Back from Suffolk

A long, but very worthwhile, trip to Suffolk at the end of last week, attending my TA training group.
Travel from Argyll to east of Ipswich either involves multiple train journeys via London, or flights and car hire and extra days travelling, or just getting in the car and spending all day on the drive, which is over 500 miles. Well, I don’t mind spending a day at the wheel providing it’s not pissing down and there aren’t any major jams, so it’s my own four wheels for me.
My preferred route is down the motorways to Penrith then across the A66 to Scotch Corner, before trundling down the variants on the A1 to join the A14 through fenland to Ipswich and the job lot of roundabouts that were inflicted on Suffolk in the cause of connectivity.
The consequence of a twelve-hour journey is that it takes several hours to stop buzzing and relax, but I’m used now to that sort of distance.
Decided to stop this time and explore the castle at Brougham, east of Penrith. A lovely red sandstone ruin all to myself – arrived just as it opened for the day – although not the most romantic of old castles. I tend to judge every castle by the standards of Goodrich in Herefordshire, which was a regular haunt in childhood and had ramparts and dungeons and moats and keeps and towers – all the stuff of happy boyhood afternoons and maternal terror.
The content of the training this time revolved around how metaphor in TA shapes our positions as practitioners. For me, being a fairly conceptual Hector, this was very interesting. It’s clear that one has to develop and refine one’s own ideas about practice and the underlying TA principles that inform it in order to become congruent in thought and behaviour.
Because of commitments back home on Sunday afternoon, the journey back was a bit of a challenge, having to leave Ipswich at five in the afternoon on Saturday and plod home in one hit (with appropriate food, pee and sanity breaks. Hit the sack at about half-past-three in the morning after a better drive than I expected. Took the M62 instead of the A66 – 36 extra miles but probably no difference in time. Still, I resent those extra miles and will probably stick to the Scotch Corner to Penrith road in the future.

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Why we collaborate with our own oppression

Transactional analysis offers an interesting insight into the reasons why we, as citizens, collaborate with our own oppression and the salami-slicing of our liberties.

Stephen Karpman identified three roles that people take in relation to each other when they are not acting autonomously as being three points on a triangle. These roles, of Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim had previously been identified by Eric Berne and described in his book Games People Play.

The significance of these roles is that they are positions we learn to take in relation to one another that are not based on reality or each others’ abilities to think, feel or solve problems for themselves.

We learn to get pay-offs from switching from one role to another as we grow up and settle into our own particular patterns of behaviour. These roles switches are also known as games in Transactional Analysis. A classic example is where we offer unwanted help to someone who hasn’t asked for it – we are attempting to Rescue by placing them in the role of Victim – and suddenly find that we’ve had our head bitten off for our trouble – the Victim has switched role to Persecutor and we’ve found ourself the Victim!

The Drama Triangle can be visualised as follows and the switches between positions imagined: R, P and V represent Rescuer, Persecutor and Victim roles.

Karpman's Drama Triangle

Karpman's Drama Triangle

Claude Steiner, in the classic book on why people live the lives they do, Scripts People Live, makes an interesting point about the Rescue role as follows:

The Rescue role is especially mystified in our society. Selflessness, doing for others, generosity are encouraged. Even cooperation is encouraged as part of this mystification. What is not pointed out is that we are encouraged to be selfless, generous and cooperative with people even if they are deceitful, selfish, stingy and uncooperative with us. As an example, the exploitation of workers and little people by politicians and the super-rich who rule [the United States] is made easy by the Rescue tendencies in people which encourage them to be “cooperative”, helpful, hardworking and are therefore easily exploitable.

The same mystification can be seen in the idea of citizenship and respect for authority (irrespective of the realities of the acts of authority) that we all learn as subjects of Her Majesty.