I must have read Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis at an impressionable age.
Based on his observations of people in his own clinical practice in the 1950s, the psychologist developed the idea that people can switch between different states of mind—sometimes in the same conversation and certainly in different parts of their lives, for example at work and at home.
He found that these states of mind aggregated into three types which he christened Parent, Adult and Child.
The Child state consists of parts of ourselves which hark back to our childhood. It is childlike but not childish; a place where “intuition, creative and spontaneous drive and enjoyment” reside.
The Parent state reflects the absorption over the years of the influences of our actual parents and of parent and authority figures such as teachers, bosses and so on.
It enables many responses to life to be made automatically — ‘that’s the way it’s done’ — but it is authoritarian but not very grown up; certainly not self-knowing and at worst it kills off the spirit of any enterprise or relationship, since relatedness seldom survives dealings with anyone consistently operating in this closed off model.
The Adult state is where we hope to be as adults. It is our adult selves, dealing with the vicissitudes of everyday life. The adult regulates the activities of the Parent and Child, and mediates between them.
Berne used this typing of the personality to inform his theory of transactional analysis – the study of the transactions, the communication and the relationship between people in varying contexts.
It has stuck with me ever since and frequently comes to mind when I am trying – for this column for instance – to explain the city’s more sclerotic decision-making processes.
For instance, there’s last week’s decision on the makeup of the team to lead the process of developing a reserve management plan for Rangihoua land, bought and paid for by the county in the 1980s.
The Rangihoua reserve management plan is the second such process in a new round of community consultation to develop reserve management plans around the city – a sound piece of practice for land bought and paid for by communities over time that was suspended by Auckland City as “too expensive”.
It’s absence was a root cause of the Rangihoua impasse and, at the point where the Waiheke pilot is asked to develop more grown-up models for citizen engagement, it is infuriating to have heavy-handed official insistence that Bob Upchurch and Paul Walden have biased opinions that might lead the city into legal jeopardy.
For that matter, so do the relevant officials and they never have their outcomes put up for public scrutiny. They are also far better paid for their time.
The higher reaches of officialdom of the day must have been involved in the hasty signing of a new golf club lease five years ago by the outgoing chair and deputy chair of the local board. It was done after a new local board led by Paul Walden was elected but before they took office and official integrity was definitely suspect.
So it is a pity that the two people we collectively put on the present Waiheke Local Board to represent our varying aspirations for the planning process for Rangihoua will not be among those at the table.
Compromise – often after noisy debate – has always been the way things get done here. An essentially ‘Adult’ process in Berne’s terms, it would be the way to the robust outcomes that the whole board committed to a month ago.
The extreme ends of the debate have been busy, of course, and their efforts have so unnerved an officialdom usually impervious to extravagant legal bills that the shrill have derailed the gains made over two electoral cycles.
We already have the prettiest little golf course anywhere. It’s breathtaking looking across the greens to the maunga from the Onetangi Straight in the lancing spring sunlight. The club membership is wide and accessible. It’s impeccable turf is owed to a single groundsman and its surrounding bush-clad hills feed into streams from which tuna eels leave on epic migrations to Fijian waters to procreate.
Personally, I cannot recall ever talking to anyone who grudged the club a further nine holes if it can be done elegantly and with due respect for the landforms, wetlands and informed public opinion.
Person to person, as adults, (with a dash of Child), I would bet on us.• Liz Waters