by Fanita English, MSW, – TM.



Definitions of Freedom and Responsibility vary according to context, family, culture, and religion,

Our personal views and behaviors are also significantly affected by one or more of three UNCONSCIOUS MOTIVATORS that channel our emotional energy through our ego states. They are:-

1) The Survival Motivator (“Survia”) which operates primarily for personal survival, so we care about safety and physical and emotional nourishment (strokes).

2) The Passionate/Expressive Motivator (“Passia”) which urges activity for personal freedom, curiosity, exploration, sexuality, and self-expression, without regard for conventionality or strokes.

3) The Transcience/Quiescence Motivator (“Transcia”) which influences us to “let go” of every-day concerns, and to sleep.

Each Motivator has different characteristic attributes. They are the particular feelings, emotions, attitudes, thoughts and behaviors that may be engendered or stimulated within any one of our functional ego states by the corresponding Motivator. A list of some attributes for each Motivator is attached.

A person may experience many inner conflicts between the inner dictates of freedom loving Passia and what cautious Survia might advocate as responsible behavior. Such dilemmas can be multiplied in social relationships, as illustrated by examples.

Emotional balance is maintained by rotation among our Motivators, although we each tend to have a preferred Motivator that will affect us primarily for major decisions.





The late Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was a staunch defender of freedom, yet he proclaimed: ” Liberty does not give you the license to scream ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre.” I suppose most of us would agree with the implication of this statement, which is that however much we value personal freedom, sometimes responsibility to others may have to curtail even freedom of speech, let alone behavior.


However, as soon as we try to define “others” more narrowly, we come up different definitions of freedom and responsibility, according to many different values:- those of our particular family, our culture, our religion, and/or our own conscience as defined either by our Parent, our Adult, or the felt needs of our Child. We may find much dissonance among different definitions, and experience some discomfort if we seek to reconcile ensuing contradictions in our own mind. This is because we are constantly being influenced unconsciously by three Motivators that operate our emotional energy in three divergent ways.


I have described these Motivators, (which I formerly called Forces or Drives) and how they interact with our functional ego states, in a videotape produced by ITAA (English, l998) and in a chapter in a book. (English, 2oo3). I suggested that we can visualize our Motivators as three Goddesses or Muses who influence us. Let me now also describe them here briefly before illustrating how the same person may define both personal freedom and responsibility very differently according to whichever Motivator is operative at a given time.


Our three unconscious Motivators and their priorities are:

1. The Survival Motivator; (“Survia” for short) – which operates to ensure our personal survival.

2. The Passionate/Expressive Motivator (“Passia”) which ensures the survival of our species both by sexual procreation and by inventions and creative discoveries without which our species would have become extinct through destruction by larger animals.

3. The Transcience/Quiescence Motivator (“Transcia”) which helps us transcend every-day reality and “let go” to quietude, including sleep.


Each Motivator influences us is by means of different characteristic attributes that can be experienced or manifested in any one of our three ego states. Attributes are the particular feelings, emotions, attitudes, thoughts, (and, sometimes, behaviors) that may be engendered or stimulated within any one of our functional ego states by a particular Motivator. For instance:

Hunger, an attribute of Survia, may motivate someone to get the nourishment needed to live. Fear, another attribute of Survia, motivates to self-protection.

The urge for free self-expression, an attribute of Passia, may lead to the creativity that has benefited our species. Recklessness, another attribute of Passia, may lead to exploration and discoveries.

Quietude, an attribute of Transcia, may help us sleep and relax. Sprituality, another attribute of Transcia, may help us soar beyond everyday reality.


Some additional attributes for each Motivator are listed at the end of this paper.. You will notice that any attribute can be seen as “positive” or “negative” according to different contexts, perspectives, or value systems. Sometimes an attribute can become counterproductive to the purposes of the Motivator which stimulates it. For instance fear is an important attribute for survival as it encourages taking appropriate safety measures. However fear can deteriorate into exaggerated anxiety and actually undermine survival . Note, also, that one Motivator may inspire certain attributes that are contradictory to attributes of another Motivator, although under certain circumstances certain attributes of two Motivators may combine quite well. For instance Passia encourages risk-taking and Survia encourages caution. A person may benefit from taking certain risks, but then again be prevented by Survia from overdoing it. All this makes for the enormous variety of attitudes and behaviors of human beings!


In the course of a typical day, each one of us will probably have been influenced by all three Motivators in some form of rotation, sometimes by a combination of two, with the third one coming on later, alone or along with one of the two others. It is thanks to such rotation that we maintain emotional balance most of the time and have the ability to use our energy effectively according to our needs and wishes. However, sometimes two Motivators may combine for too long a time and prevent the third from taking a turn, causing an inner “traffic jam”. We may then feel blocked or confused or restless or exhausted until there is relatively smooth operation again. To illustrate, take a typical day for Ann:-


In the morning Survia awakens Ann from sleep. During the night Transcia kept her sleeping, sometimes in combination with Passia, who got Ann to dream. Now Survia takes priority, as Ann goes about washing, dressing, breakfasting, etc., and Transcia retreats. Passia may stay on to combine with Survia as Ann sings in the shower or puzzles over some ideas or fantasies, but then she retreats as Survia gets Ann to focus on being careful while driving to work. In the course of the day Passia may return if Ann becomes interested in her work, and Transcia may also come on later, demanding that she take a break and relax. Or perhaps Passia comes on as Ann daydreams about her own project rather than her job assignment, till Survia reminds her the supervisor is watching and she had better concentrate on her job. So far, Ann has functioned well. Her Motivators have relayed one another or combined quite smoothly. They have not caused Ann any inner conflicts or problems with others.


However, as indicated above, if one or two Motivators dominate so much or so long that the third one is left out, there can be trouble. For instance, if Ann daydreams at her desk all day, happily combining Transcia with Passia, she may get fired, and Survia may take over with a jolt, perhaps to urge Ann to look for another job or by overwhelming her with anxiety about survival in our competitive world. Here, Ann’s freedom to daydream and her supervisor’s view of her responsibility to the company that employs her have come into conflict. Emotional turmoil can also occur as a result of an inner tug-of-war between two Motivators at times of making decisions.


Even though, as illustrated with Ann, we maintain balance when all three Motivators influence us in turn at various moments of the day, for life-time patterns, or life scripts, if you will, most of us will tend to favor a particular Motivator, the attributes of which are most likely to represent our genetic tendencies combined with acquired values in our Parent and Adult. Thus, choices between Freedom and Responsibility can be weighted very differently by each of us, according to our preferred Motivator. Furthermore, when it comes to relationships and transactions, be they between parents and adolescent children, or husband and wife, and, yes, between the individual and the social norms of his/her culture, as well as between one political system and another, definitions and ensuing rights and obligations are going to be defined very differently, precisely according to which one of the three Motivators gets priority for each person or group.


Specifically, in regard to important decisions, someone who favors Survia is likely to choose duty (defined as responsibility – whether by Adapted Child, Parent, or Adult) over individual freedoms. A person who favors Passia may disregard personal responsibilities for the sake of personal freedom, or, like certain revolutionaries, may take on responsibility for the freedom of others, according to personal ideals, without necessarily checking out their wishes or caring about consequences. Someone who favors Transcia may avoid getting involved with any social issues – an attitude others may consider to be irresponsible. Thus major conflicts may occur within families or nations, or between them, as each maintains the point of view supported by his/her own principal Motivator.


For therapists and counselors it can be useful to keep such distinctions in mind, especially in working with families, just as we need to keep cultural differences in mind when one or another parties to a conflict rigidly or passionately defends a particular stance against an equally determined stance of another party.


Here is an amusing way to identify which Motivator is affecting someone at a given moment:- On taking leave, a person might use the Parent or Child to say what is often said to the self. So a person who prefers Survia might say: “Take care! Someone with Passia might urge: “Have fun!”, and someone with Transcia might suggest: “Take it easy!”


Here are examples of major choices made by individuals between personal freedom and responsibility, as defined by them. I leave it up to you to evaluate their choices according to your own standards, which may differ even from those of your colleagues or friends.


l. Motivated by Passia, (sometimes in combination with Transcia), Gauguin felt he must have the freedom to devote his life to art. Accordingly he reneged on his socially determined responsibility to support his wife and children and moved away to Tahiti to paint. There, (according to his letters), he found willing, undemanding, sexual partners among the beautiful Tahitian women he painted. He does not seem to have felt responsible for probably having infected them with his syphilis. Now, long after his death, many of us may benefit from the beauty of Gauguin’s paintings, without noting the cost.

2. Motivated by Survia, perhaps combined with Passia, Jessica Lynch enlisted in the U.S. army to earn money for college tuition, hoping a degree might free her from getting stuck with a dull low-paid job. This was before the Iraq conflict. She had to accept responsibility for the contract she had signed, and thus did not have the freedom to refuse to be sent to Iraq . Thus her survival motivation turned out to be counterproductive and endangered her. Indeed, she was severely wounded in the legs and the very freedom for the future that she had enlisted for was severely curtailed even after discharge.


3. Due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Dalai Lama had to determine what were his responsibilities under those new circumstances. Motivated by Transcia, (perhaps also Survia), he decided that rather than fight the invaders (as Passia might have urged him to do, even to the death), it was his responsibility to leave Tibet and move to India in order to have the freedom to continue to represent the spiritual legacy of Tibetan Buddhism.

Of course even when one Motivator is clearly the principal one in a person’s life, some people manage to maintain good balance among their Motivators much of the time in the course of their lives except regarding rucial decisions. Maria, (later, Madame Curie) was such an example. Obviously,, Passia was her principal Motivator. She was determined to become a scientist, and overcame numerous difficulties to come to France from her native Poland , study physics and gain the exceptional opportunity to work in a research laboratory. Yet she did not completely exclude other Motivators. She married fellow-scientist Pierre Curie, and, regardless of her scientific passion, managed to be a responsible wife and mother. However, once her daughters were grown and independent, she was free to operate again primarily according to her passion. It had become obvious that if she continued with her work on radium there would be fatal consequences to her health. However, now only Passia determined her choice: – she would continue. Regardless of numerous warnings, she proceeded with her research on the properties of radium, and died of cancer as a consequence of her excessive exposure to radioactivity.


For the sake of self-knowledge it can be interesting to identify one’s preferred Motivator, with the advantages and disadvantages each entails for personal fulfillment or one’s role in life. Exercises can be developed in the course of a workshop with the help of a moderator. Otherwise, the reader might want to look again at the list at the end of this article, and, perhaps together with one or more friends, ascertain which attributes seem particularly attractive or repulsive. Remember that often a repulsive attribute is the exaggeration or distortion of an attractive one; for instance greed is an exaggeration of a healthy appetite; cruelty is a distortion of essential curiosity; indifference is an exaggeration of peacefulness, and so on. Principally, notice which Motivator seems most attractive in its totality rather than getting too involved with the details of attributes. Do compare and discuss with friends, if you can. This can lead to new insights about your tendencies and priorities as well as your personal definitions of freedom and responsibility for situations where they may conflict with one another.


I want to add that sometimes one Motivator will take priority over a period of years, then be replaced as the principal Motivator by another Motivator at another stage of life, and there can be yet another major change at another stage – sometimes stimulated by new circumstances and new relationships.


References :


English, F. (l998) – Videotape, “The Forces within Us” – available through ITAA.

English, F. (2003) – How are you? And how am I? pp. 55-71 in:C. Sills & H. Hargarden (ed) Ego States – Key Concepts in Transactional Analysis: Contemporary Views. London, Worth publishing, Ltd.









All bodily feelings that signal essential survival needs for nourishment and elimination, for shelter, clothing, protection, safety and strokes. Thus: – Hunger, thirst, need to urinate or defecate, pain, feeling cold, hot, sweaty, etc.

Needs for security, for physical and symbolic strokes and respect; thus also greed, competitiveness, gluttony, covetousness, envy, defensiveness, arrogance, subservience, humility, defensiveness, efforts for power and control (of self and others) Quest for rules and order, and for material success and recognition.


Needs for self expression, self determination, freedom, and all opportunities that may lead to discovery, creativity, invention and procreation (physical or symbolic). Disregard of strokes from others.

Thus: Curiosity, interest in exploration, playfulness, pleasure, excitement, enthusiasm, idealism, risk-taking, recklessness, stimulus hunger, interest in new paradigms, adventure, experimentation (sexual and otherwise) imagination, involvement with a project to the point of obsessive ness without concern about worldly success, impracticality, disdain of conventionality but concern about progeny and about impact on posterity.



All broad “other-worldly” or spiritual needs, including the need for sleep and quiet relaxation beyond every day reality and the pressure of the two other Motivators. Thus: a sense of connection to the Universe, placidity, calm, peacefulness, restfulness, passivity. Meditative and philosophical attitudes, withdrawal, morbidity, harmony with nature and ecology, deep contemplative appreciation of music and art.



For instance: Sexuality can relate to vanity and stroke exchanges ( Survia) to sexual activity that can lead to procreation, including lust ( Passia) to Transcia (as a spiritual union)

Selfishness, Altruism, and Idealism can be rated according to inner motivation, not outcome, also:.

Aggression, Love, Hate. For instance: Aggression:-To defend self -Survia .

To explore, regardless of consequences to self or others- Passia. Passivity (as in Passive/Aggressive) – Transcia.



For instance: Parenting requires attributes of Passia in combination with attributes of Survia, but Transcia’s attributes are also required at times. Similarly, good relationships involve complex interactions among a preferred Motivator of one party with a preferred Motivator of the other party , often with the mediation of the third Motivator.



An edited version of this article is published in the Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 36, No. 2, April 2006, pp. 172-175

Last Updated ( Sunday, 11 June 2006 )

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