Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

A little about transactional analysis.

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

The following is a translation from the Romanian "Pe scurt despre analiza tranzactionala" by Mircea Popescu.

Transactional analysis is regarded in some academic circles (especially those of psychoanalytic orientation) as a rather unserious concern, if not completely unscientific. Certainly, the particular talent of Eric Berne to speak in terms accessible to the public at large has created sufficient interest and a following of "practitioners", more or less in the way of science or reason. Nevertheless, I think that the discipline is intellectually recuperable, in the following terms:

There exist in principle two paths by which we can understand and represent the processes which have a place within the mind of man: Either by listening to the descriptions produced by the respective man, or else following the facts of the respective man. The fact that a good part of classical psychology uses the first source does not absolutely invalidate the the second.

Regarding phylogeny, it's clear that in its evolution from the most primitive ganglions to the neocortex, the brain was guided by the need to respond to stimuli. This is the function which created this organ. The fact that the types of stimuli which appeared first received solutions and responses of better quality than the types of stimuli that appeared later isn't surprising. For example, we have the capacity to observe light, so much so that we can follow with the free eye millions of stars in a summer sky. Just so, we have the capacity to follow the movement. Specifically because it seems unremarkable, the simple fact that we can catch a ball falling from the sky shows how well-adapted the human brain is. For all technology's worth, there doesn't exist even today a robot that can play basketball, even if there have been robots capable of playing chess for twenty years.

The light was here for a while, but the movement appeared on Earth all at once with living beings. Both are fairly old, like stimuli. Speech, on the other hand, is from a more recent time; it appeared more or less concurrently with people. It wouldn't be surprising then if the brain wasn't capable of responding to the stimulus of speech as quickly, as well as it responded to the stimulus of the basketball.

If a joke is told today, it serves nothing to laugh on Sunday, at church. If you're mocked, you can't go to the post office with a vicious retort. In the majority of social interactions, a spoken response has to come in a few seconds if it's going to be heard. What is asked of our brain, in the end? Nothing more and nothing less than the receipt of information about the sounds heard, to recompose these sounds in the sounds of language, to get words from them, and from these words phrases, and from these phrases to extract understanding, from which to then process into further understanding, from which to make other propositions which then break into words to be vocalized. In a few seconds. It's a lot.

It wouldn't be, then, all that surprising to discover that, faced with such pressure and fairly exaggerate demands, the brain, like any human thing, also commits some simplifications. Up to a point, it's obvious that people don't listen to all that is said by the person being answered when they're forming responses. Still more obvious is that people do not understand, before giving a response, what was said in fact by the person to whom the response is addressed. Sometimes, as though by a miracle, it happens that they hear and understand, but I imagine you'll agree that this'd be quite rare.

This is, evidently, a bad thing, but wherever there's bad there's yet good, and the merit of this theory is that it finds the good in this case. Namely, if the response doesn't necessarily consider what was said, what can it reveal other than the internal structure of he who responds? If you don't speak to the object, you speak about you yourself, as though from nothing, in a vacuum, incapable to produce anything.

If in truth the responses that don't respond to, address, nor take into consideration stimuli describe the respondent, there would have to be then, theoretically speaking, specific modes in which different people fail to respond, recognizable through regular practice. This would be the first prediction a theory of transactional analysis would face on a scientific basis.

Practice confirms this first prediction, through so called "games". One of the most well-known is "Yes, but".

The one: I'd like to get rid of my belly.
The other: You've got to go to a gym.
The one: Yes, but I can't afford the membership fee.
The other: You have to go to work.
The one: Yes, but I'd have to wake up too early.
The other: You have to stop using the elevator.
The one: Yes, but my knees hurt.
The other: You have to change your diet.
The one: Yes, but I have a sensitive stomach and I can only eat certain things.

Obviously, you could continue this dialogue indefinitely, with minimal effort, and just so you could extend it to any given domain. If you get bored of this, you could also play "if it weren't for you", "why does this always happen to me", "look what you made me do", "look how hard I've tried", "I'm only trying to help", the list is long enough.

The next following prediction would be that people can, once they've read these things described, revise their own behavior in the sense of improving the quality of their communication with others; for the one part recognizing those cases in which the discussion transforms into simple transactions without notional content, simply satisfying some necessities of mechanical functioning, and for the other part eliminating from their own repertoire pseudo-responses that don't respond to anything in particular.

To the degree that this second prediction were satisfied in practice, transactional analysis would have to become a school of clinical psychology. To what degree this satisfaction actually happens, only you can say.

Feminine Exceptionalism

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

The following is a[n attempt at] translation of the Trilema piece Exceptionalismul femenin.

You've doubtlessly come across at least one side or another of these strategies/social psychopathologies in day to day life (depending on where you've found yourself, on the outside or the inside of the disease), even if it didn't seem in the respective moment that they'd make up part of a structured and describable whole, just as not everyone who trips over a mastodon bone sticking halfway out of the ground will start to reconstruct the entire animal with its habitat and everything. Excusable, but man've we got work to do, and man'll it be tough.

Feminine exceptionalism begins, as the name suggests, with an exception. "Sure, smoking's not allowed here, but can't I smoke?" "Sure, it's written on the card not to tell anyone the PIN, the bank sent letters to remind you not to tell anyone the PIN, on the ATM screen there's an advertisement to not tell anyone the PIN, but you'll tell me, won't you?" The list, in principle, is neverending, but in practice it always reduces to a very simple pattern. The rule is X, surely it's so, but the girl doesn't consider it to be the case that it applies to her.

She doesn't contest that in truth the rule exists, she doesn't contest either that it's a good and necessary rule. In fact, any discussion of whether the rule is good or bad doesn't interest her at all; on the contrary, such a discussion would detract from the real point of interest for her. She doesn't contest either that she makes up part of the category of applicability of the rule. On the contrary, for feminine exceptionalism to function, a valid, useful rule whose applicability she falls within is absolutely necessary.

Why? Here we arrive at the true psychological reason for the whole operation: the girl suffers from a problem of self-esteem. She feels, she considers, or she was taught to believe herself to be inferior. Eventually all three. Inferior not just to the other men, and not just to the other women, but even to she herself, to her own "potential".

To combat this psychological sequela, she feels it necessary to prop up her existence with special treatment. Every valid and applicable rule which is broken offers her a bubble of oxygen: maybe she's not a piece of shit, because hey, in that moment she's that special.

The poor form of asking to smoke somewhere the owner doesn't, of the same species and class of asking for vegetable oil when the table's having butter doesn't interest her, because she is not in fact well-mannered, but on the contrary, she still carries under her nails the filth of the existence of the low to (about) the middle class which blessed her with the stretch-marks and soul-marks of which we speak.

And of course, like any psychological problem of the transactional class, this complaint exhibits two specific particularities. Firstly, it is progressive. If yesterday she's been allowed to smoke though smoking's not allowed, it's no longer sufficient today, it no longer produces an effect, so she'll smoke two, four, eight, sixty cigarettes. Until the end, the stimuli have to progress geometrically in order for the receptors to be stimulated in arithmetic progression.

If yesterday you've waited on her five minutes, today you'll have to wait half an hour, and tomorrow we'll be forced to go to another city instead of the cafe we'd planned on, for no other reason than that the girl doesn't feel so great. In the head.

And secondly it is, like any transaction, prone to disproportionate reactions. If the girl has negotiated in her mind that for today proof of the fact that she isn't a piece of shit will be manifested through letting her drive the car, and you don't let her drive, for whatever reason, no matter the reason, like for instance that the car's fallen in a lake, or it's been stolen overnight, wasps have made a nest in there or whatever else, the girl's head is going to explode, and she'll bawl on about how could you say that she's a good for nothing piece of shit.

Which, honestly, she is, preferably to be shat onto a cart headed somewhere in the direction of a hospital for nervous disorders, where who knows, with attentive care and the help of experts, something else might be done with her.