Image by Guylaine2007
These three qualities come from Transactional Analysis (usually abbreviated to TA). (Transactional Analysis is a psychotherapy invented by Eric Berne and his friends – people such as Muriel James, Dorothy Jongeward, Stephen Karpman, Claude Steiner and many others – on the West Coast of America in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The best introduction to it is Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward’s Born to Win.)
For TA awareness, spontaneity and intimacy form a rough and ready definition of psychological health. Let’s have a look at each of them in turn.
1. Awareness means being in touch with what’s going on: not only the physical world around us (by sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) but also within ourselves – knowing our own thoughts and feelings on the different parts of our lives. It also means having a sense of our social world – the codes of communication that we use and what our psychological needs are.
Awareness can sound intimidating. So, I want to stress that most of us do a pretty good job of it most of the time. We generally don’t go around bumping into light poles or offending one person after another. (Unfortunately we tend to remember the unfortunate events so we can end up thinking that we have less awareness than we do). For most of us, most of the time, we get through the day reasonably satisfactorily.
What usually happens is that our awareness doesn’t function so well in one or two areas (for instance, listening to what you like as food – a major challenge for me – or relationships with members of the opposite sex). Once we realise that we have good awareness in other areas we can start looking at why we don’t use it in the area we have difficulty with as well. Often it will be due to some kind of trauma in our past.
2. Spontaneity, at least as TA speaks of it, does not mean acting thoughtlessly – ‘doing the first thing that comes into my head’. It means choosing from the options available.
Often we get into routines. These are valuable and make our lives easier. Unfortunately they can also lead to us getting stuck in a rut and feeling stale. Choosing from the options available helps us remember that we have some control over our lives, which can be very refreshing when we are feeling stuck and stale.
3. Intimacy means being close to what we find precious and valuable. This will usually mean that we can be close to others also. (There are times, with dangerous people, where this isn’t appropriate). Being able to close off to others is also part of intimacy: being forced to disclose everything does not lead to intimacy but defensiveness and sometimes shame.
One of the striking possibilities with intimacy is that it can happen through differences, not just similarities. When we speak about our individuality and listen to another person speaking about their uniqueness then we draw closer together. We get closer by appreciating each other’s differences as well as being united by our similarities.
Here are some ideas for what you can do to increase the amount of these qualities in your life.
- To increase your awareness
keep a journal
take a few minutes to sit quietly, pray or meditate
- To live more spontaneously
try using the phrase ‘there are always six options’ as a reminder to look more widely the next time you feel like you don’t have much choice about what to do.
set aside five or ten minutes in the next day to imagine as many ways of possible to do something routine (say the washing up) – ridiculous is permissible (a garden hose that dispenses detergent as well as water?). Frances Gabe invented a self-cleaning house with a nozzle in the roof of each room that did this.
- To have more intimacy in your life
connect with the emotion of what someone is saying as well as the information
let others know what you care deeply about it (especially if it is them!)
What do you make of awareness, spontaneity and intimacy as a definition of psychological health? Would you like to add other qualities? Do you think this is just way off beam? Let me know in the comments.
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