I’m a pragmatic guy. If something is not useful then I sometimes struggle to see the point of it.
This does not make me a very fun guy to hang out with in art galleries.
I’m not great at buying clothes for myself either, though I do get that they are useful – I’ve got some clothes that I bought ten years ago so why should I buy more?
Jewelry I definitely don’t get. It doesn’t do anything. I can’t comprehend why people are willing to pay thousands of pounds to buy something so … useless.
We are all entitled to like the things we like and dismiss the things we are not interested in.
One of the things I’m interested in is Transactional Analysis. As you can probably guess it’s something to do with it being useful.
My first experience of therapy
My first experience of TA was as a client. As a young man in my early twenties I was having big problems with jealousy. The stuckness I felt was making me miserable and affecting the relationship I had with my girlfriend.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to search for a counsellor in the Yellow Pages and made an appointment.
My therapist’s office was down a side street close to Manchester Polytechnic. I had studied at the polytechnic a few years before and so the area was well known to me and significant when it came to life changing experiences.
I have blogged about how long it took me to get into the building several times. I skulked around the outside for what seemed like ages before plucking up the courage to go in.
The room was tiny. There were a couple of chairs and a hippified Manc sitting in one of them.
And then we talked.
This was a new experience of talking for me. I talked and he listened. Did you get that bit? He listened. Talking to my therapist did not feel like talking to my friends or family, it was on a whole new level.
I was used to the type of talking that often goes on between two people. That’s where I talk, then you talk, then I talk, then you talk. Sometimes what you say is in response to what I’ve said but often it’s your side of things; your experience of what I’ve said; your opinion which is opposite to mine and contradictory.
I talked to my therapist and he validated what I said in his broad Mancunian accent. He also empathised and mirrored back some of the things I had said allowing me to hear myself.
This in itself can be a useful and powerful thing to experience. There have been times in my own therapy where I have turned up, talked to my therapist for fifty minutes and then gone home, with him hardly saying a word.
I have found hearing myself deeply therapeutic – probably because I rarely get to hear myself express my deepest thoughts and feelings out loud. I have clients that do this with me as a therapist and I never underestimate its importance. Sometimes creating silence is the most powerful thing a therapist can do.
How therapy develops
In the first few sessions of therapy Paul (my therapist) created the space and allowed me to tell my story. I was starting to feel a bit different. Having someone paying me so much attention was affirming.
Occasionally when I mentioned what I was thinking Paul would introduce me to a bit of theory. He would offer it gently with a “one way people have thought about this is like this …” He would often draw something on the whiteboard at this point – a diagram or maybe a few words.
That’s a great thing about TA. There’s a strong culture of putting things in diagrams or charts that are accessible, easy to remember and put what’s going on into context. They were also reassuring for me as they demonstrated that other people had experienced What I was going through too. The shit that I’m dealing with now is normal. It’s what happens.
Learning Transactional Analysis
Paul encouraged me to read TA. His first book suggestion was Born to Win by Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward. As I started reading I became fascinated. A new world was opening up to me. It was like reading a manual for how humans work; what makes them tick. It started to make sense of my thoughts, feelings and (often self defeating) behaviour.
As the weeks went on I began to love going to therapy. Talking about my stuff, making sense of it, not making sense of it. Having permission to be confused, sad or angry, gradually led me to feel different about myself. I began to understand where my jealousy might come from and how I could do things differently to change.
And the TA theory acted like a catalyst for the process. It helped me language things differently. It provided a framework to hang my experiences, thoughts and feelings onto.
Twenty years later as a fully qualified TA therapist myself, the journey is still ongoing. I’m still finding new things out about myself and still love the way TA helps me understand myself and my relationship with others.
My intention over the next few weeks is to explore TA theory in the way that I understand it and share this with you. I’m hoping that my writing might help you understand yourself better. Maybe you’ll start to see how Transactional Analysis theory might be useful in your life.
Fancy coming along?