A FAMILIAR TALE

A letter exchange between Frederick M. Hufford and Claude Steiner regarding TA and its “modern” developments. (This paragraph inserted by Agustín Devós).

A FAMILIAR TALE

Once upon a time there was a Prince who, for his own reasons, left his father’s land and went his own way leaving behind his family and friends.

After many years, the Prince returned to the land of his youth and
discovered that much had changed — as is the natural way of things. The Prince had somehow not expected this to happen. He had wanted everything to remain the same. What was he to do, especially about the new Princes and Princesses in the land?

The Prince suspected that the people had given away their warm FUZZIES too freely, and he worried that there would not be enough warm FUZZIES to go around. He had forgotten his own question of so long ago: “WHO WOULD PREVAIL?” The Hip Woman who taught the children that warm FUZZIES freely
shared would never empty their stroke bags, or the BAD WITCH who taught the people to use cold PRICKLIES? The Prince did not remember his early fear that cold PRICKLIES would drive out warm FUZZIES and destroy the kingdom.

The people were joyful that the Prince had returned, but confused by the Prince’s criticisms. They had grown up, but the Prince did not seem to understand.

What the Prince no longer understood was the lesson of the Hip Woman and the Bad witch. The Prince could not recognize his grown up playmates. He thought that he was the only Prince allowed to journey and discover and learn new things and bring them back to the people.

Sadly, the Prince had forgotten that though his father was the King, his father never wanted or claimed infallibility. The Prince had forgotten that his father welcomed new ideas, opposed dogma, and loved the free exchange of warm FUZZIES for all.

The old question still ends this tale: WHICH ATTITUDE WILL PREVAIL?

Frederick M. Hufford,
CTA
West Virginia, USA

 

Dear Frederick:

Well what can I say? Imitation is some sort of flattery, I understand.

However:
If one is to take this all too clever story seriously, and I hesitate to, one would have to believe that:

A certain superannuated ex-hippie, hardly a prince, had taken a long trip and that when he returned he wanted to find everything the same and was SHOCKED when he discovered that things had changed.

Sure enough this naive fellow formerly known as the Prinz wondered what to do about integrative psychotherapy which he though was taking up a lot of space (which unlike certain warm fuzzy things is not without limit) and telling some unrecognizable tales about the old King.

Did he suspect that too many warm fuzzies had been given away? I doubt it.
Did he worry that there would be enough to go around? I don’t think so.
Did he forget his early fear that cold pricklies would drive warm fuzzies out of the kingdom? Hardly. Did he think marshmallows would get all over people and make them all yuckky? Close. Did he fear that someone would write a silly new version of an old fairy tale? Never occurred to him. And hoist him with his own
petard? Even sillier. Did he think that he was the only one who could have new ideas and bring them to the people? Hardly. Had he thought his father claimed infallibility. Never; he has stories about that. Had he forgotten that Berne opposed dogma? No but he remembered that he loved canon. And he did remember that he loved warm fuzzies but could not see the relevance of that
question to the issues at hand.

No, none of that, he just thought that he would speak his mind and did. And discovered that many, many people in the land agreed with him.

Anyway, remember: kiss.

Claude

 

Dear Willem:

I certainly don’t think it is a good idea to limit our discussions to
“classic TA only.” Certainly TA is expanding validly into areas that were not even fathomed in the classic days.

The question when I started this debate with my letter to Eric was and remains: can some of what is increasingly being discussed in training, conferences the journal and Script and being given EB awards still validly be though of as TA?

Let me take an extreme case to make my point. I had occasion recently to witness an extremely funny, smart and entertaining Gestaltist giving a lecture at a TA conference.

He was clearly a good therapist and I agreed with just about everything he said. He did not pretend to be a transactional analyst. But lets say that in his presentation he showed us how to put our Child or Parent in the empty seat and how to have a conversation with them. Here we have ego states, transactions, we might see a racket or two and identify a script. Is this
transactional analysis?

Nothing as extreme is going on in TA. But I do believe that there is an understandable, but for TA problematic, tendency for people to want to make TA part of psychoanalysis or gestalt or NLP or meditation or some other theory and/or technique they are particularly impressed with.
There can be no problem with anyone doing that, obviously, but when the result of that integration is called a newer, better TA, then I see a big problem.

What is the problem? The problem is when that kind of an approach to TA is going unnoticed and has even become a desideratum within TA, the TA organization winds up becoming a platform for points of view which give lip service but are indifferent to TA, its canon and its classical aspects.
These are approaches capable of eventually actually displacing TA and preventing it from growing in its own right and render it dead by integration.

I don’t want to make “classic TA” the exclusive and eternal focus nor do I want to censor articles and presentations for their TA content, or limit TA to basics, or ignore developments and insights from other disciplines, or block integrations of these ideas into TA. That would indeed render TA stale or even dead (this time by boredom)

However I do think journal articles and conference presentations should answer the question: “How does this contribute to the development of transactional analysis?” before being considered. That would stimulate people’s interest in “letting TA be TA” and keeping it alive.

Regarding IP (integrative psychotherapy) specifically, I have no problem with its existence and I am positive that it is a beneficial elaboration and approach. But I question that it can continue to be called transactional analysis. From my, by now extensive reading, it fails in a number of ways:

TA is a radical departure from psychoanalysis. IP is a continuation of psychoanalytic thinking that incorporates TA concepts. (see Transference and transactions TAJ v21#2)

TA is an approach that thrives on simplicity practicality and crispness. IP thrives on hair splitting redefinitions of what TA is and ought to be, highly theoretical, and difficult to read and follow. (see Erskine “The process of integrative psychtherapy” in Theories and methods of an integrative transactional analysis. The discussion on permission, protection and potency is an excellent example of such a redefinition of perfectly good and previously well defined, classical, TA terms.)

TA is a contractual problem solving technique focusing on ego states and transactions. IP seems to shun contracts, behavioral and cognitive approaches to definable problems, focusing instead on the attuned, involved relationship.

IP is in effect a separate school with its own leaders, canon, highly elaborated theory and approach.

The world is a better place because of it. Is it still TA? That is the
question. The same question applies to a number of other far less
influential points of view appearing in the Journal and at conferences. In my opinion these points of view certainly should be allowed a forum in TA but it should be made clear where they belong. As statements (related or unrelated to TA) from other disciplines, or as elaboration of TA that keep the spirit and canon of TA alive.

Claude

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