Autonomy or being autonomous refers to the ability and right to self-governance despite external or
internal pressures. Greater autonomy for a country would mean the country’s government is able to
take its decisions and act independently regardless of external pressures from other countries or
internal civil pressures.
Human beings can be autonomous if they are able to govern themselves with an independent thought
process, authentic feelings and a belief system that is constantly evolving, despite what they have learnt
from society.
Eric Berne, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, describes “Autonomy” as being ‘manifested by the release
or recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity and intimacy.’

  1. Awareness
    An aware person is in contact with his own bodily sensations and instincts as well as the external stimuli.
    As we grow up most of us are systematically trained to deaden our awareness.
    For example, as a teacher explains, I may be engaged in an internal monologue: ‘This is so boring. Why
    should I care what happened a hundred years ago. I wonder when this is going to finish?’
    If I let myself become aware, I switch off this internal voice in my head. I simply experience the lesson
    and be fully immersed in the happenings.
  2. Spontaneity
    Spontaneity means the capacity to choose from a range of options in feeling, thinking and behaving. An
    aware person experiences the world, and the spontaneous person responds to the world: directly,
    without distorting reality or reinterpreting it according to his upbringing or the norms of society.
  3. Intimacy
    Intimacy is into-me-see and so means an open sharing of feelings and wants between two people. It
    refers to an empathic way of communication which caters to both people’s needs and wants. The
    prerequisite to intimacy is emotional awareness and self-awareness necessary to detect feelings and
    patterns involved in a communicational transaction.
    In Schiffian terms we can say that the autonomous person engages in problem solving instead of
    passivity. Here, problem solving does not imply thinking to find a solution to a problem but also taking
    effective action to bring that solution about.
    An autonomous or fully functioning individual either takes ACTION or LET’s GO.

Whenever anyone makes a significant change in their mindset and behaviours they will experience a
natural high for some time, often reverting back to old patterns and behavior. But the old behavior is no
longer satisfying as it used to be. This time they do not stay there for long coming out of it and making
the shift permanent.
(The above is inspired from the Book TA Today where Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis theory is
consolidated, written by Ian Stewart and Vann Joines)
When we make a Venn Diagram of the three, we end up with overlapping two capacities which in turn
can give us a further understanding into the subject of Autonomy and Leadership.

  1. Command
    When a person is self-aware, he understands all his unconscious reactions and habits. He begins to
    change them consciously. All this awareness he is able to become spontaneous or PRESENT in the
    moment. He is fully aware of his needs and wants and direction. He takes decisions accordingly.
  2. Connection
    Armed with self-awareness about themselves and others, the effective communication possible builds a
    connection that benefits both parties involved. With awareness we know who we are and subsequently
    know what we really want. This ensures exactly who to connect with, how much. Building everlasting
    connections is an art only the self-aware are able to master.
  3. Confidence
    Lastly when a person is spontaneous and witty and, in the moment, and communicates well with others,
    he is seen as a genuinely confident person ready to communicate with anyone or many for that matter.
    Becoming autonomous is essentially a goal or outcome every therapist or psychologist and every
    educational institute seeks; in fact, every individual is seeking. It can only begin to work from starting to
    look within – achieving Self-Awareness first.