I have explained in an earlier piece what exactly is Transactional Analysis. Now I would like to share with you why this specific direction of psychotherapy is so important to me personally and why I chose it for my work – why I found myself responding to it so readily. After all, there are no “better” or “worse” directions in therapy, but there is always something that appeals to us, charges us with energy, makes us tick, vibrates in the same rhythm as our internal convictions and allows us to work not by technique alone, but through our very soul.
At the time when I was at primary school IQ tests had become very popular. My parents discovered one such test on the Internet and the whole family took turns to take it, feeling excited and curious about their results. It happened to be the kind of test where at the end you got your score and also a cartoon to illustrate it. My parents and my older brother got huge scores and cartoons of big-headed men with captions like GENIUS and BRILLIANT. I was the last one to take the test. To my massive disappointment, next to my score I saw the picture of a dumb-looking fellow carrying a sign that said: I AM AN IDIOT. Imagine how I felt.
I must say at once that my parents had always believed in my intellectual skills and considered me capable and hardworking. Of course, at the time I was still very young and couldn’t possibly have passed the test on the same level as my parents or my older brother.
But that cartoon wounded me deeply. It hurt. I felt bitter about it. I felt at that point that despite all my natural capability I was playing in some sort of junior league, and this injustice felt like a painful blow. It was then that such issues as equity and equality started to crystallise in my thoughts. I became convinced that it was wrong to judge everybody the same way, without taking their circumstances into account. In fact, we shouldn’t judge anyone, let alone condemn people for not knowing something, for making mistakes, or for being in an initially disadvantaged position.
About 20 years later I attended an introductory Transactional Analysis course. That was when I felt that these ideas of equality may be implemented as a life approach. It is not mere theory. It is an applied art. Eric Berne used to tell his disciples: “Say it in the words of a five year-old”. When you don’t hide behind complex terminology, then instead of moralising you begin to give real support, like an equal. Transactional Analysis theory is simple and accessible to everybody. The therapist and the client work as equals. I don’t conceal my goals and methods, I don’t hide behind complex terminology, and I am always ready to explain my words and to share theoretical concepts. In this way the client and I take equal responsibility for our common process and goal achievement. I heard it said that after a few years in therapy some clients know all about the concepts of a basic TA course.
Anyone may encounter difficulties with something. Sometimes we lack experience, sometimes we need external support. As a psychotherapist I don’t teach you how to live, I won’t tell you what do to and I won’t point at your mistakes – I merely share what I have. I don’t stick the label I’M AN IDIOT on those who fail to understand something. My manner of work is simple; the client and I just work together as equals. This is what Transactional Analysis has taught me.