Friday, January 15, 2010

Why are we, the way we are?

In this post, I am trying to analyze psychological influence on complexity of human nature and behavior. It might help not only to develop a greater self-awareness but also in enhanced understanding and  acceptance of fellow humans.
Understanding of human nature is definitely far more complex than that of computers and robots. Unlike robots, human response to stimulus is not solely controlled by the logic and programs. The reason for complexity lies in the fact that we the humans, besides having a logical mind also possess a compassionate heart that is capable of feelings, emotions and sentiments. Our brain subconsciously makes a simultaneous record not only of events but also of feelings that are associated with these experiences. Two gel together and decide our response to the situations that we face in life.
There are variety of viewpoints in psychology that attempt to explain personality formations and human behavior each has its exclusivity yet each suffers from certain pitfalls .In this post I mainly focus on “Transactional Analysis” in uncomplicated and lucid form.
In its simplest form theory of transactional analysis is based on PAC model that divide the ego states of human into Parent Adult and Child domains. Stored in the PARENT domain are the advice and admonishments that we receive from our caretakers and elders in our early childhood. CHILD domain contains our reactions to those advice that are often unexpressed but lie recorded somewhere in psyche. The ADULT state, undoubtedly the most important one is the recording of our experiences based on our actions .In a nutshell, Parent relates to teachings, adult to thinking and child to feeling. In a balanced human being these three domains should be separate and should not overshadow one another.
Consider a situation .Every parent teaches the value of truth to their offspring and ‘never lie’ is one advice probably everyone has heard in childhood. Now when the phone rings on a Sunday morning and father tells the child to inform the caller that “papa is not at home”. It is not safe for child to ask the parent that why is he being asked to lie? At this instance a feeling is definitely aroused in child that is in conflict to the advice stored in the parent. In later part of life experiences may teach us that sometimes it becomes imperative to lie. The difference is some people lie for their own convenience and some lie only to avoid a discomfort or pain to someone else and this is where values come into picture. This degree of transgression and perversion is decided by adult according to their affordability of truth.
In language of psychoanalysis a question is called Transaction Stimulus from ‘Agent’ and reaction from the other person called the ‘Respondent’ is named Transaction Response. A ‘Game’ is an ongoing series of complementary transactions visible or concealed progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Mostly a game is dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic quality. On the other hand an ‘Operation’ is a set of transactions undertaken for a specific, stated purpose. Let me simplify with example, if someone frankly asks for advice or opinion and gets it, that is an operation. On the other hand If someone asks for advice and after it is given it is contradicted or turned in some way to the disadvantage of the giver, that is a game. Here adult of respondent is trying to defeat the parent subconsciously. Outwardly, a game looks like a set of operations, but after the result it becomes apparent that these operations were really maneuvers and what appeared as honest request was but a move in the game. You can experience the game when next time you get a call from some financial company agent who sounds too concerned for your physical and financial health while at the root he is trying “To make a kill” to complete his business target.
All effective and successful communications must be complementary. It must be a two way process between the receiving ego state to the sending ego state. For example, if the stimulus is Parent to Child, the response must be Child to Parent, or the transaction is called ‘crossed’ which results in an ineffective communication that upset either one or both parties. Continuous crossed transaction lead to break-downs in relationships. Wise people realize this in time and instead of winning battle of tongue settle to triumph with heart.
Robert R. Brown has aptly observed that “Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn't taken the time adequately to understand” An understanding of Psychology helps you understand others and more than that your own self .As famous psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, says “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I firmly believe that every parent and teacher should have basic knowledge of psychology to avoid the scars on souls of children. Our actions and words have great influence on the next generation. To illustrate and link upbringing with our seemingly innocuous actions and words let me site one more example from my earlier posts written in Hindi. The first steps of every toddler are a moment of joy for every mother and we know that falling is an inevitable part of process of learning to walk. Have you noticed the reaction of mothers when the child falls after taking a first few steps? Some mothers stand at their place and motivate the child to come to her, child may be crying but she encourages the baby to continue and come to her. Love is showered on the baby when he or she accomplishes the task of reaching the mother. By doing this the mother has indirectly taught the child the importance of accomplishing the task that is initiated. In contrast many mothers may go and pick the child, because they can’t see the baby crying, but then will that baby not look for care and support every time he faces a hurdle. The worst reaction is that of a mother who runs to pick up the child and then beats the floor and accuses the floor of making her baby fall. Such people will generally blame someone else for their mistake.
I came across this story Written by Barbara Dunlap , I can't resist the temptation to share it with you .....
Once there was a very small person who had feelings. He had many feelings and felt them every day. His family liked him when he showed his feelings, so the very small person started to wear his feelings on his sleeve. One day one of the small person's parents said that they didn't like to see the FEAR feeling anymore, so the small person tried to pull it off. The parent said that they would give the small person some TOUGH to cover over their FEAR. The small person found it very difficult to cover the FEAR with the TOUGH, so the other parent and the grandparents all helped. It took many days. "Now you look wonderful," said the parents when it was done. "We've covered some of your feelings with TOUGH, and you'll grow into a strong person."
The small person grew a little older and found a friend. The friend also wore his feelings on sleeve. The friend said one day, "My parents want me to cover up my LONELY feelings, and to be different from now on." And they were. The small person decided to cover over his LONELY feelings too, and he also  got ANGRY from another adult. The small person put big patches of ANGRY on top of their LONELY. It was hard work to cover over the LONELY feelings.
One day when the small person (who was now not so small) went to school some of his LONELY feelings started to show. So the teacher kept him behind and gave him some GUILT to cover his LONELY feelings. Sometimes when alone at night the person would look at his feelings. He would pull off the TOUGH and ANGRY and GUILT to look at his LONELY and FEAR. Then he would have to take a long time putting the TOUGH, ANGRY and GUILT back again.
One night the person noticed that his LONELY and FEAR were growing, and beginning to stick out from under the patches. So the person had to go out to find some more ANGRY to cover the LONELY, and got all the TOUGH that his parents could spare to cover his FEAR.
The person grew older and became very popular because everyone said that he could hide his feelings well. The person's parents said one day that he had a PROUD feeling because the person had been so TOUGH. But the person could not find anywhere to put the PROUD feeling because the TOUGH was getting so big. The person had trouble finding room on his  sleeve for any other feelings - the TOUGH and the ANGRY were all that showed.
Then after a time the person met another person and they became friends. They thought that they were a lot alike because they both had only TOUGH and ANGRY feelings that showed. One day the friend told the person a secret: "I'm not really like you - my TOUGH and ANGRY are only patches to cover over my LONELY and my FEAR." The friend pulled back the edge of his TOUGH and showed the person his FEAR; just for a second.
The person sat quietly and did not speak. Then carefully he too pulled back the edge of his TOUGH and showed his FEAR. The friend saw the LONELY underneath. Then the friend gently reached out and touched the person's FEAR, and then the LONELY....... The friend's touch was like magic. A feeling of ACCEPTANCE appeared on the person's sleeve, and the TOUGH and ANGRY had become smaller. The person then knew that whenever someone gave him ACCEPTANCE, he would need less TOUGH, and then there would be more room to show PROUD..... SAD ....... LOVING.... STRONG.... GOOD.... WARM... HURT... FEAR......
Isn't that lovely  ? Every parent every guardian and every teacher should read and try to understand the essence of this story .One good thing that pope had said was  “To do violence to emotions is the worst crime one can do, sometimes it is worse than killing”. So next time you want to say “You are wrong”,  please note that “I don’t agree" means nearly the same and “You have not sent” and “I have not received” convey the same meaning. You can’t be nice to everyone but at least be kind to everyone as everyone is fighting one’s own battle of life and for many it is not easy. 
 Human mind, soul and heart, so eccentric yet so beautiful. As a urdu poet says
"Nahin dekha kahin jalwa jo dekha khana-e dil mein
Bahut kabe mein sar mara bahut dhoonda kabine mein"
This translated into simple English means " I am yet to see anything more divine as human heart , after I have searched and bowed my head at all the mosques and temples for majesty".
I wonder if there could be anything which is more easily destructible than human soul...????


  1. Hmm... We had this topic of Transactional Analysis in M Com studies. Found it very interesting then, and equally so here in this article. Psychology is an all-time interesting subject. Nice read with cool examples and the story.

  2. @ Darshan :Indeed it should be part of every curriculum .Psychology is indeed interesting and the best part is we begin to understand the reasons behind events .

  3. Read , reread it and read it again.
    "This degree of transgression and perversion is decided by adult according to their affordability of truth". Your words cut like blade and it takes some time for the realization to sink in.
    your students will identify with last para . I remember when one student criticized her school teacher saying she does not how to teach your reaction was "I can't understand her would mean the same . won't it? Post truly teaches the meaning of what was taught..

  4. Very interesting theory - very well presented! The story was certainly a very enlightening one.

    Your post explains vividly as to why we feel what we feel and how our emotions are related to a child's development. A nice read!

  5. @vinita: Oh my God, you have elephantish memory. I don't even remember having said that.yes it is very common to people complain that someone is hurting them I think they should say "I am feeling hurt". How are they so sure about intentions of third party?
    well, It is heartening to note that someone beside me read the post for three times.Vinnie, the beauty is not in words it is in understanding . i am glad you could understand ,thanks for appreciation.

  6. @Divya :Good to see you on my blog. Thanks so much for the encouragement . Hoping to hear more from you.

  7. transactional analysis....very interesting topic...this is the first time i came across it... you did a good job explaining it....i especially loved the story....very touching...everyone is maid differently and we should respect that....
    thanx for visiting my blog...

  8. @Oxymoron :First of all thanks for sparing time to comment..It indeed is an interesting topic . I have tried to cut on technicalities and have kept it to simple level.Dr. Eric Berne's book "Games people play" elaborates about all this in detail.

    Hoping to see you more often....

  9. Interesting and valuable ideas. Cordial greetings from European Union!
    Daniel D. PEACEMAN, Editor of Contemporary Horizon Magazine
    Read in the web: "The Third Gender" by Vinisha Nambiar from Mumbai. An Indian perspective for European readers.

  10. Mr. Daniel, Thanks for appreciation and encouragement.Would definitely like to more about your magazine.Hope you will visit again and enlighten with your comments...

  11. Rightly said. These days we use words without much thought and that leads to complications n even sours the relationship. For this kind of tendency we keep blaming our life, situations, stress n all rather than accept that we were a bit insensitive. If we can be more careful while using our tongue i guess we will be able to solve atleast 1/4 of our problems.

    1. Loved the story.

      And loved the essence of it.

      The soul is indestructible but yes,damage happens. The world is not an ideal place to live in..As Charles Darwin would have put it, "survival of the fittest." And perhaps that's why teachers and parents have such a huge role to play in our lives.The onus of our foundations rest on their shoulders.


Your viewpoint will definitely give it wider perspective


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