saata VOL: 2, ISSUE: 2 - APRIL 2018 facebook

SAATA ITAA Conference-2016 team
Force or Source - I.A. Mohanraj home
Karen-Pratt I. A. Mohanraj, has International Accreditation as Certified Transactional Analyst (CTA-O) in the organisational field. He is a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).His professional mission is to help individuals develop effective interpersonal relations to realise their capacity of autonomy for better quality of life . He is co-founder and Director of Relations Institute of Development. He is a trustee of SAATA.

In this article I present my thoughts on the notion of 'force' in the context of change. I will be relating the idea of force from Lewin's force-field analysis and extend its implication to the psychological and social domain of personal change. This is a crystallization of my thoughts in the course of preparing and delivering a session on 'Force' at the TA Study Circle of Coimbatore.

The Question!
I used to wonder "What acts on me when I want to do something or when I don't want to do something?" I also often see clients struggle with the question, "how come even though I want to change I am not able to be in my desired state?" All of us would have experienced moments where, as if there is some force stopping us from moving forward even when our desired state of change is clear. I found an explanation to this question in Lewin's force-field analysis.

Force-field analysis
Kurt Lewin is one of the pioneers of group dynamics. His force field analysis model is very useful to diagnosis and to make necessary intervention for the desired state. Kurt Lewin views culture as being in a state of equilibrium.

"A culture is not a painted picture; it is a living process, composed of countless social interactions. Like a river whose form and velocity are determined by the balance of those forces that tend to make the water flow faster, and the friction that tends to make the water flow more slowly the cultural pattern of a people at a given time is maintained by a balance of counteracting forces." (Lewin, K. 1948. Resolving Social Conflicts, p.46)

This is schematically represented in the diagram below.

Force and change
When asked a group of participants in a workshop, 'what does force mean to you?', following were some of the responses - push, enslaving, compelling, demanding, stress, resistance, pressure, engulfing, energy, natural, friction. It's not uncommon that force is experienced as pressure. Different definitions of force* indicate that the perception of force varies in different contexts:

  • Force is a push or pull
  • Force is the capacity to do work or cause physical change
  • Force= Mass times acceleration (F = ma)
  • A force is that which changes or tends to change the state of rest or motion of a body
  • Force is any action that tends to maintain or alter the motion of a body or to distort it.

In the workshop I asked the participants to explore their life experiences with the force field model, in the context of wanting to change something that they found hard to.
Observations that emerged were:

  • Knowing very well there are only few factors or force acting on me towards resisting the change, I am not able to overcome them.
  • Change is inevitable, and healthy! I know it in my mind how come I am not able to change!
  • Restraining forces are less in number while the driving forces are more. There is no movement because there is equilibrium.
  • The restraining forces are given more weightage. The benefiting force or driving force has less weightage.
  • The associated TA perspective to more weightage is due to Grandiosity (Schiff ,1975) and less weightage is due to Discounting (Schiff ,1975) which reflects as passive behaviors, over detailing emerges, etc . The script, and script behaviors, rackets, racket feelings, stamps, games, etc. ensure to keeps us in the equilibrium.
  • To bring in the required momentum and shift to the desired state we need to adopt the antithesis of discounting, which is Accounting.

According to Kurt Lewin, "To bring about any change, the balance between the forces which maintain the social self-regulation at a given level has to be upset" (Lewin, K. 1948. Resolving Social Conflicts, p.47.)

He proposes the following steps to change:

  • Unfreezing - reduce strength of forces which maintain current equilibrium.
  • Moving- developing new values, attitude, behaviour, to help move the organization /organism
  • Refreezing - stabilizing after the change to bring to equilibrium

Even though he referred to social change, the same principles are applicable to personal/psychological change as well.

Homeostasis and Change
Maintaining the equilibrium of the body (and mind too?) becomes the primary consideration of any organism. In the case of gravitational force, the total weight of a body may be assumed to be concentrated at its centre of gravity. Using this metaphor, in the context of personal change we can ask, 'What is my centre of gravity which helps to the desired change?' or 'What is my equilibrium based on?'

I explored with the participants what TA concepts could be related to the metaphor of centre of gravity, and we came up with the following list:

  • Physis
  • Integration
  • Spontaneity
  • Choice
  • Outcome
  • Awareness
  • Attitude
  • Action

According to me, the key to all the above is to keep our centre of gravity grounded in OK-ness. Like the compass which always points to the North which helps us figure out other directions, OK-ness acts as the compass of life. Looking at my own life experiences, what has helped me to bounce back is the life compass - belief of the OK-ness within and acceptance of reality. The centredness of the roly-poly (or our own Tanjore) doll fascinates me. You push it from any direction to any extent, it moves around, but eventually 'always' finds its centre and rests in equilibrium, head high! Do we do that when faced with the pushes and pulls of life and our relationships?

Force or Source?
I contend that we can find our centre and be resilient when we reframe any destabilizing ‘force’ as ‘source’. Then we experience a shift within to look at the force objectively. In literature, source analysis ( classifies sources as

  • Primary source: original work, as well as historical items and references close to the subject - which is original, historical, had been by the person's experience.
  • Secondary source: reports that draw on research and other references to make interpretive, analytical, or synthesized claims - interpretation of original works without direct experience of it.
  • Tertiary sources: materials that provide an overview of primary and secondary sources,

I find an interesting correlation between these three classifications of sources and ego states:

  • The Child ego state is our primary source as it is our own original experience.
  • The Parent ego state is our secondary source as it has been borrowed or copied or introjected from external sources, and
  • The Adult ego state is the tertiary source which uses the Parent and Child ego state experiences as resources while facing life situations.

When the need for change arises, often the Parent and Child pull us in opposite directions, which upsets our homeostasis – leading to unfreezing of the status quo. The Adult mediates and weighs the stakes and offers the supplementary forces to shift the system to the desired state. Finally changes in the Parent and Child ego states are stabilized and refreezing leads to the new desired state of change. Therefore, any force that disturbs the equilibrium could be a source for change, when assessed from our sense of OK-ness.

The force field analysis indicates the dynamics of change. The fear of change coupled with the drive to stay in equilibrium limits one from change. Changing the forces acting on us, unfreezes the current state, forms the desired state and refreezes to a new equilibrium, until the next need for change emerges.

'Accounting' and knowing the forces that act upon our psyche could facilitate our change process. When one identifies the OK-ness within, one finds the centre of gravity which helps us to move towards 'autonomy'. When there is a shift in perception of 'force as pressure' to 'force as source', then the 'pressure' of the force becomes a 'pleasure', an essential element for sustainable change.

To conclude, force is an inevitable and essential element needed for us to grow and change.


Lewin, K (1948). Resolving Social Conflicts. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, pp 46-47.
Mellor, K., & Schiff, E. (1975). Discounting. Transactional Analysis Journal, 5(3), 295-302.

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