Week-long Workshop on Transactional Analysis (TA)


This week-long workshop on TA was entitled, ‘Understanding Self and Others.’  The aims of the workshop were to assist Brothers to understand their individual intrapsychic dynamics that lie at the foundation of their belief in self, others and the future, as well as helping them to have a real understanding of how the dynamics of community can impact on the quality of community life.  TA has four main areas of exploration:  script analysis, ego state analysis, transactional analysis and game analysis.  Each day, David explained the main aspects of each of these four dimension of TA, providing the basic theory first, followed by both individual and group activities.  The Brothers engaged fully in the workshop and gain a good level of insight in themselves and into each other.


The sessions today centred on the question of Eucharist.  Donal invited the Brothers to share their experience of Eucharist.  He then went on to discuss the understanding that Brothers had of Eucharist and invited them to reflect both on their experience and understanding of what Eucharist means in contemporary spirituality.

A Visit to Karura Forest

Today, being a free day, the Brothers went to Karura Forest to the place where Wangar1 Maathai fought to preserve the integrity of the urban green space

Karura Forest is an urban space in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. The forest was gazetted in 1932 and is managed by the Kenyan Forest Service in conjunction with the Friends of Karura Forest Community Forest Association.

Karura Forest is 1,041 ha (2,570 acre) consisting of three parts separated by Limuru and Kiambu roads. The large middle portion is ca. 710 ha (1,750 acres). The portion to the east of Kiambu road has been allocated to special national priorities. As of mid-2016, 36% of the forest contains indigenous upland forest tree species. The forest is home to some 200 species of bird as well as suni, Harveys Duiker, bushbucks, bush pigs, genets, civets, honey badgers, bush babies, porcupines, Syke’s monkeys, bush squirrels, hares, fruit bats, and various reptiles and butterflies. Karura now has over 50 km of trails for visitors to walk, run or bike.

Due to its proximity to a growing city, there had been plans to reduce the forest in favour of housing and other development. However, these plans were controversial with conservationists. In the late 90s there were housing projects that would have excised portions of the forest. Conservationists, led by Wangari Maathai, the leader of the Green Belt Movement,who later became a Nobel Peace Prize  Laureate, carried out a much publicised campaign for saving the forest. Karura Forest became also a symbol of controversial land grabbing in Kenya.

Generative Listening and Speaking

Day three was devoted to the skills required to use Theory U effectively.  David explained the seven principles of generative listening:

  • Slow down and be present
  • Pay attention to the words of the people
  • Pay attention to the words and images used by the speaker
  • Become aware of their feelings
  • Suspend judgements
  • Seek clarification by asking questions
  • Pay attention to your own feelings.

Donal then went on to explain the four stages of generative speaking or responding.

  • Say what you heard
  • Say what has been triggered as you listened
  • Say what you don’t fully understand
  • Say what you found missing in the other person’s talking

Donal formed a ‘fish bowl’ of Brothers who tried to put generative listening and responding into practice.  Finally, the group broke in groups of four to practise some generative speaking and responding.

Profiles of Leaders

The morning continued on from yesterday where the Brothers concentrated on the various toxins that may be preventing the Brothers from moving on.  Donal then explained the four types of leadership: Traditional, Participative, Visionary and Co-Creative.  One could say that the order listed here reflects the development over the years as to how our leaders and leadership teams functioned.

David continued the conversation, introducing the work of George Kohlreiser who classified leaders as courageous, controlling, closet and cocoon.  The Brothers formed groups to discuss the observable behaviours of each of these leadership types, and to identify the qualities that each of them might have.  David stressed that the move in the type of leader – from hero to host – is more suitable to a world where the issues are complex and cannot be managed by one person.



The last day of this interesting workshop on Transactional Analysis focused on how communication can be improved by using such models as Anita Mountain’s ‘Concept for thinking’ which goes from Basic safety through positive reinforcement, clear communication, productive activity, integration to final celebration.  David Rock’s SCARF model was also briefly explained:  Safety, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness

Karen also introduced the idea of the cultural script, and the group spent considerable time in discussing how the culture of religious life can often require a person to make a choice between the values of religious life and the values of other cultures.

Finally, the group spent some private time, reflecting on the learnings of the week’s workshop, and then gathered in open forum to share the fruits of their reflection.

The Energy that Moves Us!

The day found the Brothers engaged in developing further understanding on the concept of energy, proposed by Diarmuid  O’ Murchu as an important concept in our understanding of life and spirituality. Sr. Alba shared with the Brothers the different manifestations of energy, impacts the universe and the different ways it can be used positively. The energy within the human person was explained through the Chakra System. They were also given hands on experience on how to use, colour and sound in meditation, energy for healing self and others, in practicing forgiveness and in blessing self and others.

Conflict Management

Kathy Vaughan began the workshop by getting the groups to mingle and share their hopes and expectations for the workshop as well as sharing their learnings about conflict from their past.  Then, she invited the group to list the norms for the successful running of the two days.  She defined conflict as ‘An expressed struggle between two or more interdependent parties related to real or perceived incompatible goals, differing interests and ability to frustrate my interests and or ambitions in the present or in the future.’

She introduced a game where she invited Brothers to attempt to bring a partner to the other side of a line.  In this she explained how we find it difficult to see solutions to a problem when we take the message from only one perspective!

She outlined the relationship between the achievement of a task and the degree of relationships involved.  There are, according to Kathy, five approaches to conflict which she described as competition, accommodation, avoidance, compromise and cooperation. Each approach is valid at certain times. She emphasized how each one also is based on a world view, on certain beliefs about self and others and on what one wants to achieve.

She outlined how often conflict can be analyzed by using SBI.  S describes the situation that is happening.  B refers to the behaviour that is taking place. I stands for the interest that each part has in the conflict moment.  I also stands for the intent of the conflict meaning that each incident explains why we pay attention to the happening and what this event tells me about myself.

Kathy then invited the Brothers to practice listening (to a subject like a moment when I was proud etc)  without making a comment.  Then she repeated the exercise where we asked questions that would further the conversation. And then finally, she repeated again the 90 second conversation with the listener summarizing what they heard.

Finally Kathy offered some handouts on self-reflection on a critical incident and on preparing to engage in a difficult conversation.

The Prophetic Dimension of Religious Life

The sessions of the second day blended well with the prayer of this morning: “Do this in memory of me.” The three topics addressed on the second day were Religious Life as Prophetic, Being an Adult Christian in God’s Household and Today’s Missionary Landscape

In the first session   Diarmuid O’ Murchu, explored with the group the prophetic dimension of religious life. Tracing the history of the prophetic call, back to the OT Prophets and to Jesus,   he showed us how the new understanding of our prophetic call today needs to be seen, more as communal than personal. In this context, the Christian Brothers were affirmed for jointly witnessing to this new evolving understanding, now made visible in the vision of Journeying Together and the practical efforts being made to live in a new way.  The liminal role of the prophet today was described as a commitment to  being counter cultural to the values of power and domination, speaking the word prophetically, criticizing in order to energize,  keeping alive the hope through the power of imagination, going the extra mile no matter what the cost, and networking for effective action and radical transformation.

In the session, Today’s Missionary Landscape O’ Murchu, shared with the group the evolving understanding of being a missionary over the years. He proposed a downward up or an incarnational and inclusive  model of missionary involvement,  that begins with experience, followed by dialogue and story, a way that involves  discernment, building communities of empowerment,  leading to a joint effort at global transformation. We are invited to take into account  the missionary horizon’s for the 21stcentury while planning for future ministries. Taking up ministries that involve systemic change, eco-justice, reconciliation and healing, working with people suffering the plight of social dislocation and discerning, empowering, befriending and partnering with the lay missionary of the future is a way of living liminally in our present times.

The day ended with a bread and wine ritual where the community of 32 Christian Brothers gathered to break the word of their lives by celebrating the miracles that daily touch our lives and by sharing bread and wine in a fellowship meal.

Theological Reflection

The morning was taken up with a group session of theological reflection. This practice of taking a significant issue or event and sharing this event with the rest of the group can be a very powerful way of getting insights into the significance of the experience.  Following the sharing of the event, the rest of the group offers either an image or a gospel passage that throws light on the experience.  Following this group contribution, the person has some time to reflect on what he has heard and then a moment of sharing the enriched insights gained through the process.

In the afternoon, the Brothers continued the conversations especially on  the life of the clusters in India and Africa.  This was a good moment for all to express their hopes and fears about the community life and ministry of the Brothers.