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The WMail Newsletter Essays
Volume IV - Issue #38: December 2003

"Time Structure"

        I wrote in WMail Issue #17 (Nov 2001) about "Game Theory In A Nutshell", and Time Structure is a distinct part of Eric Berne's brilliant creation of Transactional Analysis (aka 'T/A'). Transactional Analysis should be taught to very six-year-old, I say, because anyone with the knowledge imparted within the T/A technology is better armed for the rest of their life – in defense against bullies, under pressure from the adult world, in clarification of communication, and in understanding of one's fellows – who, not having T/A skills, are basically meat-puppets run by long-forgotten now-unconscious decisions and reactive behaviors developed in response to fearsome life events. [See the Working Minds T/A Page for a general overview.]

        Time Structure is quite simple. It was originally called 'Time Theory' by Berne, but professional practitioners of T/A made up a game at T/A conventions and in academic literature to attempt to modify the Official Six Ways that people spend Time. But everything that was proposed had already been covered by Berne's original premises.
        Time Structure is precise: There are SIX ways that humans spend time. They are With- drawal {least-involving}, Ritual, Pastiming, Work or Activity, Games, and {most-involving} Intimacy.
        All of the six are valid. All six were developed over the millennia of sentient civilization and each serves a specific (though general) purpose.

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        The state of Withdrawal is valid and useful. For T/A purposes, sleep is not relevant, this applies to a conscious state, to persons who are awake. Every one of us, at times, needs to be alone, and this can take a simple form, such as a hot bath or a walk, or be involved, such as a retreat to a cabin in Saskatchewan. Withdrawal can be overtly expressed – "I want a divorce" or "Go away" – or covert – the cold shoulder, the 'forgotten' callback.
        Where Withdrawal can be problematic is when pathologies get into the mix: the psychotic episode, the teenage runaway, the hermit who shuns all society, the lady living with dozens of cats in a vermin-infested mansion.
        Withdrawal serves the human need for retreat, for space to regenerate clarity of purpose, or simply to rest from the expenditure of emotional resources among the madness and travails of civilization.

* *          * *          * *          * *

        Ritual is the tried and true, the cliche, the familiar, the expected, the traditional – whether mannerism or observed event or personal action.
        "Have a nice day", the handshake or air-kiss, the Tridentine Mass, every religious holiday on the calendar, the rituals of bereavement, the Super Bowl and the World Series and the Rose Parade. Every parade, actually. In fact, common rituals include News At Eleven and Oprah, Monday Night Football, not to mention high school football and pep rallies and whatever you do (or used to do) every Saturday night.
        Washing clothes on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, washing hair on Friday, washing the car Saturday morning, washing down chips with a bottle of beer while watching The Game on Saturday afternoon.
        You do not expect anything to happen out of the ordinary during Ritual, it is supposed to go like clockwork, one foot in front of the other, no surprises, tune out for a while – jeez, is it bedtime already?

* *          * *          * *          * *

        Based, of course, on the word 'pastime', this T/A term annoys spellcheckers. But the T/A term Pastiming is much more involving than Ritual, for data gets exchanged, and thinking and-or communicating may even be required. People in the state of Pastiming are more or less awake.
        The lower state of existence of Ritual is 'How bout them Cubs?', while Pastiming is two guys talking about the game, about the new pitcher, about future games, all that sportsfan content.
        Pastiming is talk of one's kids or grandkids, all cocktail party chatter, most of the duration of any business lunch, and anytime two guys or gals are sitting at a diner counter or the laundromat, or dropping a line over the rail on a pier, and also the day-to-day conversation of most couples.
        Pastiming can veer around corners, suddenly change subject, even escalate into argument or physical fights – which for some is just another form of Pastiming. (Were that not so, there would be no sports of boxing or wrestling – or war.)

* *          * *          * *          * *

        At this, the fourth 'level', effort is required of the participants. In the state of Work or Activity there are consequences, goals, and results. While Withdrawal and Ritual require no partner – though couples can withdraw together, and entire stadiums of people can share a Ritual – the state of Work or Activity usually requires both gear and partners.
        Talking about baseball can be either Ritual or Pastime, but the 'Activity' of baseball requires a field and equipment and a team and an opposing team. Office 'Work' requires desks and phones and customers and the relevant industry association and licenses and lobbyists and the S.E.C. and the I.R.S. and the F.D.A. and so on. Agriculture 'Work' requires land and tractors and seeds and irrigation canals. Actors at 'Work' require an audience, writers require pen & paper (or a keyboard), artists require a canvas and paint – you get the idea.
        All must be managed, one cannot kick back, 'veg out' and watch the passing parade.

        This level is where the knowledge of Time Structure becomes especially useful in practice: Many 'workers' confuse Work or Activity with the lesser state of Pastiming. You know them, maybe you even are one. Knowing the distinctions of the state of Work or Activity gives both the manager and the T/A-trained worker new leverage in guiding his/her environment.
        Knowing the distinctions of Time Structure, any participant in a meeting can guide the direction by opening their mouth such (with intention) that the conversation shifts from Ritual to Pastiming to Work or Activity. Those in the room without T/A skills won't know what happened, but the room got shifted – and the shifter will, if his attendant boss has any smarts, be noted as being the source of that shift.

        Back to baseball: It is not the content of the conversation that matters. If two guys watching their kids at the park get talking about last weekend's game, that is Pastiming. However, if you take a transcript of that same conversation and have the coach and the star pitcher repeat those exact words, that would be Work or Activity. Their context is different, though the content is identical: there are now consequences to a correct rehash or assessment of the strategies (real or imagined) and the sequence of events of the baseball game in question.

        Again, all six levels of Time Structure are valid. Ritual may be a good idea on the first sales call to a new client. And Pastiming is a good way to take a break – in the break room. But the habit of staying in 'lower' states when Work or Activity is promised in return for one's paycheck is a good way to lose one's job, or when such is prevalent across the board in a culture like the U.S. of A., such a habit is the source of a stagnant company or a failing economy. (Which, in large part, is how we got into the mess/es that we are in.)

        Shift the context of a meeting or two from Pastiming boredom to engagement in Work or Activity and you will see the difference in the folks you have thus empowered. Do this a lot and the results will show up in the company's bottom line – and likely in personal reward.
        Do this at home. Get the kids to watch the History Channel with an eye to the value of history for its own sake, its relevance, rather than Pastiming or Ritual or Withdrawal – all of them the habits of the couch potato – teach them that there can be purpose and engagement with even the content of the television medium.
        Engage your kids and other family members in Work or Activity rather than dull Pastiming, rather than mind-numbing Ritual, rather than the disfunction of Withdrawal.

* *          * *          * *          * *

        The fifth level of Time Structure is much more intense even than Work or Activity. The same elements apply – team, results, results, consequences – but one thing that is added is that in the basic state of Game, somebody will lose. In Work or Activity, you might fail – if not enough sales or results are produced – but in the realm of Game, part of the desigtn includes (a) working to win, and (b) working to make the opposition lose.
        Business need not be win/lose, but since males are mostly in control, and everybody spends more time a t work than at home, the Game of Business itself becomes intensified and very important and even significant and can reach the point where nothing matters but the Game. Thus the state of the U.S. [and other] economy at present – the Game of Business is more important than any other Value or False Value here in America and around the world. (A topic for another day; see also the WMail index page for prior commentary.)

        Eric Berne's T/A centered on Game Theory because it is the most effective level of Time Structure. Work or Activity produces some results, but get a company or a community involved in a Game – the entire purpose of attempts to get employees 'motivated' – and such a cohesive team's engagement in the Game will move mountains.
        Berne discovered Game Theory while studying alcoholics; their interactions under his examination made the mechanisms clear to him. The unwitting participation in games of that type is called 'enabling' and 'co-dependency' nowadays. WMail Issue #17 merely touches on the concepts involved, and we still have one more level of Time Structure to cover, so I will only specify here the bare minimum of what constitutes a T/A-defined Game.

1) There are three roles in a Game: Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor.

2) Games come in all sizes, from two people to nations.

3) How you know there is a Game is that there is a 'switch': The boss says "Please, please work for my company" [come Rescue me], then pulls the standard 'deroga- tory memo' gambit and threatens to fire the new-hire unless he/she does X [switch to Persecutor, so the new-hire can switch to Victim].

4) There are standard Games, given names by Berne and others, such as "Ain't It Awful" or "Rapo" or "The Meeting Is Over". Rush Limbaugh's entire career is based on the Game "Let's You & Him Fight". Before Berne, many Games were taken from old fairy tales & folklore: "Cinderella", "Lone Ranger", "Superman"; I once dated a gal who did the whole "Rapunzel" schtick. Unfortunately, recent generations make up their standard Games from television programs.

5) There are levels with a standard Game: Level One is playful, such as a prank in the Game "Cops & Robbers"; Level Two is for real, like actual, though minor crime: shop- lifting, speeding, cheating on a test; Level Three is where 'public record or tissue damage is involved', such as arrest of the game player, emergency room visits, or identity theft (serious damage to another).

        Games are a good thing, most of the time, if well managed, and any child with knowledge of the distinctions of Game Theory is better able steer his/her own life-course, as well as better able to cause or avoid 'state changes' in their environment: stop the bully, get asssistance, help others over hurdles and beyond messes.
        Games are there – all people in all cultures DO Games, but virtually none of them have a clue that there are rules and that a manual exists to consult for guidance.
        Imagine driving to Billings, Montana without a map. Or playing chess without understanding what moves the knight or bishop are allowed. That is what YOUR life is like without the technology of T/A and Game Theory: you do it, everybody does it, but nobody knows the actual rules.

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        Originally the T/A professionals concluded that the state of Intimacy was something that most people could expect to experience for fifteen minutes – in their lifetimes. If they were lucky! Yes, that was actually official policy back in the 1960's and 70's.
        I hope that that is no longer a concept being promoted anywhere, but just in case, I will state right here that the idea is completely incorrect.
        Sadly, for many people, the statement is not far off the truth. People hunger for Intimacy, though they cannot define it and basically fear it. They think that they will get hurt or that they don't know how, and thus will look foolish. The Culture-Structure promotes Intimacy only as a commodity, which will magically appear if you buy the newest self-help book, get a tummy-tuck or a new car or job or spouse. Intimacy is made to appear as a rare commodity, the masses had better try harder, kiss more a**, throw others aside to climb the ladder because the Holy Grail of Intimacy is right up there just out of reach – and out of reach of those you see at the top, too, cuz aren't they also driven to climb even higher?

        So what then is Intimacy? Whatever the dictionary may say, I say that Intimacy is a state where there are no barriers. When I was married and then divorced, and my ex-wife asked to move back in with me (and did – twice!), that was all rather a roller-coaster ride at times, but this I can say: the woman who is my ex-wife told me the truth for nine years – something few other people on the planet have attempted on even a short-term basis. (And my ex-wife held me to the same standard.)
        THAT is Intimacy: the good, the bad, the fears, the pain, the ups & downs, the joy, the defeats and triumphs and surprises and heartbreak and the many unanswered questions and unresolved issues that arise in just the interaction of two people. In Intimacy, everything is included, nothing held back, all is essentially What's So.
        If others have done so, then they are able to invoke innate skills and are practicing Relationship.

        Intimacy is doable en masse, but is usually accidental and it goes away real quick. Tragedy will invoke Intimacy among strangers – 9-11-01 or any flood or firestorm or tornado or earthquake. But as soon as the water recedes or the smoke abates the design of the Culture-Structure requires that we return to Ritual and Pastiming.
        Hearts open up at the shelters, but when the Red Cross starts packing their gear it is back to Business As Usual: "I'll call you when we're settled", "Let's do lunch", "Call if you need anything". And the moment of Intimacy devolves into a name on the Xmas card list.

        But the difficulty is not real, you just don't believe that the Possibility of Intimacy exists. Any course at Landmark Education, for another example – which I've now participated in for 25 years – will produce the space of Intimacy for the days of a major course or the hours of a weekly seminar. Not every participant may be in the state of Intimacy, but the course material operates in the context of Intimacy, so Intimacy can be said to be present in an expanding and perhaps contracting number of the participants over the duration of a Landmark event. The space of Intimacy is incredible – no wonder the Culture-Structure prevents your access: if you already have Intimacy, entire product lines and industries become worthless to you as a consumer.

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        You now have some knowledge of the six possible levels or ways of Time Structure technology, used for millennia by Mankind and only recently defined and reported by Eric Berne and others.
        How many of the six did YOU operate in today?

see also WMail Issue #17: "Game Theory In A Nutshell"

see also WM Transactional Analysis page: http://www.working-minds.com/TApage.htm

see Landmark Education Corporation's website: http://www.LandmarkWorldwide.com

[copyright 2003 by Gary Edward Nordell, all rights reserved]

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