Are you really autonomous?


The attainment of autonomy is manifested by the release or recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity and intimacy.


Awareness means the capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one’s own way, and not the way one was taught. It may be assumed on good grounds that seeing and hearing have a different quality for infants than for grownups (1), and that they are more aesthetic and less intellectual in the first’ years of life. A little boy sees and hears birds with delight. Then the “good father” comes along and feels he should “share” the experience and help his son “develop.” He says: “That’s a jay, and this is a sparrow.” The moment the little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing. He has to see and hear them the way his father wants him to. Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can afford to go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the little boy starts his “education” the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up. A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most of the members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to; they must get it secondhand. The recovery of this ability is called here “awareness.” Physiologically awareness is eidetic perception, allied to eidetic imagery (2). Perhaps there is also eidetic perception, at least in certain individuals, in the spheres of taste, smell and kinesthesia, giving us the artists in those fields: chefs, perfumers and dancers, whose eternal problem is to find audiences capable of appreciating their products.

Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future. A good illustration of possibilities, in American life, is driving to work in the morning in a hurry. The decisive question is: “Where is the mind when the body is here?” and there are three common cases.

1. The man whose chief preoccupation is being on time is the one who is furthest out. With his body at the wheel of his car, his mind is at the door of his office, and he is oblivious to his immediate surroundings except insofar as they are obstacles to the moment when his soma will catch up with his psyche. This is the Jerk, whose chief concern is how it will look to the boss. If he is late, he will take pains to arrive out of breath. The compliant Child is in command, and his game is “Look How Hard I’ve Tried.” While he is driving, he is almost completely lacking in autonomy, and as a human being he is in essence more dead than alive. It is quite possible that this is the most favorable condition for the development of hypertension or coronary disease.

2. The Sulk, on the other hand, is not so much concerned with arriving on time as in collecting excuses for being late. Mishaps, badly timed lights and poor driving or stupidity on the part of others fit well into his scheme and are secretly welcomed as contributions to his rebellious Child or righteous Parent game of “Look What They Made Me Do.” He, too, is oblivious to his surroundings except as they subscribe to his game, so that he is only half alive. His body is in his car, but his mind is out searching for blemishes and injustices.

3. Less common is the “natural driver,” the man to whom driving a car is a congenial science and art. As he makes his way swiftly and skillfully through the traffic, he is at one with his vehicle. He, too, is oblivious of his surroundings except as they offer scope for the craftsmanship which is its own reward, but he is very much aware of himself and the machine which he controls so well, and to that extent he is alive. Such driving is formally an Adult pastime from which his Child and Parent may also derive satisfaction.

4. The fourth case is the person who is aware, and who will not hurry because he is living in the present moment with the environment which is here: the sky and the trees as well as the feeling of motion. To hurry is to neglect that environment and to be conscious only of something that is still out of sight down the road, or of mere obstacles, or solely of oneself. A Chinese man started to get into a local subway train, when his Caucasian companion pointed out that they could save twenty minutes by taking an express, which they did. When they got off at Central Park, the Chinese man sat down on a bench, much to his friend’s surprise. “Well,” explained the former, “since we saved twenty minutes, we can afford to sit here that long and enjoy our surroundings.” The aware person is alive because he knows how he feels, where he is and when it is. He knows that after he dies the trees will still be there, but he will not be there to look at them again, so he wants to see them now with as much poignancy as possible.


Spontaneity means option, the freedom to choose and express one’s feelings from the assortment available (Parent feelings, Adult Feelings and Child feelings). It means liberation, liberation from the compulsion to play games and have only the feelings one was taught to have.


Intimacy means the spontaneous, game-free candidness of an aware person, the liberation of the eidetically perceptive, uncorrupted Child in all its naïveté living in the here and now. It can be shown experimentally (3) that eidetic perception evokes affection, and that candidness mobilizes positive feelings, so that there is even such a thing as “one-sided intimacy” – a phenomenon well known, although not by that name, to professional seducers, who are able to capture their partners without becoming involved themselves. This they do by encouraging the other person to look at them directly and to talk freely, while the male or female seducer makes only a well-guarded pretense of reciprocating.

Because intimacy is essentially a function of the natural Child (although expressed in a matrix of psychological and social complications), it tends to turn out well if not disturbed by the intervention of games. Usually the adaptation to Parental influences is what spoils it, and most unfortunately this is almost a universal occurrence. But before, unless and until they are corrupted, most infants seem to be loving (4), and that is the essential nature of intimacy, as shown experimentally.


  1. Berne, E. “Primal Images & Primal Judgment.” Psychiatric Quarterly. 29: 634-658, 1955.
  2. Jaensch, E. R. Eidetic Imagery. Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1930.
  3. These experiments are still in the pilot stage at the San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars. The effective experimental use of transactional analysis requires special training and experience, just as the effective experimental use of chromatography or infrared spectrophotometry does. Distinguishing a game from a pastime is no easier than distinguishing a star from a planet. See Berne, E. “The Intimacy Experiment.” Transactional Analysis Bulletin. 3: 113, 1964. “More About Intimacy.” Ibid. 3: 125, 1964.
  4. Some infants are corrupted or starved very early (marasmus, some colics) and never have a chance to exercise this capacity.


* Adapted from: Eric Berne M.D. (1910-1970). Games People Play – The Psychology of Human Relationships (1964). Chapter 16, page 158.

We and They

Father and Mother, and Me,

Sister and Auntie say

All the people like us are We,

And every one else is They.

And They live over the sea,

While We live over the way,

But-would you believe it? – They look upon We

As only a sort of They!


We eat pork and beef

With cow-horn-handled knives.

They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,

Are horrified out of Their lives;

While they who live up a tree,

And feast on grubs and clay,

(Isn’t it scandalous? ) look upon We

As a simply disgusting They!


We shoot birds with a gun.

They stick lions with spears.

Their full-dress is un-.

We dress up to Our ears.

They like Their friends for tea.

We like Our friends to stay;

And, after all that, They look upon We

As an utterly ignorant They!


We eat kitcheny food.

We have doors that latch.

They drink milk or blood,

Under an open thatch.

We have Doctors to fee.

They have Wizards to pay.

And (impudent heathen!) They look upon We

As a quite impossible They!


All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They:

But if you cross over the sea,

Instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!) looking on We

As only a sort of They!


Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

The Shadow: It is as evil as we are positive

“Where there is light, there must be shadow, and where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow. Karl Jung said this about ‘the Shadow’ in one of his books: ‘It is as evil as we are positive…the more desperately we try to be good and wonderful and perfect, the more the Shadow develops a definite will to be black and evil and destructive…The fact is that if one tries beyond one’s capacity to be perfect, the Shadow descends to hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.”

1Q84 (Book 2, Chapter 13), 2011Haruki Murakami (1949).

One would be foolish to consider oneself better, or even different…

“One would be foolish to consider oneself better, or even different, merely because one could claim something others could not. The crowdedness of family life and the faithfulness of solitude – both brave decisions, or both decisions of cowardice- make little dent, in the end, on the profound and perplexing loneliness in which every human heart dwells.”

Kinder than solitude (2014), Page 61. Yiyun Li (1972).

Ser en las pequeñas cosas



Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada

        Teu exagera ou exclui.

Sê todo em cada coisa. Põe quanto és

        No mínimo que fazes.

Assim em cada lago a lua toda

        Brilha, porque alta vive.

Odes de Ricardo Reis, Fernando Pessoa.


Sabemos que podemos vivir en un mundo diferente pero no actuamos. ¿Cómo debemos actuar? No creo que se trate de acciones que la mayoría parece entender como “radicales”. Creo que actuar para mejorar el mundo (o transformar lo negativo en positivo, por decirlo de alguna manera) significa actuar cada día y en pequeño.

La batalla contra la corrupción, el comportamiento injusto y abusivo, la violencia, la mentira, la desigualdad, la pobreza, la discriminación (racial, de origen, de recursos, sexual o cualquier otra), etcétera, no se gana solamente con manifestaciones, revoluciones o palabras elocuentes. Esa batalla se debe ganar cada día, en los proyectos y situaciones más simples, donde no hay dioses o cámaras que observen. Estoy hablando de la manera en que te relacionas con tu familia, con tu(s) pareja(s), tus amigas y amigos, con personas desconocidas, lugares a tu alrededor, tu propia sala, tu propio baño, tu propia casa, todos los lugares que habitas, el cuerpo que habitas, el cuerpo de los demás, tus imágenes, las imágenes de los demás, tus palabras, tu tiempo…

Si no trabajas por el bienestar tuyo, de tu familia y de quienes te rodean, ¿cómo esperas que las cosas cambien para bien? Si crees que las personas que no conoces merecen menos respeto que las que conoces, ¿cómo esperas vivir en un mundo sin discriminación? Palabras amables, trabajo honesto y persistente, conversaciones sin violencia para encontrar una solución que nos sirva a todas y todos, respeto por la diversidad (espiritual, religiosa, sexual…), respeto por los acuerdos mutuos, amor, baile, alegría, artes, más tiempo para lo real y tangible, menos tiempo para lo virtual y ajeno, cosas simples en suma, pero reales. Deja de hablar y comienza a escuchar y actuar.

Haz lo correcto. Si no estás segura o seguro de qué es lo correcto pues infórmate, lee, aprende y recuerda que todas y todos somos personas dignas de amor y respeto. Si alguien te dice que otra persona es menos que tú por su preferencia sexual, religiosa, por su origen, condición social o alguna otra excusa, ten la seguridad de que te están confundiendo para favorecer intereses privados y no para mejorar el mundo. Revisa nuestra historia: no sabemos casi nada a ciencia cierta, lo único claro es que la persecución, la violencia, la imposición y el abuso no han mejorado el mundo nunca.

Vivimos bajo la tiranía de un par de personas muy poderosas que nos quitan muchas cosas cada día. No dejes que te quiten la capacidad de vivir bien antes de que mueras. Siempre se puede decidir por lo correcto mientras se esté con vida. Vive tu vida con compromiso y entrégate a cada momento, contempla las consecuencias y el placer de lo más mínimo que haces. La gran revolución que estamos esperando es la revolución del día a día, el cambio personal, el compromiso. Si tienes el valor para trabajar en ti misma o en ti mismo, ver lo que haces mal y juzgar tu rol en tu vida y la vida de las personas que interactúan contigo, entonces tienes el valor para vivir una vida mejor: tu propia vida.


En las palabras de Fernando Pessoa (como Ricardo Reis):

“Para ser grande, sé entero: nada

tuyo exageres o excluyas.

Sé todo en cada cosa. Pon cuanto eres

en lo mínimo que haces.

Así en cada lago la luna entera

brilla, porque alta vive.”


El Matallana


Alberto Caeiro’s way

A. Caeiro’s way

The invisible hand of the wind

skirts over the grasses

When it lets go,

jumping between the green intervals

crimson poppies

yellow daisies together

and some other blue flowers

that you couldn’t see straightaway


I don’t have whom to love

nor life that I want

nor death that I steal

Through me

like through the grasses

a wind that only bends them

to let them be what they were


Also through me

a desire uselessly blows

the stems of my intentions

the flowers of what I imagine

and everything turns to what it was

with nothing that takes place.


Non-official translation from the original in Portuguese: “A mão invisível do vento…(À la manière de A. Caeiro)”, Ricardo Reis (Fernando Pessoa, 1888-1935).

If you want to read the Spanish version of this poem, follow this link:


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Calm and delight



Feel the wind again

and the sun shining from the stone

Wild flowers dance like a pendulum

The space is wide and open

Freedom and life are nothing but few instants


We are far away from what we seem to be

yet closer to ourselves

and together

sharing silence

silent dreams

a smile invisible on our faces

dancing unpretentiously in our hearts

like these daisies

forget me nots

and poppies

swaying in our joyful distraction


puppies move their tails

you twirl your hair round your finger

my nose rests on your temples

and something warm swirls up inside

like dust swirls in the air, light,

perhaps this is the happiness they strive for

or maybe something else, pure, delight,

for us and for now

nameless and ephemeral

lonely and calm


El Matallana

Have A Good Time

“Yesterday, it was my birthday.
I hung one more year on the line.
I should be depressed.
My life’s a mess.
But I’m having a good time.

I’ve been loving and loving and loving.
I’m exhausted from loving so well,
I should go to bed.
But a voice in my head says:
“Ah, what the hell”.”

Paul Simon, Have A Good Time, album Still crazy after all these years, released on October 25, 1975.

Refugiarse en la lectura


Hace poco tuve una conversación con una amiga del Reino Unido que trabaja “educando” refugiados en Malta. Mi amiga Jessie me preguntó si yo tenía alguna experiencia con analfabetismo y en mi opinión cuál era la diferencia entre una persona que puede leer (y lee) y una persona que no puede leer. Más que responder a su pregunta lo que hicimos fue dialogar, como pasa a menudo.

A pesar de que casi todos los refugiados que logran llegar vivos a Malta no saben leer y/o escribir propiamente (ni en inglés, ni en maltés, ni en sus lenguas maternas), la mayoría habla varios idiomas, entre dos y cuatro diferentes, antes de empezar a ser “educados” en inglés. Por ejemplo, un buen grupo habla distintas formas del árabe, además de otras lenguas y dialectos, dependiendo del lugar de origen. Entonces deben ser personas analfabetas muy diferentes a aquellas que se han quedado en su lugar de origen y no han recibido educación en su propio idioma. Quizá son personas que tienen formas de aprender especiales, ya que se han enfrentado a retos diferentes y tienen el sueño de integrarse en Europa o al menos de vivir una vida “normal” en cualquier lugar. Especulamos, porque es difícil saber cuáles son los verdaderos sueños de alguien y aún más de un grupo.

Los refugiados a los que ella enseña están atrapados en Malta (la isla era sólo una estación), tratando de aprender a leer, hablar y escribir en inglés como parte de un plan que les promete una vida mejor. Después de un rato hablando sobre el tema, Jessie me preguntó si yo pensaba que valía la pena enseñar a leer a los refugiados sabiendo que ellas y ellos necesitan más y urgentemente tantas otras cosas.

Pienso que en el juego del mundo actual hay varios tipos de perdedores, pero los más evidentes son los desplazados, los refugiados, los diferentes y los más pobres en general. Pero hay personas en el mundo sin ninguna voz, dentro y fuera de ese grupo de perdedores evidentes. Hay personas muriendo silenciosamente en todas partes, sufriendo en alguno de los barrios olvidados de Latinoamérica o en las calles de las ciudades indiferentes de India, en los países sin nombre de África o en los rincones no tan oscuros de Asia, Australia y Europa. China, Estados Unidos y Rusia son en ese sentido mundos aparte, contribuyendo especialmente a la miseria que aceptamos actualmente como humanidad.

¿Qué puede hacer la lectura por los refugiados, en un contexto cínico, pesimista y autocompasivo como ese? Mucho, le dije a Jessie. Cuando yo vivía en Cali y era (más) pobre, la lectura me dio perspectiva. Leer fue una de las actividades que me ayudó a entender la situación en la que me encontraba y me mostró que algo mejor era posible. Leer me puso en contacto con personas vivas y muertas, del pasado y de un posible futuro. Los libros me mostraron mundos y formas posibles, relativismo cultural, lenguas, lugares, mentes, visiones, pesadillas, religiones, sensaciones, luchas ganadas y perdidas, ideas y sueños que también podrían ser los míos.  Descubrí con palabras el horror y la belleza. Poco a poco encontré no sólo un lugar donde esconderme y aliviar las tensiones de la pobreza, sino una identidad formada por palabras que con el tiempo dejaron de ser ajenas.

Cuando lees también aprendes a pensar y a expresarte. Desarrollas tu imaginación como un nuevo músculo, como un nuevo sentido. Trasciendes tu posición actual y te concibes más allá de ti mismo o de ti misma, más allá de lo que crees que eres. Al fin y al cabo, toda vida es fantasía, toda vida es un cuento que nos cuentan y nos contamos. Leer te da herramientas para construir y narrar tu propia vida. A través de la lectura también puedes buscar lo que eres, narrar tu ser y lo que realmente deseas. Si bien no sólo de palabras se puede vivir, no se puede vivir sin palabras. Tener acceso a las múltiples voces del mundo es uno de los requisitos fundamentales para disminuir tu pobreza. Con pobreza me refiero a algo más que lo material. Me refiero a la pobreza como a la incapacidad de llevar la vida que queremos mientras contribuimos al bienestar nuestro y al de quienes nos rodean. Ser rico significa estar contento con la vida que uno lleva, dar y recibir amor en todas sus diversas formas, provocar sonrisas en las personas con las que eliges compartir y rodearte, experimentar lo que quieres, ir a donde quieres, respetar todas las formas de vida y todas las formas en que las personas que respetan tu integridad quieren llevar sus vidas… La persona que lee tiene la posibilidad de caminar en dirección a esa riqueza. El camino hacia nosotros mismos comienza en la autoconsciencia y la imaginación, y ambas cosas se nutren de palabras.

Más o menos ese fue el diálogo que tuvimos. Jessie se fue contenta a enseñar inglés a los refugiados y yo seguí leyendo.

El Matallama