Sari van Poelje

personal, expert, consultant, author, Speaker

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – The Difference Between Authentic Feelings And Racket Feelings — January 17, 2020

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – The Difference Between Authentic Feelings And Racket Feelings

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – The Difference Between Authentic Feelings And Racket Feelings

My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products. 

We’ve been talking about transactional analysis, which I use to help leaders, coaches and consultants to develop and to lead their people. We’ve been talking about ego states, transactions and ways that people maintain their own stories instead of being in the here and now. We’ve talked a little bit about what racket feelings are, but now I want to talk about how you recognize racket feelings. 

 

  • How to recognise racket feelings

 

We talk about four basic feelings (George Thompson 1983). 

Authentic feelings: happy, angry, sad, scared. 

Any time you express these feelings in the appropriate time and context, it’s authentic and not a racket. Authentic feelings contribute to problem solving. Racket feelings do not.  

Fear (scared) is a biological reaction that helps you in fight or flight. It helps you recognize when there is a real time threat, for example someone is crossing your boundaries, and there is a real time threat. It is really good to feel fear because it will kick start your adrenaline, which means that you will probably react appropriately. If you see a car coming towards you and you’re not scared, that’s probably a racket feeling on top of the authentic feeling.

Anger is a really good, authentic feeling the moment someone cross your boundary. You see it in primates. If someone crosses their boundary they immediately respond by showing their teeth. Anger is really good to indicate, “Hey, this is where I am. This is my boundary. Do not cross it.” 

So any time someone shows boundary crossing behaviour and you don’t show anger or you show pleasing or other behaviours like shame or guilt, when someone else crosses your boundary, you could check if it’s authentic. I know a lot of women who do not learn to express anger very well. They haven’t been taught to do it when they were growing up, and they express fear instead. 

Joy or happiness is appropriate to share and create community. When people share intimacy, you could see a shared sense of joy. When people are happy all the time, regardless of what happens to them, it’s usually a racket feeling. I’ve had people in my team who are happy, happy, happy all the time. They have not learned to express other emotions that might help them in the here and now. 

So happiness creates connection in the here and now. Shared joy is something that is unbeatable in the creation of intimacy. When I see a sunset together with my partner, we look at each other. We share that sheer joy of that moment shared. 

Sadness is an authentic feeling when you are dealing with loss. Your tears dissolve sadness. That’s what they’re for. So if in the here and now you have lost something, it’s appropriate to feel sad. Sometimes I see people get angry when they’ve lost something. They’re not yet at the point where they can actually accept the loss and and grieve. It can be loss of connection to others, a loss of connection to self. It can be a job lost. It is really important to grieve because as long as you do not grieve and show that sadness, you will be stuck in that moment of loss in the past instead of the here and now. 

How do you recognize the difference between authentic and racket feelings? The difference is authentic feelings are appropriate to the time and the context. They have a function. Each feeling has a function. Racket feelings are not appropriate in the time and context, and they do not help you solve problems in the here and now. 

Some other racket feelings, along with the ones mentioned, are shame and guilt. Shame and guilt are rarely appropriate for problem solving. 

Shame is when you’ve done something that you probably didn’t have enough protection for. Biblical shame when they didn’t have the fig leaf to cover themselves. When I see people feeling shame, I I immediately think, do they have enough protection? Shame does not help you solve the problem in the here and now, which is to get enough protection to do whatever you have to do. 

Feeling guilt is the curse of the over responsible. It’s when you take responsibility for more than 50 percent of what’s going on. We see guilt when people do something and then they regret doing too much or too little. And if you find yourself regularly taking on more responsibility, you know that the guilt is a racket. 

Feeling guilt is also differentiated from something real that you can resolve in Adult. So if you’ve done something to someone and in the real here and now, you could ask them how much pain you caused. Find out what you need to do to reconcile with that amount of pain. If someone tells you you’ve caused a four out of ten pain, find out what a four out of ten reconciliation would be. It might just be a cup of tea. 

If it’s guilt from the past, you know, you cannot solve that problem in the here and now. If there’s nothing that can make it right, then you know that the guilt is a racket feeling. 

Authentic feelings are appropriate for the time and the context. Racket feelings are not. 

It’s important to recognize the difference because depending on if it’s racket or real, you will react differently as a leader, coach or consultant. If it’s real, when someone is scared, you offer them protection. When someone is sad, you offer them reassurance. When someone is happy, you’re happy with them. When someone is angry, you help them form that boundary. 

When it’s racket feelings, you help people get their authentic feeling so that they can get past that and get their real needs met in the here and now. 

For more information:

Fear, Anger, and Sadness, George Thomson, Transactional Analysis Journal, Volume 13, 1983 – Issue 1

It’s All in the Game: Working with Games and Rackets, Moniek M. Thunnissen, Transactional Analysis Journal, Volume 31, 2001 – Issue 4

 

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Are You Running A Racket? — January 10, 2020

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Are You Running A Racket?

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Are You Running A Racket?

My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products. 

We’ve been talking about transactional analysis, one of the tools I use to help leaders, coaches and consultants to develop. 

In the last video talked about symbiosis and symbiotic relationships in relationships and business. Now we’re going to talk about rackets and racketeering. 

Rackets and Racket Feelings

Sometimes people show feelings and you think, is this real or not? Probably you’ve got a gut reaction that leads you to this thought. Perhaps when you see someone get hurt and they laugh, you find it a bit strange. Or instead of showing a scared feeling someone gets angry, or people who should be angry start to cry. You wonder, what’s going on here? You might be witnessing the expression of a racket feeling. 

A racket feeling is a familiar emotion that you learned and was encouraged to use in your childhood, in your family home, because you were not allowed to express the authentic feeling. 

There are three ways a racket feeling develops:

  1. Feeling is named but forbidden: You show these racket feelings because in your family of origin, probably the authentic feeling was named but forbidden. For instance, boys don’t cry. So instead of crying, they get angry, and a racket feeling is born. 
  2. Feeling is not noticed: Maybe the racket feeling develops in your family of origin because the authentic feeling isn’t noticed. For instance, a baby cries and you go, oh, look at those pretty balloons over there, completely missing the authentic feeling. 

We have a documentary in Holland where children rate their parents on their parenting skills. There was an excerpt of a girl who was sent to boarding school because her parents worked on a ship. As the girl was being interviewed, she said she was very homesick and she cried real crocodile tears. The parents’ reaction was: “You don’t have it as bad as we did.” The child stopped her tears immediately and withdrew. She had a stony face and started talking about something else, pretending to be happy.

That is a typical example of how a racket feeling develops, where the parent or parent figures don’t even notice or discount the real feeling. 

  1. Feeling is mislabeled: The other way racket feelings get develop is when an authentic feeling gets mislabeled. People sometimes grow up in families where if they cry they are told not to be so angry. Or when they’re scared they’re asked if they feel sad. The child, because they don’t have a vocabulary for this, mislabel their feelings. Racket feelings are really a replacement for authentic feelings. It’s what we say “stroked in the family of origin”. 

Any time you have a racket feeling you are in script. Why is this useful as a leader, coach or consultant? Because sometimes you have clients or employees who show all sorts of feelings. But in your gut, you know that it’s not authentic, and that something else going on. 

 

  • Authentic feelings are real reactions to the here and now 

 

If you get hit by a car and you start to cry, of course, it’s a real feeling. If I was walking down the street in a strange city and I hear footsteps behind me, and I feel fear, it’s a real feeling. It’s not a racket feeling because there’s a real here and now threat. If I show fear when there was nothing to be afraid of you could start to doubt if that’s an authentic feeling or believe it’s a racket feeling. 

This is really important to know for leaders, coaches and consultants, because if you ‘stroke’ the racket feeling, you’ll get more of script, an old non problem solving pattern. For instance if someone is crying when they’re really angry and you put your arms around them to comfort them, you’re devaluing their real, authentic feeling inside, which is a repetition probably of what they’ve lived through before. 

Learn the difference between when authentic and racket feelings and learn to react appropriately to the authentic feeling, regardless of what people express. Then you recognise people’s real self and you help them to get their needs met and solve problems in the here and now. 

For more information: 

Racketeering, Fanita English M.S. W.

Transactional Analysis Journal, Volume 6, 1976 – Issue 1

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Recognizing Symbiotic Patterns In Later Life – Part 2 of 2 — January 3, 2020

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Recognizing Symbiotic Patterns In Later Life – Part 2 of 2

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Recognizing Symbiotic Patterns In Later Life – Part 2 of 2

My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products.

Now what we’re talking about here is transactional analysis and transactional analysis is a tool I use very often to help leaders grow and to help coach and consultants learn their craft.

We talked about contracting, ego states, transactions, the five ways people keep their own story going so they don’t solve problems in reality. I already explained a little bit about what symbiosis is, now we’re going to talk about two levels of symbiosis and types of symbiosis. This is important to know and to recognize because depending on the type of symbiosis, you have a different way of dealing with it.

 

  • First Order Symbiosis

 

Symbiosis is when we have one person who’s acting like a Parent or Adult and the other person is taking on the Child ego state. As a whole, these two people who have three ego states each, actually pretend they have three ego states between them. They’re bound together because they’re propping each other up. One person is keeping the boundaries and the values of Parent ego state and the thinking of the Adult ego state. And the other person is translating and holds all the needs and emotions in that relationship. That can be functional, as I said before, but it can also be dysfunctional if it’s based on a discount of your own capacity or the other person’s capacity.

We call that a first order symbiosis.

 

  • Second Order Symbiosis

 

In a second order symbiosis you see the scenario above, but underneath what’s actually going on is that the person connected with the Child ego state on the surface, is actually also propping up the other person.

I saw a documentary on one hundred years of Barbie Doll, showing little girls taking care of their Barbie doll in a really childlike “parenting”, very exaggerated way. They take care of that Barbie doll as if it was a second order symbiosis. Of course, boys do it, too.

In second order symbiosis you see this dependency at the surface, but usually that’s propped up with a symbiosis at a psychological level. The person who seems dependent takes care of the other person’s needs. A  lot of marriages and relationships are based on that. That’s OK for a little while when the other person is really in need, but when you do that all the time, you’re stopping each other and the relationship from developing.

 

  • Later life symbiotic relationships

 

Later in life you might repeat this first experience of dependency, if you haven’t resolved what you missed or aren’t ready to take responsibility for your own needs completely. We recognize three types of symbiotic relationships in later life.

    1. Basic symbiosis. Where you see the Parent or Adult in one person and the Child in the other complement each other.

  1. Parent competitive symbiosis. Both bicker all the time, and tries to get the other person to adapt., Both are discounting needs or feelings. And both are competitive : “I know better than you.”

  1. Child competitive symbiosis. For instance, in relationships : “I’m sick.” “No, I’m sicker.” Where they both need the chicken soup at the same time. As soon as one of them expresses the need to be taken care of, the other person goes says they’re incapacitated too.

Summary

Symbiosis is easy to recognize in relationships, but it also happens in organizations between leaders and employees. The basic form of symbiosis is when a leader takes on the thinking and strategizing for their team and they push their employees into a position of being the ones who are dependent. In an Adult to Adult leadership- employee relationship you see much more problem solving that’s shared. Hierarchically, in the structure of the organization, you may be in a higher position, but at a human level in the relationship, you do not have to be the one who solves problems all the time. 

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – In Symbiosis You Diminish Yourself And Others – Part 1 of 2 — December 27, 2019

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – In Symbiosis You Diminish Yourself And Others – Part 1 of 2

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – In Symbiosis You Diminish Yourself And Others – Part 1 of 2

My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products. I train coaches and consultants and for that, I use transactional analysis. 

We’ve talked about ego states, we’ve talked about transactions, and we just talked about the five ways people keep their own reality going so that they’re not able to solve their problems in the here and now. 

We talked about the first way, which was redefinition, and now we’re going to talk about the second way, which is called symbiosis.

There are functional and dysfunctional types of symbiosis, so let’s start with the definition. Symbiosis is when two or more people act as if they have less than three ego states each.

Let’s say when I am in a relationship with you and I pretend you are my Parent who holds all the values and all the boundaries, and I don’t have the capacity to think from Adult or the capacity to structure from Parent. At the same time I’m the one who’s holding all the feelings and intuition. I am taking care of you as long as you take care of me. 

That’s a symbiotic form in relationships also seen at work where people mistake the role of the leader as the one who thinks and who creates boundaries and doesn’t feel, and where the employees just follow and do all the feeling for them. 

 

  • Functional Symbiosis

 

Of course, when you’re just born, the relationship between a parent or care-taker and a baby is symbiotic at that point in time. The baby developmentally does not have an Adult or a Parent ego state yet, they only have the Child. They feel fear, they feel hunger, they have somatic experiences, and at that point in time it’s the parent or care-taker who translates and fulfills those needs. We call that a functional symbiosis.

As an adult, sometimes you also have functional symbiosis. If I’ve broken my leg and I can’t walk and I asked my partner to go to the kitchen and get me a cup of coffee,  I’m actually incapacitated and that person agrees to do that. That’s also functional symbiosis. We have a contract or need for dependency. If you find yourself frequently depending on others without having a contract or without there being a need, you’re probably in an archaic more dysfunctional symbiotic state. 

 

  • Dysfunctional Symbiosis

 

A lot of people are in symbiosis at some time or other in their life, but if you have it constantly, it keeps both of you from developing. It keeps the person who is fulfilling the Parent and the Adult role from growing because they’re excluding their Child ego state, and not really in contact with their own needs. The other person also doesn’t grow because they’re not in contact with their Adult and their Parent, but  always in contact with the Child ego state. They don’t have the capacity to think that comes with the Adult or the capacity to maintain boundaries, which comes with the Parent. 

Though it may feel really good when someone brings you chicken soup when you’re sick, remember it’s a temporary state.  If you do that all the time you stop the other person from learning and growing. 

For more information see also:

Normal Dependency and Symbiosis, Stanley J. Woollams & Kristyn A. Huige

Transactional Analysis Journal, Volume 7, 1977 – Issue 3

Symbiosis Illustrated by Egograms, Eric W. Schiff

Transactional Analysis Journal, Volume 4, 1974 – Issue 4

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Redefinition Limits Change — December 20, 2019

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Redefinition Limits Change

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Redefinition Limits Change

My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products. I train coaches and consultants to be able to do this work, and for that, I use transactional analysis. 

We’re doing a series of videos on transactional analysis and how that helps leadership and coaching. We just talked about the five ways people maintain their own stories. , Let’s talk about redefinition first. 

Redefinition is when you distort your perception of reality to fit your own reality and your own story. 

For example, if I ask you a question “when” question and you answer with a “Who” response that’s a redefinition. For instance, I ask, “What time is it?” And you say, “Paul’s not here yet.” That’s a redefinition in its simplest form. 

Sometimes you see that in management, for example, when discussing a problem in a process and someone responds with a problem with a person. The whole conversation shifts to why, which is a competitive invitation instead of an invitation to solve the problem. These are all examples of redefinition, and before you know it, your conversation has tangentially moved to a different subject, a different object and a different space and time, and you end up with no problem solving. 

Redefining is a way in which you translate the reality to fit your own reality. We do that through through behaviour, and we redefine internally. 

Internal Redefinition of Reality

The internal mechanism by which you can redefine your reality occurs in three ways:

  1. Discounting : blanking out the stimulus, problem and options. For instance when you want to stop smoking you could be saying to yourself: actually I don’t smoke that much (stimulus), and anyway nobody has ever proven it causes disease (problem), I’ve tried everything bu nothing works for me (options)
  2. Grandiosity:  exaggeration or minimization of some aspect of self, others or the situation. For instance, DiCaprio standing on the bow of the ship of the Titanic just before it sinks, “I am the king. I can do everything.” Of course, grandiosity is something that a two year old should go through, this phase where you think you can achieve everything and you’re omnipotent. In real life, when leaders believe they are omnipotent, and can do anything, they may forget their work is based on the work of so many other people below them. 
  3. Over detailing or over generalizing, or both. For instance, if something happens to you and you say, “Why does this always happen to me?” Or someone else gets recognized for their work and you say, “I never get recognized for what I do.” These are examples of overgeneralizing or over detailing. If someone says never or always you know they’re caught up in their old story, and this will keep them from finding a solution.

Whenever people redefine by discounting, showing grandiosity, over-detailing or over-generalizing they are probably also showing up externally with gamey or scripty behavior.

 

  • External Redefinition of Reality

 

There are four ways we can see that you’re redefining on the outside, and that’s through your passive behaviours. 

  1. Doing nothing. When I was younger, my parents really wanted me to be a classical musician. They told me I could not have an instrument which was more jazzy. I, of course, wanted to play the saxophone, but they told me I had to play clarinet. It wasn’t until I was about 30 years old, one of my friends said to me, “Hey, wait a second, you don’t have to keep on complaining about this. You’re a grown up. You can buy your own saxophone.” I spent 20 years doing nothing about it. This is a typical example of passive behaviour, which helps it helps you maintain the reality you used to have.
  2. Over-adaptation. Over-adaptation in a leadership situation is visible when people say yes to your requests, and then do nothing. It may be a “yes but” transaction or an “OK, but I’ll never do it,” transaction. When people keep saying yes or they bow to what you say without actually voicing their own opinion or accounting for their own competence, you know they’re in passive behaviour, and maintaining their own reality.

Some leaders may mistakenly see this as a demonstration of their authority. If I were a leader and people say yes all the time and never question what I do, I’d start to question my own grandiosity. Just imagine if people over-adapt to you all the time as a leader, they’ll never be able to solve problems on their own. And that means they’re dependent on you. Which means that every time you turn your back or you leave, all the problems will still be there because you’ve never helped them to get out of there over adaptation to solve their own problems.

  1. Agitation. You can see agitation when people do things that are habitual but non problem solving. Agitation also means they push against your leadership boundary all the time. They question everything you do automatically. It’s the opposite of over-adaptation. When they’re complaining all the time I call that non-committed complaints. One of the things I teach my people when I’m a leader in a team is committed complaining. Committed complaining means you bring a solution at the same time as the complaint. 
  2. Violence or incapacitation. Violence or incapacitation sounds extreme. It does occur a lot in business. For instance, if an employee gets sick all the time or sabotaging instead of addressing the problems. 

In my personal coaching of relationships in teams I noticed that when people start to talk about unresolved  issues sometimes one of the partners gets starts blaming the other person, or starts blaming life. They can get quite aggressive about that. That’s one of the passive behaviours that keeps you in a pattern where you’re discounting, grandiose or over detailing in which you cannot face the reality of the here and now and actually solve your problem. 

Incapacitation is the flip side of violence. Violence is when you are overactive, and incapacitation is when you’re under active. For instance, people might get sick. Of course, people do really get sick, but sometimes people incapacitate themselves because they feel overwhelmed. I had one employee who every time I asked or something for an international project – which would extend her and challenge her to to to grow – she would get sick. At first I tried to give her more support because I thought she didn’t feel protected enough. But I realized after a while that every time she was challenged, she found a way to withdraw. Having a conversation about this pattern is then important.

In Summary

So there are five ways people keep the past in the present and not in the here and now problem solving mode. 

When you see any of these behaviours, when you’re a leader or coach, you know that people are not in a state to solve any problems. There’s something you have to do to get them into their Adult ego state before you can start problem solving. 

For more information read:

  • E. Berne. Games People Play: The Psychology Of Human Relationships, Penguin Books, 1964.
  • Existential Classification of Games, EC Stuntz, TAJ 1:4, Oct 1971
  • Options, S.Karpman, TAJ 1:1 Jan 1997