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Strukturiranje časa kot bazična psihološka potreba človeka

 Aleksandra Deu Bajt


All people share a basic need for structure. To avoid the pain of boredom and emptiness and to get the strokes we need for survival we constantly create situations where we can exchange strokes and structure our time around creating these situations. In other words, structure hunger motivates people to enter into transactions with others and results in the formation of characteristic patterns of structuring time. The amount of time we spend in each type of structuring time will be different from person to person, depending of our scripts and the ego states we most ofen use. In every moment, each of us is involved in one or more time structuring patterns.  E. Berne (1964) identified six patterns of time structuring:

  • Withdrawal: a person is making no contact with others, mentally detaches herself from others, everything is happening on the inside regardless of place or situation she finds herself in. Some amount of withdrawal is healthy, we all need some time for ourselves to think and reflect, but too much time spent in withdrawal may mean that we are trying to avoid rejection from others.
  • Rituals  are formal or informal interactions between people that follow an agreed pattern. They are highly stilized and rigid, sometimes the transactions are even read (church rituals). They are formed by social customs and traditions. The transactions in rituals don't give any information, their function is mutual recognition. Rituals can be short or long, sometimes very long (for example in Japan).
  • Pastimes: people engage in pastimes in order to talk (chat) without having a goal or to an obligation to do something about the topic they discuss . The topic can be virtually anything as long as it's socially acceptable and people stick to unspoken guidelines (sticking to the topic, not calling for action...). Pastimes offer more freedom, they are not as rigid as rituals. Pastimes make up  a lot of social activity and provide an environment in which people can safely interact with each other without the risk of becoming too involved. At the same time, people can test if they would venture to enter a different time structure with a person they are talking to.
  •  Activities : in this time structure, a person's energy is directed towards outside objects or tasks.  Work, hobbies or chores are directed at achievement of goals in the here and now. Activities can provide a setting for other types of time structuring (pastimes, games also intimacy). On the other side, by engaging in an activity too intensively a person can avoid to experience his own needs, feelings and sharing of closeness with other people.  
  • Games are made of repetitive series of self destructive ulterior transactions which communicate on two levels at the same time – social and psychological (the latter being hidden and unacknowledged).  Because a person seems to be doing one thing but is in reality doing something else, all games include a deception (a con). The player's con is successful if it wakes a weak spot in his adversary (like for ex. fear, anger,..). Thus the game is on and the (complementary) transactions repeat  until a dramatic turn, usually accompanied by confusion. Both players then collect their payoffs (in form of racket feelings that emerged during the game). The outcome is predictable and well-defined and usually serves to confirm a not-OK position of self or others. Eric Berne (1964) created the G-formula formula that all games must follow in order to be characterized as games: C + G = R -> S -> X -> P (Con + Gimmick equals Response, leading to Switch, leading to Crossup, ending in Payoff).
  • Intimacy: Intimacy is open and sincere two-way relationship without games or mutual exploitation. It involves a free sharing of feelings, thoughts and experiences from an authentic OK-OK position. In intimacy, the social and psychological levels of communication are congruent. Although it mostly involves pleasant experiences, all feelings can be shared (so intimacy can be a pleasant or an unpleasant experience).

The amount of time we spend in each way of structuring time will be different from person to person, depending on our scripts and the ego states we most ofen use. Withdrawal, rituals, pastimes and activities can be done from any of the ego states. For example, an activity can be done from either Controlling Parent position (disciplining children), Nurturing Parent (making breakfast for family), Adult (paying bills), Free Child (playing football), Adapted Child (doing chores). Games are played from Adapted Child (Kick me). Intimacy always involves the Free Child with mutual caring and protection from Parent. According to the ego state used we can also speak about healthy or unhealthy time structuring. For example, helathy withdrawal is done by FC, unhealthy withdrawal by AC.

 Leadership hunger is a derivative of structure hunger: it is the need of a group for a leader to provide time structuring. Some people are good at structuring time for themselves; others are not so good and they look for someone to do that for them. There are many people who are willing to be followers and not so many who become leaders and structure time for others. The social pscychology author G. Tarde (1890) said that the followers are prepared to follow because: a) they have an instict for imitating (repeating after others); b) because of econonimcs of effort (it takes much effort to build the whole structure by yourself); c) we are basically insecure and afraid of boredom and emptiness so we are willing to accept the leaders' instructions. Examples of leaders providing time structure for followers are found everywhere: churches, companies, political parties, educational institutions... . An example of leadership hunger in children is: ''Mommy, I'm bored, I don't know what to do!''

Time structure,  strokes and levels of risk

The patterns of structuring time are listed from the lowest stroke yield and social risk to the highest. Involvement and unpredictability rise from the first listed to the last pattern.

  • Withdrawal: withdrawal is safe and requires little emotional investment so it is the least risky of all types of time structure. A person in withdrawal doesn't get any external strokes and relies on himself for stimulation. A person can rely on self stroking for a certain amount of time but if she spends too much time withdrawing because she is afraid to share herself with others, she can become stroke-deprived, lonely and depressed.
  • Rituals are also quite safe and predictable in terms of stroke exchange and are thus not very risky. Because transactions are fixed, regardless of the type of a ritual, this time structure provides important maintenance strokes. For example, every day most of us meet other people and exchange strokes in greeting rituals. Although the strokes we in rituals ar important, they are not very intensive so people that engage their time mostly in withdrawal and rituals tend to become stroke deprived.
  • Pastimes: the discussions in pastimes are primarily oriented towards exchange of strokes, since they don't have goals and are not meant to solve problems. Pastimes may provide people with a lot of pleasant-feeling strokes and are quite safe, there is not much risk of closeness.
  • (Activities ) differ from the other forms of time structuring. The pursuit of goals may have a big effect on the process, so the stroke yield and social risk are variable. For example, a person can get many important positive strokes in form of praise for a well-done job and these strokes can be numerous, coming from different sources: friends, co-workers, bosses, relatives, or public (fans, media, critics...). But the risk of this time structure can be significant; if a job is done poorly, all the mentioned sources may provide a person with negative strokes. Some people with a not-OK position choose to work with people who easily find a fault, because they are in search for negative strokes. Strokes for activities sometimes may come in tangible forms such as grades, trophies, medals, awards, paychecks. It is easier for some people to accept strokes in this form This is especially true for people who are afraid to share strokes with others and believe they are only OK if they produce something, so they tend to make their survival on tangible forms of strokes.
  • Games  have the capacity of producing large quantities of intense strokes that are mostly negative, thus the risk of playing games is quite significant.  Besides wanting to gain social and psychological advantages,  people play games in order to to meet stroking and time structuring needs, although in an unsatisfactory way.
  • Intimacy is the most risky, but at the same time most rewarding in terms of positive, pleasant-feeling strokes. The exchange of strokes in intimacy is straight, open and spontaneous , without hidden motives and ulterior transactions. The Free Child openly receives and freely gives strokes. People believe intimacy is risky and unpredictable so it is hard for them to lay down their defenses and stay open, especially if their position is a not-OK one. For people with an I'm OK-you're OK life position it's easier to be open and intimate in many situations.

 The differences between games and play

Boyd&Boyd (1980) suggested an additional way of structuring time. They called it ''Play'' and placed it between games and intimacy. Play shares some characteristics of games as it is made of a series of ongoing transactions, but in play, there is no hidden motivation. It also in some ways resembles intimacy because play is an open and sincere FC-FC exchange. In addition, play renders primarily positive strokes and pays off in positive feelings which confirm OK-position -  unlike games,   which serve to confirm the script with archaic P1 views and result in  confirming a not-OK position. In play, the exchange between FC's occurs in Adult awareness and P2 (Nurturing Parent) permission.  The games are played from AC ego state, often using Parental messages. The difference between play and games is also in the stroke intensity and risk factor: play renders a high stroke intensity (positive) and it has a high risk factor; in games, stroke intensity is also quite high, but the strokes are mostly negative, while the risk factor is quite low due to the predictability of games.

Looking at advantages that are to be obtained by play and games there are also differences:

  • Internal psychological advantage of games  confirms the script and early decisions about self, others and world; play allows new options to be tested, the play can make use of P1 P2 belief systems and develop new behaviors. 
  • External psychological advantage of games is avoiding closeness and intimacy; play can give closeness, transition to intimacy, trust and openness.
  • Internal social advantage of games is in providing  dramatic excitement on fantasy level, but through limited roles; play enables using new behavior and new roles while providing the same, dramatic excitement on fantasy level.
  • External social role advantage is in providing dramatic excitement with others on the social level and at the same time serving as structuring of time; play provides authentic excitement, joy and fun on social level and also serves to structure time.

In therapy, the differences between games and play can be of great use. Boyd&Boyd propose to use play in therapy as a way of dealing with games (as alternative to 4 techniques described by J. Dusay (1964).

 The differences between games and enactments

Games and enactments occur on different levels of our psyche. Games are a pre-conscious exchange of ulterior complementary transactions between AC of both players, leading to a predictable outcome. Enactments are also Child to Child exchanges but are not well-defined since they occur on a deeper level of psyche, the unconscious, and their outcome is not predictable.

The term enactment comes from the psychoanalytic theory and is used to describe the re-actualization of unsymbolized and unconscious emotional experiences involved in the relationship between the patient and the therapist (Jacobs, 1986). Since then, a number of authors from relational psychoanalysis and transactional analysis have been exploring enactments and their potential in the therapeutic processes. Enactments are seen as occuring within unconscious transference-countertransference relation between client and therapist. Since they occur outside awareness, the client and/or the therapist experience uncomfortable, not understood feelings and thoughts and a sense that something is going on between them.  J. Chused (2003), offered a quite clear explanation, saying that an enactment occurs  ''...when a patient's behavior or words stimulate an unconscious conflict in the analyst, leading to an interaction that has unconscious meaning to both. Conversely, an enactment occurs when an analyst's behavior or words stimulate an unconscious conflict in a patient, productive of an interaction with unconscious meaning to both.''

The enactments can only be explored in two-person therapy, because both client and therapist are experiencing them and changing in the process. The games, however, can be analyzed by the therapist in one person therapy. Working with enactment requires self-disclosure from the therapist and it can be a long process.

The meaning of enactments for a therapeutical process is in the potential for change which lies in  therapist and client discovering their unconscoius parts and interactions between them (the meaning of what was going on). The therapist often bring enactments to supervision because they are buried in the unconscious and are thus difficult to reach and bring to awareness.

Intimacy and safe and pure intimacy

Eric Berne states that intimacy is the major goal of therapy. In terms of strokes it is the most rewarding, but at the same time perceived as the most risky. All defenses are laid down and people share their feelings and thoughts openly, freely, sincerely and without any hidden motives (no ulterior transactions). There is no exploitation going on. Intimacy most often occurs between two people.

In terms of transactions going on in intimacy, there is a difference between authors. Eric Berne (Berne, 1970) said that the conditions for FC-FC exchange (as above described) are set up by Adult ego states of both, which are aware of the contracts and commitments with each other. The Adult powers of thinking, behaving and feeling set up a protecive framework we can go into Child to share and satisfy our unmet needs (safe intimacy)

Some TA writers after Berne saw intimacy as pure FC-FC exchange (hence the term pure intimacy), while some other TA authors ( Boyd&Boyd, 1980) suggested that intimacy also involves Parent ego states, giving care and protection. What they participate to intimacy is mutual unconditional acceptance).



-          E.Berne, What do you say after you say hello (1972);

-          E.Berne, Sex in Human Loving (1970);

-          E.Berne, Games people play (1964);

-          Stewart &Joines, TA Today (1987);

-          Woollams and Brown, Transactional Analysis (1979);

-          James & Jongeward, Born to win (1996);

-          Boyd and Boyd, Caring and intimacy as a time structure (TAJ, 1980);

-          Boyd and Boyd, Play as a time structure (TAJ, 1980).

-          E. Berne, Intimacy experiment (TAB 1964)

-          White, Intimacy revisited (TAJ, 1982)

-          Tilney, Dictionary of Transactional Analysis  (1998)

-          Černigoj, Jaz in mi (Me and Us) (2007)