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 hunger is 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.
And one of my favorite music videos. Watch it with a friend online, and participate by moving or singing or dancing together!!
Thanks for reading, and as always, I’d love your reactions! (in comments!!)
So if you are a regular reader, you know I can sometimes end up slightly off the beaten path…kinda out there…a little weird.
Today is one of those posts, but it’s all my friend Karuna’s fault. (Check out her blog, especially if you like Mother Nature HERO stories. She is one, though she would never call herself that.)
Anyway, I credit her with getting me started on WordPress…but that’s not why today’s post is her fault.
Early in my blog, because I wrote about my Bugs, and she blogged about her Worms, we discovered both of us were fairly grossed out by each other’s creepy, crawly passions. So we tried to teach each other about our respective…uh, pets? I could never quite see the whole worm thing (she raises them to help in the gardens or something) and I’m not sure she ever got my bug thing either.
We share one passion for sure though. We both believe there are lessons absolutely everywhere in life. You just have to be open to them. There are huge ones of course, like what the whole earth is learning right now (the hard way, the very hard way).
Lesson example: Given the stunning, clear blue skies showing up across the planet, from just a few days of humans staying inside and not polluting, why didn’t we do that long before now, on purpose, on our own, even for just a cosmic minute, every now and then, you know, to give the earth a break, a breather???
But the smaller lessons so valuable also.
Because I love Karuna, I continue to work on shifting my perspective on worms and here’s what happened on my morning walk.
Two things you need to know first.
Again if you are a regular, number one above you may have noticed. But the second one, well, here’s where it may get weird.
I’m not sure what all I actually believe, spiritually speaking, but I do know one thing.
I, specifically, am not supposed to kill anything….well, except the carpenter ants eating my house, and I suppose, like most of us today, I would relish killing Covid 19!
But I’m telling you, I brought it here with me.
I also believe that this is a deeply personal thing and not everyone else was born the way. I was. I try to have very little judgment about others who can hunt a deer, or step on a cock roach, or join the military. (Don’t get me wrong, I have spent a life time “fighting” for peace and protesting wars, but I know ultimately, every person has to make decisions like that for themselves.)
So back to my walk…
It was exceptionally beautiful out this morning, crisp, cold, bright blue, breezy, and freshly pollen-washed everywhere from last night’s downpour.
With my camera (Galaxy 8+) in hand, I took off in search of something uplifting to photograph. In minutes, I spotted this in the low sun, glistening on the wet roadway.
It was so huge and so cool looking with the sun from behind it, of COURSE, I had to take a picture…for Karuna!
But, as I was bending over to get a close up, I spotted the only one of my neighbors I don’t get along with…for many years now. She was headed in my direction. I was rattled because I don’t like pretending to be nice….so with her, I don’t. But that doesn’t feel good either…so I figured, in light of the Zombie Apocalypse, I might try it anyway.
It was then that my phone slid out of my grip…yep, crashing right onto my worm!!
I swear, I could hear it scream! It curled up tight, wriggled a bunch, and then tried to stretch back out to crawl away, but in the wrong direction. I found a stick, lifted it gently and set it down in the grass it had seemed to be headed for when I nearly killed it.
Rescue mission accomplished, I turned around to “be nice” to my neighbor but she had moved on…rapidly, I’m sure having collected more evidence for her file on me. (She plays with worms in the middle of the street!)
On the rest of my walk, I searched my mind and heart for the lessons in this complicated encounter. I won’t bore you with those details because it turned into a whole self-therapy session. A LOT of lessons!!
Bottom line here? I have to call my youngest sister, who has been estranged from me for a couple of years now….
And just in case, my elaborate story didn’t lift your spirits (like it did mine), here’s a wonderful poem circulating right now.
“Lockdown” – March 13, 2020
Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
(The Franciscan Order)
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
I’m a little behind on some of my favorite “challenges” but this one really got my attention.
I’m more of a Pacific Ocean Beach gal, but have been associated with two amazing rivers in my life time.
First, Old Black Water, the Might Mississippi! I had the privilege of living right next to it, in Natchez, MS for many years. And James grew up there. When I crave an Ocean, he longs for the River.
For years on every visit down South, it was a ritual for these three brothers to make at least one visit to the bluff overlooking their childhood River.
James’s love for his river became apparent to me when we first got back together (at our 40th High School Reunion).
One year we visited right after Her Majesty overflowed her banks…(picture on the right is on the local Golf Course)
And second, thanks to James who found another river to live by, here’s the magnificent Spokane River.
Now we live in a city far from oceans and rivers…unless you count this kind…
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #89: A River Runs Through It
Unfortunate collateral victim of CV 19…
From their poor hammered website…
The novel coronavirus has an unlikely victim — one of the world’s most popular beers.
Corona has become the subject of memes and videos shared on social media as the toll from the virus climbs worldwide. Reports of an increase in online searches for “corona beer virus” and “beer coronavirus” show the Mexican beer hasn’t been able to escape the association. The so-called purchase intent among adults in the U.S. has plunged to the lowest in two years, according to data from YouGov Plc.
Not That beer has figured very big in my life for many years, like for about one HUNDRED years! But I do feel bad for them. Heck, growing up in San Diego, Corona was THE beer! We even served it at our 1971 wedding!!! A thrown together event (the bride extremely pregnant). We thought it was so classy to serve beer in bottles with limes!
Rick and me stopping at a gas station flower stand for my wedding bouquet on the way to be married in my childhood church in Pacific Beach. What you might not be able to see is that my dress is handmade (and BLUE, not WHITE) from a maternity pattern…yep, we were very pregnant!
Hang in there, Corona!!!
And my neighbor yesterday, celebrating the completion of a long, LONG time project!!
……..I wonder what she would have thought and felt about this virus…….
To start with, one of my favorite musicians, Geoffrey Castle, an electric violinist, who plays everything from hard rock and roll to Irish Ballads, and whose biggest performance of the year is naturally Saint Patrick’s Day, has suggested that tonight, from the safety of our own living rooms, at 7 PM (PST), everyone sing along with The Wild Rover
Like so many other professions, the need to address current health crisis on our planet has basically eliminated Geoffrey’s income for now. So listen to his stuff and buy something should you feel inspired to…
Next, I have received so many wonderful emails this week from my clients sharing how they are taking care of themselves while in “Self Quarantine”!! Maybe one will inspire you!!
One couple has banded together with another couple, their best friends, to support each other, and not be alone. Living, working and sharing meals at home.
Another couple writes: “We are both working from home and I just feel a new sense of connection and love between us 🙂 What a time to get that when we get to be stuck together with this new working from home lifestyle!”
Trapped in a New York apartment and working from home, this person says “I’m organizing my apartment, taking long baths, and online shopping.” (This could be dangerous for me personally…Hmm, do I really need 5 of those gaiter neck warmers??)
I LOVE this, a couple who has been struggling so hard to find enough time to keep their relationship healthy says, “We’re hunkered down in our house and oddly this time has actually been good for us even though life is very strange right now. I think cutting out the commute, social planning and resetting has meant slightly less stress and more time for those small moments of joy.”
And in a hard irony, from a newly retired person, is uplifting anyway! “What a time for having to avoid contact with people now that I am (finally) trying to expand my social connections, not limit them. Oh well. I have survived pet rocks, disco, gas shortages, big hair bands, grunge and having a reality tv president, so I have hope and faith that I will manage to get through this okay. :-)”
I’ve been finding some very uplifting things and great advice online. One of my favorite “teachers” is Joan Borysenko. She shared this wonderful video a few days ago. About 8 minutes,to help you ground and relax.
Joan wrote today: Even amidst this crisis, and all the preparation it entails, we have the ability, perhaps the obligation, to spend a little time looking for the beauty, the goodness and the grace in life. Focusing on the good calms our mind, strengthens our immunity, and it feels wonderful!
And lastly, for all the young people still experiencing the blissful belief in immortality, us older folks need you to slow your party roll for just a while, so you don’t expose us to this virus. Just remember:
Your Grandparents were called to war.
You’re being called to sit on your couch.
You can do this!!
So hunker down. DO all the nice things for yourself you rarely have time for. We’ll all wait it out together.
In the mean time…can you CROCHET????
I loved this little video (experiment). I saw it in a newsletter I get from Greater Good Science center. Pretty uplifting stuff. So grateful there are organizations like this!
Hope you view it. Let me (or them) know what you think…
We’ve been challenged to post about something that’s “special” to us….
James, holding a handmade birthday card (big in our family) from his inherited grandson…
I love this face!! The MOST special thing in my life….