While travelling in Córdoba, Spain, I visited the Great Mosque of Córdoba. It is a beautiful and fascinating building that symbolizes the many religious changes Córdoba has undergone over the centuries. Today, the Mezquita is the Cathedral of Córdoba, but the vast majority of its art and architecture is the work of Islamic architects, who built it as a mosque in the 8th century. . The shell-shaped ceiling of the magnificent Mihrab is carved from a single block of marble and the chambers on either side are decorated with exquisite Byzantine mosaics of gold. The worn flagstones indicate where pilgrims crouched on their knees.
I wanted a sense of the visual perspective which the pilgrims had, and so I knelt down on the floor to view the Mihrab. Within seconds I had two security guards bearing down on me shouting and gesticulating that I must immediately stand up. Little did I know that since the early 2000s Spanish Muslims have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to allow them to pray in the cathedral, only to be rejected on multiple occasions. My innocent action appeared to be a challenge/protest and the guards were not having it!
The lesson here is to be aware that simple, innocent actions can be deeply offensive to others. It is important to be aware of rules, customs and etiquette when visiting unfamiliar places.
While working on privately owned luxury yachts, I had the privilege of having an evening’s leave on the Island of Elba, Tuscany. While strolling around the shops and cafés of the quaint, bustling harbour some brightly coloured, fabric shoulder bags really caught my eye, but I decided not to buy one as they were quite expensive. Getting back to my yacht I regretted that decision and so the next morning I asked if I could have thirty minutes to go onshore to buy the bag. Having already had my allocated leave the chief stewardess was unwilling to let me have more time off and it took much persuasion and the promise of working the half hour plus an extra hour to pay off the favour, before she agreed. I ran all the way to the shop, purchased my bag and ran all the way back. I had taken only eight minutes, but I still put in the hour and a half I had promised. I was rewarded with the trust of the chief stewardess - she had not expected me to keep my word! This trust earned me future privileges.
The lesson here is simple, exercise your privilege to go the extra mile, and you will be rewarded.
This article is one of a three-part series on Transactional Analysis. This article follows on from the article "Transactional Analysis – Part I (The Masks we Wear)" and comes before Transactional Analysis - Part III (The Scripts we Follow). What follows in this article (Part II) is an outline of two more key concepts in Transactional Analysis – Strokes and Games.
This article is one of a three-part series on Transactional Analysis. It is followed by the articles “Transactional Analysis – Part II (The Games we Play)” and Transactional Analysis - Part III (The Scripts we Follow).
Transactional Analysis (or TA as it is often called) is an interpersonal relations approach developed during the 1960s by Dr Eric Berne. It is underpinned by the philosophy that:
Transactional Analysis is based on two notions: That we have three sides or 'ego-states' to our 'personality (Parent, Adult and Child), and that these ego states converse with one another in 'transactions' both internally and externally with other people (hence the name).
When I visited Rome, in Italy, I expected to see a beautiful city – after all Italy is known for its beautiful architecture, art, clothes and people. What I did not expect was to be made to feel beautiful. But that’s what happened. Everywhere I went the Italian men would call out a compliment, or whistle, as they sped past on their motor scooters. Although I was under no illusions – they did the same to all the women – I loved it and felt like the most beautiful woman in the world!
I was staying in a backpackers lodge at the time and one evening an American girl came in angrily complaining about the Italian men and how they were “awful and always trying to come on to you!” I tried to explain that it was just the Italian way and absolutely no harm or offence was meant, but she was having none of it. While I had a wonderful time in Italy, she must have had a miserable time.
The lesson here is it worth learning how to accept a compliment graciously. Not only does it give you a real boost, it also inspires the giver to continue giving compliments – and the world would certainly be a better place if we were more complimentary to each other.
While travelling in Italy I visited the magnificent St Peter’s Basilica located in the Vatican City. Inside is a larger-than-life bronze statue of St. Peter — his right hand extended to confer a blessing, while his left hand clutches the keys of the Kingdom. The statue is mounted on a tall alabaster pedestal, so that the feet are at eye-level. In medieval times pilgrims would fervently kiss or at least rub the right foot, which was extended forward from the pedestal, at the same time offering a prayer to St. Peter to be merciful and open the heavenly gates for them, if they should die while on the pilgrimage. Over the years the bronze toes have been worn smooth.
While watching the people, I was fascinated to see that almost every one of them reached out to rub the foot. Although most of the tourists were neither Catholic nor pilgrims, they still ‘followed the crowd’.
The lesson I learnt is that following the crowd is a survival instinct. Across the generations, people have learned that survival depends on banding together and working as a group. There is safety in numbers. All humans have inherited this legacy and it is shown in the security we feel when we ‘follow the crowd’.
While travelling in Spain I visited the popular Balcon De Europa, which literally means ‘Balcony of Europe’. Located in the centre of Nerja's historic part of town, a tree lined promenade called the Paseo Balcon de Europa takes you to the balcon – a semi-circular viewpoint jutting out to the sea with breath-taking views of the Mediterranean Sea, Sierra Almijara mountain range and the local beaches.
While the views are indeed magnificent, it was not the views that caught my attention, but the people – meeting, greeting, walking, talking and sitting together! It is without doubt the town’s meeting place and nearby you can find all sorts of cafés, bars, restaurants, ice-cream shops and hotels. It is a favourite spot with both locals and visitors alike and becomes very crowded.
The lesson learned (or perhaps just reinforced on this occasion) is that human beings are innately social. We need to feel love and acceptance from social groups. We are drawn to each other and the psychobiological drive to belong is entrenched. Being left out or ostracised is extremely hurtful. Contrary to popular belief, solitary confinement and not the death penalty is the worst possible punishment.
While I was travelling in America, I decided to take a ferry trip from Seattle to Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, Canada located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Victoria is one of the oldest cities in the Pacific Northwest and has retained a large number of its historic buildings. Because my trip was only to be an overnight stay I did as much as I could that first day and made sure that I saw one of its most famous landmarks – the British Columbia Parliament Building. I was duly impressed with the beautiful architecture.
However, that evening I was introduced to a handsome, young local man. We had a drink together and started chatting when he told me that at night the outline of the building is lit up by 3,500 energy efficient light bulbs. He then insisted on taking me in his car to see the sight. What a magnificent spectacle it was! The young man was clearly very proud of his city and happy to show me the sights, but I am sure he had no idea the impact his kindness would have on me, as many years later I still have the vision of that lit building clearly imprinted on my mind and feel again the joy I felt when I actually saw it.
The lesson here is that you never know how much of an impact a seemingly small act of kindness on your part, can have on someone else.
While on my working holiday in America, I spent a couple of weeks travelling in a back-packers adventure bus known as 'The Green Tortoise'. My travelling companions were a mixed bag of people of all types and nationalities. One of the young men, Dave, although nice enough, was the sort of guy who just blends into a crowd. He had no special qualities to make him stand out. That was, until we went to a nightclub in Utah which was hosting a Karaoke evening. Towards the end of the evening, Dave quietly got up and made his way to the stage where he proceeded to give the most perfect rendition of Elvis Presley's 'Suspicious Minds' that I have ever heard. Everyone was in awe of his incredible talent and he immediately gained a celebrity status within the group. Now years later, Dave is one of the few characters from that trip that stands out for me.
The lesson here is that people are always more complex than they appear on the surface. Look deeper and discover their special qualities or talents. It certainly will make life more interesting and exciting
While visiting Jerez, in southern Spain, I decided to take a tour of its biggest winery, Bodega Tio Pepe, famous for its sherry production. While on the tour we were told all about the history of sherry production in the region, shown all the major cellars of the bodega and given tiny glasses of sherry to taste. I remember it being a most interesting tour at the time, but all the facts and statistics have long since been forgotten.
What I have not forgotten, however, is the delightful story we were told about a little mouse who would visit the cellars in the quiet of the evening. The mouse would scramble up to drink the last drops of sherry still in the taps just after the wine-maker had done his tasting. Of course getting up to the taps was a struggle for the little mouse, and the wine-maker took pity on it. There in the middle of the huge cellar was a tiny barrel with a tiny ladder leaning against it – for mouse to climb up. Each evening a small glass of sherry and a piece of cheese is placed on top. I am not sure that the story is true, but it was a moving story and the story-teller created just enough doubt in our minds that we could believe it if we wanted to.
The life lesson here is that facts and statistics are easily forgotten, but a simple heart-warming story can be remembered forever. As we go through life we must not just concentrate on the facts and routines of daily life, but rather try to do something special for others that will create never-to-be-forgotten stories.