We would like to thank Susanna and Peter for this wonderful opportunity for exchange in the light of this challenging time.
We are very happy to participate as a board of the DGTA with a statement on the situation as we experience it in Germany. We let you participate in what occupies us, describe possible strategies for coping with the crisis and opportunities that arise from this situation. Of course, this cannot be an attitude that affects all Germans or all Transactional Analysts in our association, it rather reflects how we – the board of the DGTA – experience and assess the situation.
The current situation
In Germany, too, we are experiencing a time that has never been seen before in this form. Since the middle of March all schools, universities, further education institutes are closed, as well as restaurants, bars, cafés, cultural institutions, sports facilities Only shops that provide the daily needs were permitted to stay open. There is a lack of understanding among the population because, for example, garden centres and larger DIY stores are allowed to remain open, but smaller shops had to close first. In the meantime, these smaller shops are allowed to open again, provided that strict hygiene regulations are observed. Perhaps restaurants will soon be allowed to follow suit, and then it will become clear whether your favourite Italian or the Spanish bar around the corner is still there… Since the end of April, it has been compulsory to wear masks in shops and on public transport.
These measures gnaws quite a bit on our basic needs for attention, stimulation and structure. Awareness of this can be relieving. Permission to feel and express fear, anger and sadness in the face of unfulfilled needs reduces the pressure and perhaps allows us to deal with the situation in a more conciliatory way.
What consequences do we fear
The imposed contact prohibitions and restrictions have far-reaching consequences at various levels and many after-effects are not yet foreseeable. How does the isolation affect children who were already living in difficult family circumstances before the crisis? Will children classify the world as “dangerous”, e.g. through the imposed obligation to wear masks? What dynamics are created in family structures at home? It is already apparent that domestic violence is increasing. Will the suicide rate increase in view of the expected company bankruptcies or other existential hardships? How does social isolation affect people with mental illness, e.g. depression? Will more people die or fall ill as a result of the crisis than people who have become infected with the virus?
The medical care
In order to have sufficient intensive care beds and ventilation facilities available in the hospitals, all hospitals were instructed to perform only absolutely necessary surgeries. On the one hand, this led to fears and insecurities among people waiting for a surgery. On the other hand, many others appreciated the apparently sufficient medical care in case of a more severe course of a possible Covid-19 infection. So far, there has not been a great demand for the reserved beds, many wards had to be closed due to lack of occupancy, which led to considerable financial losses for the hospitals. In the meantime, the occupancy rates are slowly increasing again.
Aid from the government
In addition to fears about health – more for one person, less for another – existential needs are pressing into our lives. The government is very quickly developing offers of help in the form of loans and ‘emergency’ financial assistance, the latter needing no repayment, for small and medium-sized enterprises whose liquidity is at risk. This has never happened before, often there are only a few days between application and payment. Those who have all too often accused our politicians of being sluggish are now rubbing their eyes in amazement or admiration at the quickly disbursed funds, which in the first instance save many, but not all, businesses and companies.
The figures of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) are our daily companion, sometimes it is not quite clear who controls our country. The government or the RKI, or even the industry, which is calling for easing measures to mitigate the economic consequences?
The German economy
Indeed, there are already clear indications today that the German economy will undergo a significant recession. The Ifo-Geschäftsklimaindex (Business Climate Index) is falling to an all-time low, and the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt und Berufsforschung (Institute for Labour and Occupational Research) believes that the number of unemployed could rise to more than three million. Our economy, once thought to be so stable, is fluctuating alarmingly, and growth is slowing down.
These thoughts are occupying us
In his model of the physis, Berne describes the “physis” as a force “that continuously pushes living beings towards “progress”. A significant antipole to the striving for continuous development is the experienced despair as “recognition of the real conditions”.
We ask ourselves whether the current desperation, the frustration in the face of the economic crisis is a constructive reaction in the sense of recognition (progress does not go on indefinitely), or rather a destructive (script-loaded) reaction, e.g. in the sense of a narcissistic insult. And what does progress and development mean in relation to the ecological system that was out of balance long before the crisis? At the moment, the environment seems to be recovering from the almost worldwide shutdown. What will happen once the acute crisis is over? Do we include a responsible ecological approach in the longed-for economic recovery? Or will the sustainability efforts that were started before the crisis weaken again? How can this be reconciled with the transactional autonomy concept, an essential concept of TA? After all, striving for autonomy does not only mean (re)gaining awareness, spontaneity and intimacy, but also includes personal responsibility for one’s own decisions and the resulting consequences. We therefore see an opportunity in this crisis in the conscious confrontation with the topic of “sustainability”.
It is also interesting to ask what is currently driving us to comply with the restrictions as far as possible? Is it the fear of a possible infection or the trust in politics or the trust in ourselves to move from the current adjustment back to autonomy?
We look with concern at our European neighbours, who at times had to struggle with an overstretched health system. We are shocked by the situations in different countries around the world. All too present are the terrible images that catch up with us every evening on television or through the Internet. In the light of this existential need, are we allowed to express our economic fears, to express our discontent because we have to temporarily give up celebrating, postpone our long-awaited holidays or going to the theatre at the moment, to buy only limited quantities of flour, noodles and toilet paper that are normally in the shops?
What positive aspects are we experiencing precisely because of this crisis?
We experience an immense willingness to show solidarity throughout the country. Just a few examples: We experience a slowdown in many places, younger people are shopping for older people or people from “at risk” groups, medical students are reinforcing the hospital staff, the singing of birds can be heard, countless projects are being set up to support the needy, people are singing together at open windows, consumerism is taking a back seat to the perception of what we have – focuses are shifting.
How are the Transactional Analysts in Germany doing?
The whole life has changed completely in the last weeks. Many are hard hit by the imposed contact restrictions, because group events are prohibited, i.e. most professional events, such as supervision events and TA training groups cannot take place. In a better situation are those who are permanently employed and therefore do not have to worry so much about their professional and financial existence. We painfully miss our annual congress, which we had to cancel due to the current situation. We miss the personal interaction, hugs, talks, discussions…
As Transactional Analysts, we understand TA as an effective method for successful communication between ourselves and our fellow human beings. This essential instrument is even more in demand and necessary in the face of this crisis, in order to connect with each other, to be close with one another in spite of contact prohibitions. Now more than ever it is important that we creatively combine our transactional analysis models with our professional skills in order to be effective for our patients, clients, service partners and training candidates.
This is achieved, for example, through:
- Therapy sessions with protective clothing and the necessary distance;
- Counselling and therapy sessions via video or telephone;
- “Distanced” Walks;
- Webinars on topics such as “Information for the self-employed in the face of the crisis”;
- TA training units via video conference;
- Contacting / keeping in touch with different groups (e.g. TA groups) via email.
We have invited our members to reflect on how each individual can contribute to winning opportunities from this crisis and making visible what has only become possible and tangible through this crisis. Everyone has his or her own personal focus, ideas, impulses and abilities to overcome distance, build bridges and make the invisible visible.
These are our thoughts on the current situation. We wish you to get through this difficult time well!
for the Board of Directors
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Transaktionsanalyse (DGTA)
Müller, U. (2011). Das Menschenbild Eric Bernes. Zeitschrift für Transaktions-Analyse: S. 70-82
Süddeutsche.de (2020). Coronavirus und die Wirtschaft. Verfügbar unter: https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/coronavirus-wirtschaft-aktuell-news-1.4869377 [26.04.2020]
 Süddeutsche.de, 2020 [26.04.2020]
 Vgl. Müller, 2011, S. 76