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Autonomy: a Gift for Life

My heart feels warmer and bigger as I watch this boy, Camden, claiming his rightful place in the world, so determined to enjoy himself. Equally, I love the respectful patience and wisdom displayed by his mother in the way she encourages him. It’s very touching.

The story that follows may seem sentimental, even banal, to some. I can assure you it isn’t, and that was the important learning for me in the experience. Quite the contrary: it is as basic as it is necessary because it is life enhancing:

Some ten years ago I was involved in a car crash; I nearly lost my life. After being bedridden in hospital for weeks, I finally made it into a wheelchair, and, after yet a while, I was on crutches. As I struggled towards recovery, humping my way through the hospital corridors, every so often I would hear a voice behind me – the voice of a nurse, the physio, or one of my doctors: «You’re doing well! Clever man – well done,» or, “Yes! You’re moving much faster today – you’re getting the hang of it. Good!» or, «Hey you, Speedy Gonzales! With this much progress you’re going to be out of here before we even realize! Keep up the good work!» – Every time my heart filled up with joy and renewed courage. Yes, yes, yes! I thought – it works, I’ll make it!

These nurses, doctors, and physiotherapists taught me the importance of encouragement – the necessity of praising and encouraging each other – especially when faced with hardships and those seemingly insurmountable challenges which life inevitably throws in our way from time to time.

I’ll be forever grateful to these people who helped and healed me, not just through their great mechanical skills at putting fractured bones and ligaments and sinews back together again (and making bandages look like works of art, too!) but, most of all, through their warmth and caring encouragement at all those challenging junctures and hiccups on the way towards recovery. It brought me back into life and living. What greater gift could one receive?

That’s exactly what this mother in the video does, in my perception: teaching her boy mastery, coaxing forth his inherent sense of his right to be and live fully, to claim autonomy and his rightful place in the world. I recognise myself in that little boy, and I imagine he’s being given a gift for forever, a gift of and for life.

Autonomy, as defined by trasactional analyst Eric Berne

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