Which of Your Ego States is in Charge of Your Thoughts?

16743869894_c3a18b4460_zTransactional analysis is the method I used to identify what the committee in my head was saying to me. I found that I was using two ego states: spoiled brat and punishing parent. No wonder I was miserable. Transactional analysis helps you to define your inner child, inner parent, and inner adult.

When I started my transformation in 1976, I found books by Eric Berne that helped me to “see” how most of my mind was obsessed with following roles that I had adopted as a child. When you grow up in a hostile environment, your mind takes on defenses to avoid further conflict. These are called defense mechanisms and they are so effective for when we are in fear that we continue to believe we have to “defend” ourselves throughout life. We don’t.

What Eric Berne taught me through his writings about transactional analysis was that my thoughts were dictated by my choices of three roles—parent, child and adult. He further defines these three roles into sub roles of three. By following the examples he gave, I realized that 90% of my thinking was in the “parent” role (judgmental, accusatory, condemning,) and 10% as a willful, complaining child. These are learned roles and can easily be relearned.

The goal of TA is to have a large adult ego state with the other two roles of parent and child ego states being smaller.

Business Balls defines the three roles (called ego states) as:

  1.  Parent–

Physical – angry or impatient body-language and expressions, finger-pointing, patronizing gestures,

Verbal – always, never, for once and for all, judgmental words, critical words, patronizing language, posturing language.

Also beware of cultural differences in body-language or emphases that appear ‘Parental’.

  1.  Child–

Physical – emotionally sad expressions, despair, temper tantrums, whining voice, rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, teasing, delight, laughter, speaking behind hand, raising hand to speak, squirming and giggling.

Verbal – baby talk, I wish, I don’t know, I want, I’m going to, I don’t care, oh no, not again, things never go right for me, worst day of my life, bigger, biggest, best, many superlatives, words to impress.

  1.  Adult–

Physical – attentive, interested, straight-forward, tilted head, non-threatening and non-threatened.

Verbal – why, what, how, who, where and when, how much, in what way, comparative expressions, reasoned statements, true, false, probably, possibly, I think, I realize, I see, I believe, in my opinion.

Modern developments for TA has been defined by several people—Claude Steiner is a recognized leader. Business balls gives these definitions:

Parent is now commonly represented as a circle with four quadrants:

Nurturing – Nurturing (positive) and Spoiling (negative).

Controlling – Structuring (positive) and Critical (negative).

Child is now commonly represented as circle with four quadrants:

Adapted – Co-operative (positive) and Compliant/Resistant (negative).

Free – Spontaneous (positive) and Immature (negative).

Adult remains as a single entity, representing an ‘accounting’ function or mode, which can draw on the resources of both Parent and Child.

A quite clever diagram at changingminds.org shows the interactions of the parent, child and adult. The roles pictured here are: controlling parent (Do this. Stop that), nurturing parent (It’s OK), adult, adaptive child (No. Please), natural child (Whee. Wah!), the little professor (let’s try), and my favorite role (creative-‘free child’).

Further reading about Transactional Analysis:

Transactional Analysis Student—the study and training aids for trainee psychotherapists and counselors

TA Tudor includes a study guide for the TA 101 course and also has 400+ handouts

Transactional analysis helped me to instantly identify which of the ego states I was in.  Our feelings come from our thoughts. So if we are basically in our inner child, we may feel inadequate, angry, abused, etc.

(2)  The Inner Child is referred to by Johnny Truant writing for copyblogger.com. His post is titled:  “What My Five-Year-Old Son Taught Me About Marketing”

“You know that “inner child” we hear so much about — the one that’s supposedly deep inside of all of us?”

“Well, I live with it. As a matter of fact, I call him “Austin.”

“In the five years I’ve been a parent, I’ve realized that the notion of the inner child is more than just a neat psychological construct. It’s very nearly a literal thing. As we grow up, we don’t change so much as drape layer after complicated layer of adult emotion on top of that inner child. The child doesn’t vanish; he just gets obscured and filtered.”

“You don’t get an evolved, new mature being. You get Austin with fifteen blankets over his head.”

“Because that kid always remains at our core (and if you’ve ever caught yourself playing kids’ games with genuine enjoyment, you know that it does), our base motivations remain as well. They just get a little harder to see.”

Photo credit.

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