The Physis Arrow – a symbol of hope and aspiration

The Physis Arrow – a symbol of hope and aspiration

Maya Jayapal

Counsellor, Teacher and Writer


The Physis Arrow is the arrow of hope and aspiration, embodying that force which helps us to break out of one’s life script. Life Script, in Transactional Analysis, explains one’s limiting and repetitive patterns of feeling, thinking and behaviour.

Sounds easy enough, but this rather blasé definition conceals a wealth of meaning much beyond a mere exposition or expression. It describes a casting off of the Child’s inhibitions and fears, which prevent growth and self actualisation; self knowledge and self-scrutiny (Bollas 1987).

So what is the meaning of the word Physis? How is Physis relevant to therapy and the therapeutic process and how does it impact the process of counselling?

Physis – Its Meaning and Relevance

The word Physis comes from the Greek word Phusus, referring to the primeval goddess of origin and ordering of nature. It is the healing force in Greek mythology. In the mighty clash between Zeus and the son of Gaia(Mother Earth), the whole world was torn apart till Phusus healed and closed up the great rifts and rants in the universe; and made possible the resurgence of a new growth.Therefore Physis is the force that imposes order or the regenerative power, which may also be linked to the concept of karma and rebirth, highlighting the rejuvenative power that’s in all of us.

How does knowledge of the concept of resurgence/regeneration help us as counsellors, educators, translators, analysts or therapists, thus needing to pay attention to it; and how can we utilize it for the greatest good of all?

The Greeks associated it with the lingering process of change, which is the only permanent thing in life. Change must happen, the Greeks say, as it is the all powerful force for growing and changing, which in turn gives us life.

It helps us understand  this formula:  Physis  —–>Change —–>Life

Dr.Eric Berne’s definition (although he did not expand on it) says that it is “the growth force of nature, which makes organisms evolve into higher forms, embryos develop into Adults, sick people get better and healthy people strive to attain their ideals”.

How does Physis work for us in our private roles?

We as counsellors are both givers and receivers. We have to be aware that within all of us exists the Physis Arrow or Aspiration Arrow; which rises from the depths of the Somatic Child, goes beyond the Adult and the Parent; and stretches away towards a limitless beyond.

This is the Arrow of Hope. Petrushka Clarkson, who developed the concept far beyond Bernes’s thinking, praises this arrow for encouraging people to break out of script, liberating themselves far beyond imagination.




The world has provided us with countless examples from which we may take heart. Viktor Frankl, whose search for meaning, after a personal tragedy, led to his discovery that, while people cannot choose their circumstances, they can choose their attitude and their will to live; and thrive regardless of countless trials and tribulations.  What is this if not Physis ?

Physis – Famous people who drew their strength from within

So many other examples come to mind: Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandel, Martin Luther King and the countless people who came up in this world; men and women with their unsung songs of bravery, who draw their strength from within themselves, to bring about change in themselves and inspire others.

It is the Aspiration Arrow that makes them not just survive, but thrive; and be shining examples of fortitude and success; by moving out of their Adult and Parent, towards a goal that transcends everything. So that things grow and move towards being perfect. James and Savary say that some call this the “spirit”, the soul or the integrated self.

So it is for us to recognise that within all of us lies this spirit, the Physis Arrow, which highlights the possibility to be potent. From this arises hope, which moves us towards a goal where we can reclaim this lost energy. We need to help the client to harness the transformative quality of human beings, for the good of himself and for the greater good of all, embodied by people like Frankl and Mandela.

How does this spirit arise?

It arises not in isolation but in interaction with others; as in, team spirit, national spirit, universal spirit. It is always connected with others and takes into account the happiness of others as well. Therefore, we enter the realm of spirituality when we do this, by accepting and receiving the spirit of love.

It is the task of the therapist to realise that the Aspiration Arrow exists in everyone; and it is our task to allow the client to re-experience this joyous life force, to facilitate healing and self actualization. The client works in an atmosphere of trust and love; hope and confidence. When we trust our clients and when we encourage them to trust us, we access their fragmented lives; and we facilitate them to be integrated and whole.

In this atmosphere of objective  care and in the sacred space of the therapeutic alliance, each one of us recognises our own potential. This recognition will have a ricocheting effect on the whole world and take us to new dimensions.


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Rekha VV
Rekha VV
5 years ago

Beautifully crafted….the very essence of existence of Human being is to harness it’s potential fully by overcoming various beliefs and help one’s self.