In 2016, the Transactional Analysis Journal dedicated an edition to the role of religion, faith and spirituality (RFS) in Transactional Analysis (TA). A comprehensive overview of the role of RFS together with implications for practice can be found in Keith Tudor’s article Religion, Faith, Spirituality, and the Beyond in Transactional Analysis. In it he concluded that there is a need for more acknowledgement of “the suprapersonal dimension and/or the transpersonal relationship; the history of religion, faith and spirituality (RFS) in TA and, indeed, the interplay between TA and RFS; and the development of RFS competencies”, not least because whatever the therapist’s beliefs, clients can and do have their own relationships with RFS.
Dr Linda Gregory PHD agrees with that conclusion. Dr Gregory is a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst (TSTA) with three decades experience of psychotherapy, counselling and coaching. She practises from the core belief that we have an inner drive – physis – to change and to grow, and in this way, Linda feels that TA has a spiritual component. Her latest book is Three Paths to Self-Actualisation and Autonomy, for Therapists and Clients; Integration of Transactional Analysis, Spirituality and Quantum Field is an offering to both the TA and wider community, of a process for achieving self-actualisation. I caught up with Linda in conversation to explore some of the central themes of the book and to hear how she has integrated these themes into her well-established practice and training.
Anita: Thank you for the opportunity to read and review your book which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s clearly the product of a lifetime of learning, experience and integration distilled down into a very grounded and practical handbook for practitioners and any individual seeking to make change. I wanted to acknowledge, first of all, how you’ve managed to present some really complex ideas in the book – quantum physics for example – and simplify them to make them accessible without losing any of their essential meaning.
Linda: Yes, thank you for that. I deliberately wrote in a way to make it easy reading. My passion for writing the book is that I would like to get more and more people, in TA particularly, to be interested in spirituality. I strongly feel that it needs to be added to our TA curriculum that trainees need to learn.
I started meditating about 50 years ago, so I came to TA as a meditator. I trained a lot with the Gouldings who were very openly atheist, so I learned to put it away for a while but for the last 20 years or so I’ve certainly been talking about it a lot and presented conference papers on it. Some are open to it in TA and some are still not and both are OK.
Anita: It’s often a little bit of a divisive concept.
Linda: If we as therapists don’t mention it, clients might think it’s a taboo subject. One of the reasons that I talk about quantum physics is it puts the discussion into a scientific framework when people are not comfortable in talking about spirituality or the G-word (God). Intuition is something I talk a lot about in the book which is enormously powerful. I think that’s the core of our connection to our spirituality. That’s why I think it’s so important in Relational TA, which is relatively new, that when two people get together in a room and share this energy field and experience, we see what emerges from our spiritual selves and our intuition and so we really need to be open to that and learn to follow it.
Anita: If we think about that in terms of transference and counter-transference, I’m thinking that before we get up into our heads to put words to it, what we’re intuitively picking up is something of the energetic exchange.
Linda: Absolutely, I agree. When we go much deeper and go past the ego states we get into the spiritual, transference/countertransference which comes from the universe and quantum field. Listening to that becomes very powerful.
Anita: Are you able to say anything about how to discern the difference between the two?
Linda: That’s a difficult question and something I’ve been working with my whole life! I think it’s something that takes practice. I have learnt over the years, and made many mistakes with it, but it’s about listening to my gut and my heart. I’m also a HeartMath practitioner and they’ve done a lot of research and teach techniques to regulate and slow down our heart rate so it’s more coherent. Learning to recognise intuition is learning to be still and going into the being state. HeartMath have researched that our gut and our heart actually have more brain than our brain does – more connections, more neurons, more intelligence – because our mind and our thinking is defined as knowing only what is already known.
Anita: Mind is based on memory.
Linda: Yes, whereas our gut and our heart will take us to the unknown. What comes next? We don’t know, but to be willing to go with that takes practice.
Anita: I’m thinking of something that Buddhist masters talk about in relation to what you’ve just said which is to learn to ‘think with the heart and feel with the mind’ – not the other way around!
Linda: Exactly! In my book I quote the Bible about being still and listening to your heart. Many things in the Bible are talking about spirituality and the quantum field bringing together what’s been known for many years, if you read it in that kind of way.
Anita: Talking about intuition makes me think of Berne who used intuition a lot early on.
Linda: Yes. When he was in the army he had to learn to use his intuition to make diagnostic assessments of soldiers very quickly so he developed it. I believe had he lived longer he would have written more about intuition. Some years ago, I wrote a paper quoting his saying ‘We treat them, God cures them’ and I think what he was talking about was, that we as therapists sit with clients but it’s the spiritual energy, the quantum field between us that does the healing. And now Relational TA is acknowledging that as well, what emerges between two people so that both people change, heal and grow.
Anita: One of Berne’s goals for the therapeutic process was autonomy, the freedom to make choices, free of script but this kind of then begs the question, the freedom to do what?
Linda: When you get to the place of autonomy, that’s when you really need to be in touch with your spirituality, your intuition, a deeper knowing and the freedom to choose at each moment what comes next. We need to get to a place where we don’t know and that we’re ok with not knowing. Because that brings the excitement of life and that we don’t have to over plan, over think, be obsessive and be open instead to what comes at each moment, trusting the universe and quantum field to guide us.
Anita: You talk a lot in the book about the importance of positive thinking when working with the quantum field. Owning and working through difficult and sometimes dark thoughts and emotion is often a really important part of personal change and growth. How do we avoid giving clients an experience, perhaps similar to their original parenting, where some feelings are not acceptable and off limits?
Linda: With negative thinking it’s not necessarily about trying to get rid of negative thoughts. The mind jumps around, that’s just what it does and to try to stop our thinking is stressful. When people start to meditate they seem to think that they have to have a completely quiet mind and when they can’t do that they get stressed and think they can’t do it. In time with meditation, we learn to slow our thinking down. But with thoughts, it’s about watching them and being aware of them but not over identifying or engaging with them. In time, as we become more aware, our mind will want to engage more and more in positive thinking, and it will happen by itself. We don’t have to struggle to try to do it.
Anita: Going back to ego states, I’ve noticed there is a perception sometimes amongst those of us in training for example that the Child ego state is something that we have to somehow get beyond.
Linda: I don’t agree with that. I think our Child is delightful and very important. As we’ve talked about, the being part of us is in our Child state. As we meditate, we go into this state. Our child is where we have fun and creativity. When we are in the here and now, Eckhart Tolle talks about living in the now, I think it’s our Child, and perhaps even deeper than that who lives in the now. Perhaps yes, some of the old archaic hurtful memories we need to work through but Eric Berne defined the genius as a combination of Free Child and intuition. So yes, I think our Child is important.
Anita: We’re coming to a close but I wanted to finish off by mentioning that the book is full of practical exercises and meditations to follow and I’m wondering if you have a particular favourite or ‘go to’ one?
Linda: I’ll explain how they work as part of a series. There are about ten meditations in the workbook and it starts with the meditation of getting in touch with Self and each one gets a little deeper getting in touch with the different parts of Self. First of all, the Child, then the Nurturing Parent for self-reparenting. Then the next meditation is about connecting to the Higher Self. The final meditation is bringing these parts together and noticing a future Self coming in – seeing oneself five or ten years into the future and seeing if that self has a gift for us in the now.
The process is very much about integration of the whole being. I think the meditations are quite powerful. Many times I’m surprised by how many people haven’t connected their Child with their Nurturing Parent and the effect that people feel when they make that connection. It’s quite exciting and I love doing that work.
Dr Linda Gregory’s book is available as an e book, hardcover or soft cover from her website. www.drlindagregory.com.
The full interview can be viewed below: