How ‘givers’ can avoid the midwinter burnout blues Jamaica
Each time I arrive at Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica, for our USATAA Gathering, I breathe in the warm, scented, tropical air, and am reminded of how much effect a place can have on our overall experience. Time seems to slow as we become present to the sounds and images of jungle, ocean, and birds. Nurturing is the word that describes this place.
By the time we enter our circle of stimulating and diverse colleagues on Sunday morning, we are already at ease. From there we design our “un-conference” so that presentations and discussions flow smoothly through our schedule for the week.
One of the aspects that I most enjoy is the self-awareness we bring to how we organize. Using what’s called “Open Space Technology,” the community follows the energy, and works together to create an educational and transformative program. What occurs is both planned and emergent.
The learnings from the process itself feed my work as a consultant to self-managing organizations, as well as helping me understand my own impact and feelings. As someone who tends to give emotionally and otherwise (I’m guessing you know something about this too!), this conference is a restorative practice that feeds all three: mind, body and soul.
You can still register; you don’t need prior experience with transactional analysis; you’ll meet people from Europe, the US, and Jamaica, from various professional fields; you’ll relax at the beach; and you’ll learn about Jamaica and its culture, in the most affordable week-long residential program you are likely to find anywhere.
When? Feb. 4-11, 2017. Where? Port Antonio, Jamaica.
So, what’s stopping you from signing up right now? Follow the link for fees and registration form. Direct your questions to me, Lucy Freedman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Practitioners of Transactional Analysis were interviewed on their use of and appreciation for TA during the 2013 USATAA conference. USATAA proudly re-posts this wonderful video that features highlights from several of those interviews.
***Blog posts on The NET represent the viewpoint of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by USATAA.***
Eric Berne is known for coining the term ‘strokes’. He explained it as a basic unit of recognition. It was believed that human beings were born with an innate stimulus hunger. Experiments in the 1940s suggested that infants failed to thrive in environments where physical stimulation was limited. This hunger for touch develops to become a hunger for recognition in social and intimate relationships.
These were the types of strokes that Eric Berne described.
Internal strokes (strokes we give ourselves)
External strokes (strokes we give to others)
Unconditional strokes (strokes for being)
Conditional strokes (strokes for doing)
Positive strokes (strokes that communicate okayness)
Negative strokes (strokes that communicate not-okayness)
Claude Steiner is known for theorizing the ‘stroke economy’. He suggests that we can be restricted by the parent ego state in five main ways:
don’t give strokes when we have them to give
don’t ask for strokes when we need them
don’t accept strokes if we want them
don’t reject strokes when we don’t want them
don’t give ourselves strokes
These five ‘rules’ reinforce a culture of scarcity as opposed to how limitless strokes can be given and received. I once encountered someone from a chaotic household and that led to him making an early decision to “trust no one to care.” His script beliefs were entrenched in ideas of stroke scarcity and that happy interactions were close to impossible. I invited him to take on a little experiment for the week. He would try for 7 days and every morning to smile at one person on the way to work on the bus. To his astonishment, people smiled back! There were no threats, exchanges or bartering. The strokes were limitless.
TA literature describes the ‘stroke filter’ as a contaminated Adult ego state process where the person chooses to interpret positive strokes as negative ones. This maintains their particular life position.
What are STROKE PROCESSORS?
This write-up suggests a clear way to facilitate for clients to understand how their life scripting (early decisions about themselves and the world) might affect their Adult ego state functioning. The Adult ego state might be processing strokes in 4 different ways:
Processing the intended stroke as much more important or significant than intended. An individual could take a simple greeting smile from another as a sign of sexual flirtation. Or an individual could take a piece of Adult negative feedback as a Critical Parent insult.
Brian was regularly playing some ‘kick me’ games at dance night clubs. His eyes would scan the room for attractive women who would respond to his smile. He would interpret each smile as a green light for close contact dancing or an invitation for intimate conversation. Often the women would interpret his behavior as inappropriate.
Processing the intended stroke as less important or significant than intended. An individual could downplay a compliment or ignore the significance of a negative complaint.
Sam had an ‘under-achieving’ life script. His early decision to not succeed led to him to perpetually discount his personal intelligence and abilities. Each time a colleague complimented his ability he would minimize its significance in his mind. “They are just being nice.”
An individual could take a negative stroke and interpret it as positive or take a positive stroke and interpret it as negative. For example, an individual could take a compliment as a reminder of how they are not-ok.
Susie was constantly nervous about her appearance. Nothing ever felt enough for the world- even if she was told otherwise. She always had makeup on even when she went to bed. Her husband tried to tell her he loved her but all she could think was- “he wouldn’t love me without the makeup.” “Don’t be you or else…”- she continually told herself. Her husband’s unconditional positive strokes were converted as conditional strokes and further processed as negative strokes.
An individual could select the strokes they want to absorb and the ones they want reject.
Grace, an employee, got her first employee appraisal and all she chose to hear were the negative strokes. She decided she was a terrible worker even after her manager had a ton of positive feedback to offer.
Bringing these ‘stroke processors’ to the awareness of the client can be effective for decontaminating the adult ego state. It can allow for an exploration of the life script, early stroking patterns and early decisions. It can more importantly, be an invitation for clients to make new autonomous decisions about how they want to ‘process’ strokes in the here and now.
This blog post is about having what you want in life. This is a big presupposition, that we can live the life we want. And really, why shouldn’t we?
Two things can prevent us from living that life. One is that we made decisions early in life, outside of our awareness of today, that still limit us. These decisions were often made at times of stress or trauma, and we re-create some version of that experience unconsciously.
Seems illogical that our early decisions, that didn’t really solve things back then, can still be the source of issues today, and yet, that’s the way we write our life scripts.
Some coaches insist they deal only with the present and future, and don’t get into that stuff from the past.
It’s not about rehashing the past, or even remembering all the details. We can recognize the tracks of the past in the present, and clear them up. Much energy is released when we clear out old decisions.
The second way we prevent ourselves from living the life we want is that we haven’t envisioned it. Life script change is not just letting go of past decisions, it involves making new ones, and then enacting them day by day.
When we made our early decisions, we had no idea of the possibilities our lives could hold. Now we have a chance to explore, learn from others, and create lives based on consciously chosen assumptions.
This whole concept of choice is pretty radical. Whether we have some things in our life that we don’t want, or want some things that we don’t have, this is what we are choosing today.
The TA (transactional analysis) belief that we are all OK includes the idea that we are at choice – if we can get in touch with the internal decision-maker who wanted to stay OK, and made limiting decisions in service of that goal.
That decision-maker is grown up now, and can be the designer of a happy life, with much more knowledge than he or she had back then.
You can access online and in-person courses about TA and other positive psychology methods, if you want to re-connect solidly with that OK self to make new decisions, and maybe help others do the same.
Whether you are new to TA or are already experienced with it, and whether you are learning for yourself or to expand what you can do with your clients, please join USATAA, understand the decisions you’ve made and their impact on your life, and find out what life you really can live.