The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

On transactions

The idea that something is transactional is not always appreciated, but it can be considered an essential part of the sense of belonging. It’s the result of the communication that is included in any form of transaction.

In transactional analysis, a transaction is considered to be a two-way communication. It can be either internal, for example with our inner critic, or external, for example with other people.

The basic assumption here is that whenever a transaction is initiated it receives a response. What is not included in this definition is the quality of the transaction. It’s what Paul Watzlawick described with his first axiom: “One cannot not communicate.” This axiom describes every behavior as a form of communication.

With his second axiom, Watzlawick described the connection with our sense of belonging: “Every communication has a content and relationship aspect such that the latter classifies the former and is therefore a metacommunication.”

And it’s what transactional analysis helps us with. It’s a theory that assists our interpretations of the relational aspect of transactions. It does so by providing a method to study transactions as they occur as well as retrospectively.

The reason the relational aspect of transactions is so important to us individually is our desire to belong as we are and see ourselves. We wait for confirmation that we can exist and alternatively want to receive information as to what we may have to do to belong and exist with the other. And we evaluate the communication under these aspects.

It creates a tension between our sense of being and the sense that we may have to do something. And when we refer nowadays to something that seems to be transactional, it seems to be an expression of how that tension is experienced as being out of balance. Or how the doing has taken over the possibility to be, that is to be seen and to be heard.

Our sense of being heard or seen is the by-product of any transaction.




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