I knew the photos I wanted to share for this challenge right away. I love the view of the city I have from my house…of course, the view is not of the city I live in. Nope, this view is of the next city over to the West of me.
That’s the downtown Seattle skyline, with the glorious Olympic Mountains behind.
These next shots are from an early morning walk when I just loved what the sunrise was doing to the Columbia Center…76 stories, and when it was built, it was the tallest building on the West Coast.
This towering scraper of the sky has always fascinated me, though I had never been inside it. I rarely go into Seattle. Just not an urban type, although I guess I can hardly say that anymore, given that there is nothing left of the “country-side” my home was part of when I bought it 47 years ago.
Anyway, just a few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of officiating a spectacular and delightful wedding at the top of the Columbia Center. I adore this couple and was thrilled to be asked to marry them, but I have to admit, when they told me where, I nearly fainted. I have a more than mild case of Acrophobia.
I knew I would need to prepare myself so I could be fully present and grounded for their ceremony so I started taking pictures of the building from all over town….trying to make friends with this giant black monolith, towering tall over all it’s neighbors…
On the day of the wedding, I arrived early to prepare for the celebration. The ride up the elevator to the very top took forever. It made me seasick and break into a cold sweat. When I saw where we would be standing…so close to the windows, I nearly chickened out, but James kept me calm by reminding me that I would be facing inward, my back to the view. (Well, that half glass of Chardonnay he brought me probably helped too. Hmm, I wonder what the Minister’s blood alcohol number is for the legality of the marriage to be in question…😋)
Once I found my footing, I could embrace and enjoy the spectacular view we would all have this day.
I never told my sweet couple about my trepidation that day but I suppose, now they’ll know. So worth it!! What an amazing, creative, beautiful, warm, interesting wedding. And the “Cityscape” setting? Well, hard to imagine ever topping that!!
As I was selecting photos, I noticed something! A surprising number of airliners showed up, I suppose headed for landing at SeaTac. How many do you count?
In Part One, of this 4 part series, I wrote about Scarcity. In Part Two, the Three Basic Human Hungers, one of which is a hunger for Structure.
In this post, I want to talk about how we all might be structuring our time during our various forms of isolation and distance from others.
I searched other people’s definitions of this hunger and came across a beautifully written article about Eric Berne’s original theory of Time Structure. In this article, Chris Crouch talks about these concepts in a way that connects so well to what I previously wrote.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
I’ll be interested to know how you might apply some of this theory to whatever your current circumstances are.
(Any difference in text color in his article is my attempt at highlighting his words, either referring back to Part One or Part Two, or so that you might consider it in relation to yourself. I have also made a few additional comments in this same Bold Blue.)
Have you ever thought much about the various options for spending or structuring your time? Psychiatrist Eric Berne thought about it and came up with the following six options:
From Berne’s point of view, this was important because the different ways of spending time result in different outcomes in terms of getting and giving strokes. And strokes are extremely important when it comes to mental health. Before I continue, perhaps a few comments on strokes are in order.
A stroke, in this context, is any act implying recognition of another person’s presence. Human-to-human stroking is the fundamental unit of the social interaction process. If you and I encounter each other and I say “hello” to you and you say “hello” to me, that is a two-stroke transaction. Something Berne calls recognition hungeris programmed into the human psyche. We need strokes to survive, prosper and satisfy recognition hunger. Just as food satisfies physical hunger and keeps us physically healthy, strokes satisfy recognition hunger and keep us mentally healthy. For example, one of the worst punishments you can inflict on a person is to put them in solitary confinement, depriving them of any opportunities for strokes. People usually experience mental breakdowns in these circumstances.
In terms of strokes, here’s how the different ways of structuring time stack up. They are listed roughly in order of how well they satisfy recognition hunger:
Withdrawal – This is when a person, for whatever reason, makes the decision not to interact with people and eliminates any chance of getting strokes from others. We all need brief periods of withdrawal (especially introverts), but for most people, doing this over a long period of time is not a good choice in terms of their ongoing mental health.
I’m wondering how many people are experiencing “sheltering at home” like Berne’s definition of “withdrawal”…
Rituals – This is a safe form of social behavior. Rituals are highly predictable (church services, weddings, funerals, board meetings, your morning walk or Starbucks stop, etc.). With rituals, people can remain somewhat withdrawn from each other and still get strokes.
I don’t know how it is where you live but right now, all “rituals” are cancelled in my town…no gatherings of any kind…leaving many without the solace and comfort of knowing they are not alone…
Activities – Activities allow us to structure our time and get strokes in productive and socially acceptable ways. Work is one of the most common forms of this kind of time structuring.
Many of us have changed how we work daily in dramatic ways during the Pandemic. Working from home for many has been a creative solution, and there can still be strokes, but in a different and limited form.
Pastimes – Semi-ritualistic discussions about superficial topics such as the weather, sports, current events, family, hometown, or other commonplace topics. This is a form of social probing to help decide whether to broaden, continue, or terminate the relationship. Networking events are often based on the pastime format of structuring time.
Another form of structuring time sadly, but officially cancelled in our area for the foreseeable future…
Games – Games involve interacting with a surface meaning and a hidden meaning and involve a payoff (usually a good or bad feeling). For example, person A might feel superior/good by making Person B feel inferior/bad. Strokes are so important that in the absence of positive (good feeling) strokes, people will pursue negative strokes when seeking recognition. In terms of time structuring, the main thing to understand is that games, although unproductive and at times quite frustrating, offer significant opportunities for getting and giving strokes. The majority of the time in most people’s social life involves playing games. I may elaborate on games in a future post since they are so much a part of the human experience.
Classic, a universally recognizable game!
Intimacy – Intimacy occurs when you develop a relationship with another person based on honesty, openness, and mutual respect. Intimacy, although rare, is the best source for meaningful, high-quality strokes.
It is difficult to develop or engage in existing intimacy when ALL of our senses (and learning styles) cannot be involved. Even with all our miraculous technology, it’s hard to read body language or hear voice nuances, or see facial expressions fully on SKYPE or Zoom. We each need to be aware of our most used senses, and look for alternatives when those are not available for access. Example: I won’t get what I need, or be able to fully give what I have on just a phone call. I am not “auditory” enough to make the best use of that. I am an extremely visual and tactile person. So adding the screen aspect current equipment provides is helpful to me in an intimate conversation.
But it does not address the tactile deficit we are all experiencing right now. SO far at least, even Microsoft has not come up with a way to “hug” online!
According to Bandler and Grinder, there are four modalities of walking through the world: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Tactile. I believe we each have a favorite, but one or more of these may be unavailable right now. To compensate (just as with a learning disability) time to highlight (beef up) the others, and develop some work-arounds.
In terms of joyfully and productively participating in life, achieving intimacy with a least a few people (or even one person) is a great strategy. Nurture relationships that allow you to be open, honest, and authentic with another human. Hopefully, this is the kind of relationship you have with your life partner and a few close friends. As a friend of mine once told me, “a true friend is someone who knows you – and still likes you.”
My main message today: Even if you only experience short periods of intimacy with another person, value and nurture this kind of relationship above all others. They offer the best chance for high-quality strokes and are important to your ongoing happiness and mental health.
Can you identify your intimate relationships (most people have very few – unfortunately, some have none)? What are you doing to nurture them?
I really wonder what Eric Berne would say about this current Covid 19 state of affairs.
Forced Isolation is very different than the occasional solitude we all require for good mental and emotional health.
Rituals, Pastimes and Activities can be managed even during Social Distancing, and sheltering at home.
Games…well, let’s just all take a break from those during these life and death times, shall we?
What is a bit more difficult, and requires some serious creativity, is achieving, and maintaining true intimacy during a time when the behaviors we are most familiar with to express deep and honest connection, are limited.
Here’s my solution and suggestion: When connecting with your closest people, use all the OTHER learning styles, and engage all of your available senses.
Maybe for you, it would be watching (or listening to) one of the amazing videos all over the net these days created by people making music together while in their own living rooms. But do this WITH someone else. Do it together while on SKYPE or ZOOM, etc.
If it’s someone you are really close to, try listening to a meaningful song, while looking into each others screen eyes. Powerful!
James has been on the other side of the state for weeks now but most nights, we will at least share a TV show on Netflix or Prime. We synchronize, pushing play so that we are seeing it at exactly the same time, sometimes texting the comments we might be making if we were watching together in person.
What are some ways you can be close to those you love even when you can’t touch each?
To finish, here is a free training that could be helpful right now.
This is my second departure from my recent attempts to be uplifting and entertaining.
Well, I think this is still entertaining, but then, I crack myself up all the time with internal jokes no one else gets when I say them out-loud…
50 days into being sequestered, I’m thankfully still coming across wonderful things people are sharing to get through this time, and I will get back to those, but I am also being reminded of some of the more difficult lessons too.
Years ago a Trainee of mine asked me a question…
What are the three or four most important things you can learn in therapy, and then teach as a practitioner?
That’s what this four part series addresses.
(Disclaimer: this is a very shortened, very concentrated version of my answer.)
Three basic Human Hungers
People. You gotta love ‘em. We fight with each other over our perceived differences but really, underneath all the bravado or sugar or dark clouds, aren’t we all just looking for the same things?
Basically, what all human beings yearn for, cross culturally, is in essence, identical. It is not cultural but innate to our species. These are natural, normal cravings.
From the moment we arrive, we have 3 basic hungers that need to be fed throughout our lives. And if they are not addressed adequately in certain stages of childhood developmental, we will walk (or tip toe…or bulldoze) through our adult lives searching, scanning for opportunities to get these needs met.
The hungers are: Recognition, Stimulation and Structure.
Building on the idea that Scarcity is at the core of all issues (addressed in Part One of this series), what happens if there is literally not enough available for each new child in a family, enough for these essential hungers to be met.
In over forty years of private practice, I have yet to meet the Perfect Family, the Perfect Parents, who could perfectly meet these needs. Each child will be shortchanged somehow, even by the most loving, dedicated, well-intentioned parents, who simply do not have enough time, energy, or support for themselves.
But we are creative beings so even as toddlers, we will figure out how to substitute for what we are not getting.
Unfortunately, what we learn to settle for can be shallow and unfulfilling and can begin a life-long habit of frantic searches for a tiny taste of fuel to feed that original, still growling hunger.
Defining the Hungers
If we get our needs met developmentally, during the time our brains and bodies are best suited to learn experientially, we’ll still have these three natural hungers but in relatively benign forms….just like everyone else.
Recognition-is about being seen, heard, touched, held, known, claimed, remembered, and held in high esteem. It is essential for a baby, from birth to 6 months old, to receive love and caring treatment that is personalized for them. A baby this age is supposed to be the center of the universe for a while. Plenty of time in later development to learn about the rest of how life works. Babies who do not receive this can fail to thrive, or sometimes, even survive.
Little ones who receive this kind of care can know, at their core, they are lovable, and welcome here on the planet, and they can give that to others without fear of Scarcity!
Stimulation-is about being physically touched, stroked, and inspired intellectually. A toddler needs to be supported for their curiosity and motivated to explore and experiment. This stage is the beginning of being “moved” in all it’s definitions, especially to feel, to be affected, to be excited, and to develop intuition before intellect clutters the brain with words!
When this hunger is satisfied, a toddler can grow to become a confident child, and then person, who is not afraid to try something new, not afraid to fail, excited about learning… and who will be able to trust the non-verbal signs and signals that make up such a large part of our communication with others. The seeds for will power, self-motivation and creativity are firmly planted when this hunger is fed. Freedom to experiment means believing that there can always be enough.
Structure-is about certainty, predictability, a plan, a format, control, knowing what to expect, and the confidence of knowing how to do something.
This internal experience will be essential to one’s future self, believing you have the ability to solve problems and can make your life work.
If left too hungry…
When one or more of these hungers is not satisfied while we are developing as humans, the unmet need can show up later in our adult lives with a vengeance!
Then we have the “Audrey Syndrome” on our hands.
It can create a craving, or even a sense of starvation in our adult lives. In other words, a constant state of Scarcity.
Now, we are so hungry, we are at risk for settling for something really unhealthy, maybe even dangerous, mistakenly believing we are simply feeding ourselves. (Lots of dieting metaphors fit here but I’ll let you play with that.)
Getting each hunger met in healthy and unhealthy ways.
Here are some very over-simplified and extreme examples of how these hungers could be fed throughout one’s life…in healthy and unhealthy ways
Recognition-you could become a teacher, a leader, an executive, a bestselling author, an Olympic Gymnast, the head of the PTA…or a mass murderer
Stimulation-You might be a downhill skier, a sky diver, a world traveler…or a drunk driver,
Structure-how about joining the military, becoming a scientist, working in academia, or at Boeing…or you could get yourself locked up in a prison. (Can’t get much more structured than that.)
The Covid 19 Pandemic
If you, like most of the world at this writing, are living in some version of isolation, think about how this is messing with your three basic Human Hungers!
I personally have been in virtual solitude for 49 days, on my doctor’s orders. (I am apparently in way too many high-risk categories to even go a grocery store.)
I live with James, and a housemate, and my son and grandsons, but I am living in the completely separate, self-contained, downstairs part of my home. I know they are all there because I can hear them!! But I have not seen anyone, except through a window, or had any physical contact for the whole time.
I’m good at being alone and can mostly entertain myself, so Stimulation and Structure are mostly not a problem for me.
But oh, that Recognition Hunger…I feel like I am starving to death, like parts of my spirit and psyche are atrophying.
The logical part of me knows this too shall pass and that James and I will be fine, but the Mom/Grandma parts of me are screaming for contact with all my boys!
And here’s the worst. There is also a little kid part of me that is really suffering. They have a new kitten upstairs I have seriously bonded with, and a now, also a new puppy, and I have been restricted from contact with them also.
So which Hunger are you most affected by in your life these days?