The 4 myths, or how Alexis got on my nerves early in the morning – Transactional Analysis


One day I had a training session on Non Violent Communication. Excellent training, if it wasn’t for the funny Alexis and his of getting in people’s minds.

At the beginning of the training session, Alexis was asking participants what their expectations were and, when I had my turn, I told what I was looking for.

Sometimes, certain people talk to me in a way that makes me explode right away! I want to learn how to deal with these people.

Alexis smiled and answered me :

That’s quite easy to manage, Ricardo. Since it is your fault.

I remember looking at my watch, 9h10, and thinking “Now, this is gonna be fun…”

Ricardo, if that person tells exactly the same thing to someone else and it doesn’t bother that someone, then the he.she cannot be responsible for your emotions. Otherwise, his.her comments would trigger the same emotion on everyone. You’re the one responsible for your emotions. It is not them you have to learn how to handle. It’s you!

For the next couple of days, Alexis showed me that a lot of things I was holding others accountable for, were in fact my responsibility.

The 4 myths

Transactional Analysis, a therapy developed by Eric Berne, defines 4 myths by which we are affected. I say affected because we can live by them ourselves, but even if we get rid of them, we live with other beings that may not have done the same thing. And a lot of them actually don’t want to.

Well, moving forward. The 4 myths are :

1/ I have the power to impact others positively
2/ I have the power to impact others negatively
3/ Others have the power to impact me positively
4/ Others have the power to impact me negatively

Simple, huh? So thank you and have a nice day.

Well, it is simple to read. It is even simple to say something like “yeah, it’s obvious”. All that is simple. But getting rid of this? Good luck with that!

TA states a theory that is very dear to me, upon which the 4 myths are based: each person is the sole and exclusively responsible for his.her emotions.
That being said, the myths 3 and 4 explain – as Alexis did – that if a person tells me something, she cannot be responsible for how I interpret what she says. And even less responsible for how it makes me feel.

If what’s being said triggers an emotion, that’s exclusively my problem and should, if I want to, find out why it happens to me.
What I cannot do is transfer the responsibility of my feelings to the sender of the message.

Put like this, it looks quite simple – once again – but it obliges us to stop saying “he.she made me happy” or “he.she pissed me off”, because it is simply not true. What happened is that “I felt happy” or “I felt angry” because of something he.she told me. But that is a whole different thing.

From one point of view, I take responsibility for my feelings. From the other, I hand over that responsibility to someone else, that perhaps said/did something with no intention, what so ever, of triggering an emotion in me.
It appears that is way more comfortable to say “he.she said/did it, so it is his.her fault if I get pissed” and that is because, by doing that, I avoid facing some things inside myself that I really don’t want to think about right now, like fears, frustrations, insecurity, my ego, jealousy, and a bunch of other stuff everyone has, but no me.

In the same way, when I tell someone something, I cannot be held responsible for how they feel. Moreover, everything I say it’s very interesting, so… huh, moving forward…
And that’s a good thing I’m not responsible, otherwise I could not say anything anymore. Never again. To no one.
And to me, that like to talk to everyone – and sometimes with myself – the world would rapidly become a boring place.

If what I say offenses, pisses off, hurts, brings happiness… that depends only on how others receive what is being said. If this is a simple concept to follow, it should be clear by now that feelings are always the receiver‘s responsibility, never the sender’s.

Humour limits

By the way, the 4 myths resolve completely the topic of humor limits. We cannot limit someone’s sense of humor, because he.she is not (never) responsible for what others find funny or not.

“Yes, but some jokes cross the line”
Indeed they do. All of them! To different people. For some, we cannot joke about religion, while others find it very amusing. For others, is sexuality, that some consider like a great humor topic.
The fact I don’t find a joke funny, or even abusive, that’s on me. Not on the one who tells it.
I’m convinced it would be very complicated if we’re forced to have a little notebook where we should note all the topics we could and could not talk about, with every single person!

But, still, certain topics really “change” me

If that’s the case, why do I let myself get affected by what people tell me? It is a great topic for another post, but let’s say it has something to do with our beliefs, values, education, that makes us jump right into the Karpman triangle, etc.
I’ll talk about it one of these days, if I feel like it.

“Well, and what about when people do it on purpose to affect, hurt, piss off, attack, others?”

They’re stupid! First of all, they’re stupid.
But, although they’re indeed stupid, they are not responsible for the fact that others allow themselves to get affected by what these stupid people say.
They just happen to live by myths 1 and 2, making them feel like they have the power to have an impact – positive or negative – on other people.

And that is because they are convinced that the messages they send must be interpreted exactly with the same intention it has been sent.
If I say something to annoy you, it would be nice of you to be annoyed. Otherwise, that might actually annoy me. But that would be my responsibility 🙂

Does that mean we can say whatever we want?

With exception to some legal boundaries, yes! The fact that I’m a total ass and have an extremely unpleasant posture towards people will, probably, help them build a poor image of myself.
Now, feeling hurt, pissed off, raged, sad, happy, about what I say is – and it can never be otherwise – their problem.

To accept the four myths is to look inside ourselves and deal with our feelings to stop handing over to others blames they are not responsible for.



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