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Say It Straight Part 4

I can’t believe I’ve written three blogs on transactional analysis without mention of the two fun guys, or gals indeed, who add zip and zest to the theory.

So we’d better put that right sharpish (as my Yorkshire dad would say). And no need to have the first three to hand just read on…

One of these ego states, so the theory goes, is the free spirit, the other is the sparky virtuoso, and they both bring an important dimension to our ‘transactions’, adding levity and creativity to the mix.

The free spirit a.k.a. the free child is the playful, carefree part of our ‘ego’ useful in approaching stressful or challenging experiences: it’s the lighter hearted attitude to serious, weighty matters. So if you find yourself trudging wearily through the same old same old, try to embrace this fun lover who lightens your load and puts a spring in your step.

Of course the adult or critical parent (two other ‘ego states’ that we all inhabit from time to time) may quickly dismiss the free child as a frivolous, light weight sabotaging our earnest attempts to grapple with the stress and strain of modern living. It’s a tough old world and heaven forefend that fun and frolics should ease our way.

But the free child is more than a load lightener, it could well prove a life changer; connection with a freer, lighter approach to life’s inevitable problems helps us turn issues on their heads and helps us tackle them from another angle.

Using a light touch to deflect negativity or criticism can be a powerful tool in the right hands and leaves us relatively unscathed after unpleasant incidents. Try not to become embroiled and affected by negativity; the free child can lift you out of despondency and help you re-engage with an unimpeded, unconstrained attitude. Foot loose and fancy free may be pushing it, but cut yourself some slack every now and then and let an easier, freer side of you emerge.

It’s hard to do justice to this free, unencumbered part of our make up and there’s a danger that it’s interpreted as an irresponsible or immature response to grown up stuff.  Just reflect on those moments as a child when everything seemed so simple, so exciting and wondrous: put a bit of that magic in the mix and see how it transforms the day to day…

Turning to the virtuoso or creative side of us, this ego state, in transactional analysis parlance, goes by the quaint name of ‘the little professor’. It’s that part of us which comes up with quirky, imaginative ideas. That’s not to say we all have innate ability to be rocket scientists or concert pianists, but it does suggest that we all have creative potential.

Unfortunately that potential can remain hidden and dormant unless we give voice and space to the little professor within and trust our more instinctive approach. I’m not suggesting wholesale change necessarily (although if you’re stuck in a rut and hanker after a change of career this may be your chance), more a subtle shift to recognise a side of you that may not have emerged in the mundane pursuits of the day to day.

It may be as simple as a picnic in the park instead of beans on toast at home (again!). It may be more dramatic and you have a eureka moment resulting in a life shift or a self discovery which makes all the difference. Unlikely maybe, but more likely if we are in touch with that part of our instinctive and creative side which ‘allows’ such thought processes. Let your little professor help you see things in a new light, feel comfortable with the discovery and embrace the consequences: it’s all part of an exciting process and gives you the chance to embrace something new and stimulating.

In short, I’m convinced that transactional analysis can make a difference to our business and personal lives, so donning my T.A. mantle I’m off to work to congratulate and encourage the team on another good week, pass on some useful managerial tips, share a joke with the chef about spell check (that’s another story)… oh and I’ve just had a thought, time for some delphiniums to bring a touch of summer to the restaurant.

The nurturing parent, adult, free child and little professor ‘ego states’ are useful companions on life’s journey and I commend them to you; we all have these various attributes at our disposal, just sometimes a case of coaxing them from their lairs.

Mark Milton is a partner at The Depot Riverside Restaurant & Bar.

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