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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

Developing Ourselves and Others

'The ones who count are those persons who –though they may be of little renown – respond to and are responsible for the continuation of the living spirit.' - Martin Buber

There are a range of TA concepts that might apply to personal and professional development and physis is one.  

Physis is 'The force of nature which eternally strives to make things grow and to make growing things more perfect(Berne, 1981/1969 in Clarkson, 1992).

Physis is one of Berne’s most enduring and unchanging concepts. Berne was not alone in discussing this concept. In Aristotle: 'Nature' means that imminent thing from which a growing thing first begins to grow….The source from which the primary notion in every natural object is induced in that object as such'.

To James and James, spirit is the animating principle of life.  People with energy are often called spirited. The spirit of perestroika led to dramatic changes in the Soviet Union in 1989. This is the innermost core of being. This corresponds to Berne’s concept of physis.

The action of the script upon us is to squash or repress physis and therefore aspiration for that individual will also be repressed. However, just as nature has a propensity to go toward the light and toward health, so too does the self. Many writers share the concept of a healthy inner core, whether spiritual, philosophical, or psychological. This central core is also potentially joyous and energetic. This inner core provides energy for change within each ego state. As these changes take place a new self merges which at the same time is connected to the individual’s innermost centre. 

When wanting to develop ourselves and others we therefore have to consider the concept of physis. Have we allowed our scripts to repress physis or does the thrust of life continues to be prominent in our growth?

Just as plants living in dry arid conditions are challenged to grow so too are humans.  We can either look for a more nourishing environment or stay where we are and whither.  This goes for our work contexts too.  Do we go for the easy life though not nourishing, or do we go for a life of challenge and stimulation though perhaps not always easy?

Work contexts can crush our spirit and repress physis. This can be the case when people are not given recognition, if they are bullied or harassed, or when people are bored or under-stimulated at work. When these things happen people give up hope and then they can get to feel lethargic or hopeless. 

We have a range of different urges:

Ø  To live

Ø  To be free

Ø  To understand

Ø  To create

Ø  To enjoy

Ø  To connect

Ø  To transcend


James & James

These are similar to the TA hungers:

Ø  Recognition

Ø  Structure

Ø  Stimulus

These are motivational sources – a total of 6 in all. The other three being: incident, sex and leadership, which can be seen as related to the first three.

Our motivation to develop will be severely hampered when these hungers are not met or are not in balance. We are likely to overload on one or two of them if we are receiving insufficient in one. When these hungers are not met then it will be difficult to maintain the urges noted by James and James.

The Frame of Reference will also need to be taken into account when considering development. For example, what is our view about development? Is it something that we have to do for continuous professional development (CPD) and therefore we just jump through the hoop? If our 'for' is about doing CPD because we have to, then our enjoyment, and therefore our development, will be hampered.

Are we tired, or are our clients tired, and lacking in motivation?  If this is the case then this would also affect development. For example, it may be that before we consider “development” we first need to address the hungers. If someone is stroke deprived or in a job they have out grown, then this will need to be the first aspect to be addressed.

Discrepancy between aspirations and achievements causes stress. We need to investigate whether our aspirations are too high or driven and therefore likely to result in apparent failure.  'Apparentas the aspirations were unrealistic and unlikely to work. In this case, it is likely that we are in script. The continuation of discrepancies such as this tend to lead to the loss of hope.

This is not to say that we always need to play safe. It is about achieving “stretch” in our aspirations so that there is challenge and excitement, but not pushing the limits so far that we are outside our field of competence with few resources and skills to support our aspirations. 

The other TA concepts that are relevant here are Working Styles or Drivers, and substitute behaviour as these limit an individual’s potential.  

There are inherent values hidden within the driver behaviour:

Ø  Please – value it is important to be agreeable or give pleasure

Ø  Be Strong – value it is important to show endurance, firmness in will and purpose

Ø  Try Hard – value it is important to try or to attempt which is, in itself, good

Ø  Be Perfect – value it is important not to make any errors

Currently, in Britain today women are increasingly taking work that men might see as an impossible job. A woman might leap at the chance to take a difficult job if it were offered so that she can achieve and break through the “glass ceiling”. The problem is that the job may be impossible and the glass ceiling becomes a glass cliff that she falls off. 


Buber, M. (1947). Between Man and Man, Kegan Paul.

Clarkson, P. (1992). Physis in Transactional Analysis, TAJ 22:4.

Clarkson, P. (1992). Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, an integrated approach, Tavistock/Routledge.

Hay, J. (1993), Working It Out At Work, Sherwood Publishing

James, M. and James, J. (1992). Passion For Life, Plume.

Mountain, A. & Davidson, C. (2011) Working Together - Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance Gower Publishing