you how you can become an OK boss using TA techniques, using stories and familiar workplace scenarios that so many can relate to. The objective is for the reader to recognize the bossing styles of others and of themselves, to understand their behaviors, and their OK and not OK attitudes at work and at home.
The Critic—from (not OK) Critical Dictator to (OK) Informed Critic
The Coach—from (not OK) Benevolent Dictator to (OK) Supportive Coach
The Shadow–from (not OK) Loner to (OK) Liberator
The Analyst—from (not OK) Computer to (OK) Communicator
The Pacifier—from (not OK) Milquetoast to (OK) Negotiator
The Fighter—from (not OK) Punk to (OK) Partner
The Inventor—from (not OK) Scatterbrain to (OK) Innovator
With each bossing style, Muriel James covers the personalities (ego states), how each type gives strokes, transaction patterns, games bosses play, life positions/scripts bosses act, appropriate contracts and time structuring. At the end of each chapter, there are 3 areas touched upon. Self Discovery: Analyzing yourself and your behaviors. What to do: How to change, with the underlying message of ‘you have the power to make different choices for different outcomes’. Guidelines for effective and efficient bossing: Characteristics of the OK boss in relation to the area discussed.
“The OK Boss” is an older text, but certainly a gem. A little of the wording may show as a bit dated, however the material is easily applied to today’s workplaces. It’s a book not only for the bosses in the world, but also for those who have a ‘boss’ in their lives.
My favorite part was seeing the many illustrations sprinkled throughout each section. I loved how the structural diagrams were made to look like side profiles of faces, and the expressions and thought bubbles really brought the concepts to life.
Reviewed By Karen Rightler, TAP
William Krieger, PhD, former USATAA council member, a long-time ITAA member (since 1975) and former Script editor, died on 8 February 2017 from complications related to recent cancer surgery.
His close friend and colleague Abe Wagner writes, “It is with a sense of sadness that I write about Bill Krieger’s passing. He was an exceptional human being who spoke his mind with sincerity and assertiveness whenever it was important to do so. He was a great contributor to the mental health profession and will be greatly missed.”
Abe also recalls, “I hired Bill to be on my staff at a Colorado resident summer camp in the late 1950s. This was the start of a life-long friendship. Bill created an large cadre of TA followers in New Mexico and often recruited good numbers for workshops done by me and other TA presenters. We laughed a lot. He loved to create humorous situations, including by singing at our camp off key. I already miss my good friend.”
Bill a counselor and educator, a scholar and voracious reader. He loved to debate and did it very well. He also had a passion for Torah learning and taught many classes in it over the years, including starting the weekly Rio Rancho Torah Learning Group.
Bill’s was well-known and highly regarded throughout the United States, especially in the counseling field, which he championed for much of his professional career. His accomplishments included:
– An award-winning dissertation on the positive effects of summer camp
– President of the American Mental Health Counselors Association from 1991-1992
– National board member of the American Counseling Association
– Chair of the National Academy of Clinical Counselors
– National Mental Health Counselor of the Year Award from the American Mental Health Counselors Association
– Founder of the Enhancement Network and Enhancement Theory
Best known to ITAA members as Script editor for 5 years (1986-1990), Bill faithfully wrote a thoughtful, challenging, endearing column for each issue during that time. In his November 1987 he wrote these words, especially poignant as we mourn his passing:
“Life is a shopping spree in which every day we get to spend the seconds of our lives. Time is a finite commodity, yet we often value it less than money, an infinite commodity. How many of us ponder what we have bought with our time?
“Because there is death, we each have a finite number of seconds and minutes to spend. Although in the end some of us will have ended up having more time than others, the rules of life make it mandatory that we each go off on our shopping spree every day and spend 24 hours—no more, no less. No one has more time or less time to spend each day than anyone else.
“Being a winner involves the wise expenditure of the seconds of our lives. Eric Berne said winners are people who fulfill their contracts with themselves and the world—people who accomplish their declared purposes. I believe a winner puts as much thought into the purpose as into the ‘how.’ TA can give us little insight as to purpose; it can only give us some tools with which to accomplish this purpose. . . .
“Winners have clearly defined goals and purposes for their lives (i.e., they know what they are going shopping for). . . . Being a winner isn’t a one-time decision or a one-time event. It is a continuous struggle to be effective in accomplishing your goal—to wisely spend the seconds of your life.”
Those who knew Bill have no doubt that he was a winner through and through and that he spent the seconds and minutes and days and years of his life making the world a better place, with intelligence, commitment, dignity, and humor. He will be long remembered and sorely missed.
Bill was laid to rest on Sunday 13 February in Albuquerque, New Mexico.