In my very first blog in this Ideas series (Blog 1, October 2017), I reproduced the short item that appeared back in 1986 about refracted transactions. I wrote more about this in 2003, as you can read below.
This concept was developed by Julie Hay and Robert Orr during a TA in Education Workshop run on 16 November 1985 and described within a review of the day, written by the late Vivienne Gill, that appeared in ITA News No. 13, Spring 1986. It is another way of understanding the process of transference.
In a refracted transaction, the frame of reference ‘distorts’ the perceived transaction, in much the same way that water refracts light, so that the transaction appears to emanate from a different ego state than that actually activated.
Figure 1 shows a typical example. The new employee has just joined the organisation and has been given an instruction (1) by the supervisor – who, being a typical supervisor, is interacting from (Controlling) Parent to (Adapted) Child.
The new employee is keen to learn and wants to understand what is required – so asks a question about it (2 – shown as half dotted and half solid line), intending to interact from (Functional) Adult to (Functional) Adult.
The supervisor has transferred a child identity onto the new employee, so refracts the transaction as if it is coming from Child (3 – also shown as half-dotted and half-solid line).
Asking “why” is picked up as an inappropriate challenge from a child, so the supervisor thinks the new employee is misbehaving and responds even more firmly from Parent (4 - which would be a repeat of 1)).
Most new employees will, at this point, intuitively recognise that logical thought on their part is discouraged. They will, therefore, desist from thinking in future – at least whilst they are at work!
The dotted sections of the transaction lines represent parts of interactions that are ‘ulterior’ or unknown to the individual on that side of the frame of reference; the solid lines are the transactions that are consciously known to the respective individuals. The new employee ‘knows’ they interacted from Adult and has no idea the supervisor is perceiving it as from Child instead. Likewise, the supervisor ‘knows’ that the employee transacted from Child and has no idea of the intended transaction to the Supervisor’s Adult.
Gill, Vivienne (1986) TA in Education ITA News, No. 13 p.1
Hay, Julie (2003) Transference INTAND Newsletter 11:1 1-8
© 2018 Julie Hay
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