Meet Annie and Betty

I have already talked about Annie before. She’s a voice that sits inside me, the one that’s childlike (I talked about her as my inner chimp).

I’m a great fan of transactional analysis as a way of understanding people, and thinking about Annie in relation to that made me realise there must be another voice as well, so I started listening for her. She’s Betty, and if Annie is my Child’s voice, then Betty is very definitely my Parent’s voice. I hadn’t noticed her before because I’d thought it was my own adult voice, but now I’m aware I can tell the difference between the three voices.

For example, it’s a dark cold morning. I tentatively suggest a run. Betty will immediately point out how dark and cold it is, and how it’s likely to rain, and how I have plenty of work to get on with. But if I listen carefully, I’ll then hear Annie saying how actually it sounds like fun, she doesn’t mind getting wet and she thinks it’s a great idea. If I’ve given her that chance, then I can take the two opinions and decide that yes there is work to do, but I also need exercise, and I know that however cold and miserable it might appear, I always enjoy myself when I get out there. At that point Betty will cave in and admit that the exercise will do us all good, and off we go. Annie then takes over and enables me to enjoy the run, while Betty feels satisfied that we gained enough benefit from the experience.

I’ve noticed this when out on parkrun especially. Betty will whinge and whine on occasion, but once we get out there Annie thoroughly enjoys herself and is disappointed if we don’t come back covered in mud and soaking wet.

The easiest way to get anything done is to get both Annie and Betty to agree to it. If we’re all pulling the same way we’re unstoppable, but if those two start fighting then things grind to a halt and we achieve very little. If I go too much one way for too long, the other one will sulk big-time, and I have to find a way to placate her.

If I go anywhere new, then Betty is often in charge. Betty is quiet and withdrawn, and will observe rather than taking part. But once I settle and relax, then Annie can come out to play, and that’s when I start growing more confident.

It’s a pain at times: Annie craves new things, while Betty’s afraid of change. Betty is suspicious and cautious; Annie will charge in without thinking, and sometimes cause problems. I’ve paid less attention to Annie than I could have done, because she does occasionally say really stupid things, so I stopped listening properly. But I’m starting to realise that I’ll get on much better if I listen to her, because she balances Betty out, and if I hear both sides of the story I can come to a balanced decision. So armed with the power to recognise the difference between Betty’s voice and my own ideas, I’m starting to ask for Annie’s opinion more and more and to respect her suggestions. The outcome, I hope, is a more balanced life, with both of them having an active hand in decisions but with me firmly in charge as referee and final arbiter.

I do find transactional analysis fascinating, and if you haven’t read about it I thoroughly recommend the books The Games People Play and I’m OK You’re OK. The power gained by recognising the three states, Parent, Child and Adult, and by being able to identify issues caused by them, is amazing.


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