Transactional Analysis, the OK Corral and the Blame Game

transa6I love transactional analysis. It taught me in a matter of hours what was going on in my mind. I found it in 1977 and have used it since then. I want to introduce the OK Corral today from a great site named Business Balls. Thomas Harris wrote I’m Ok, You’re OK. From his concepts. Franklin Ernst designed the OK Corral.

From Business Balls:

Parent ego state–

This is a set of feelings, thinking and behaviour that we have copied from our parents and significant others.

As we grow up we take in ideas, beliefs, feelings and behaviours from our parents and caretakers. If we live in an extended family then there are more people to learn and take in from. When we do this, it is called introjecting and it is just as if we take in the whole of the care giver. For example, we may notice that we are saying things just as our father, mother, grandmother may have done, even though, consciously, we don’t want to. We do this as we have lived with this person so long that we automatically reproduce certain things that were said to us, or treat others as we might have been treated.

Adult ego state–

The Adult ego state is about direct responses to the here and now. We deal with things that are going on today in ways that are not unhealthily influenced by our past.

The Adult ego state is about being spontaneous and aware with the capacity for intimacy. When in our Adult we are able to see people as they are, rather than what we project onto them. We ask for information rather than stay scared and rather than make assumptions. Taking the best from the past and using it appropriately in the present is an integration of the positive aspects of both our Parent and Child ego states. So this can be called the Integrating Adult. Integrating means that we are constantly updating ourselves through our every day experiences and using this to inform us.

In this structural model, the Integrating Adult ego state circle is placed in the middle to show how it needs to orchestrate between the Parent and the Child ego states. For example, the internal Parent ego state may beat up on the internal Child, saying “You are no good, look at what you did wrong again, you are useless”. The Child may then respond with “I am no good, look how useless I am, I never get anything right”. Many people hardly hear this kind of internal dialogue as it goes on so much they might just believe life is this way. An effective Integrating Adult ego state can intervene between the Parent and Child ego states. This might be done by stating that this kind of parenting is not helpful and asking if it is prepared to learn another way. Alternatively, the Integrating Adult ego state can just stop any negative dialogue and decide to develop another positive Parent ego state perhaps taken in from other people they have met over the years.

 Child ego state–

The Child ego state is a set of behaviours, thoughts and feelings which are replayed from our own childhood.

Perhaps the boss calls us into his or her office, we may immediately get a churning in our stomach and wonder what we have done wrong. If this were explored we might remember the time the head teacher called us in to tell us off. Of course, not everything in the Child ego state is negative. We might go into someone’s house and smell a lovely smell and remember our grandmother’s house when we were little, and all the same warm feelings we had at six year’s of age may come flooding back.

Both the Parent and Child ego states are constantly being updated. For example, we may meet someone who gives us the permission we needed as a child, and did not get, to be fun and joyous. We may well use that person in our imagination when we are stressed to counteract our old ways of thinking that we must work longer and longer hours to keep up with everything. We might ask ourselves “I wonder what X would say now”. Then on hearing the new permissions to relax and take some time out, do just that and then return to the work renewed and ready for the challenge. Subsequently, rather than beating up on ourselves for what we did or did not do, what tends to happen is we automatically start to give ourselves new permissions and take care of ourselves.

Alternatively, we might have had a traumatic experience yesterday which goes into the Child ego state as an archaic memory that hampers our growth. Positive experiences will also go into the Child ego state as archaic memories. The positive experiences can then be drawn on to remind us that positive things do happen.

The process of analysing personality in terms of ego states is called structural analysis. It is important to remember that ego states do not have an existence of their own, they are concepts to enable understanding. Therefore it is important to say “I want some fun” rather than “My Child wants some fun”. We may be in our Child ego state when we say this, but saying “I” reminds us to take responsibility for our actions.

ALSO from Business Balls:

“The Transactional Analysis ‘Okay Corral’ can be linked to ‘blame’, for which Jim Davis TSTA developed this simple and helpful model. Commonly when emotions are triggered people adopt one of three attitudes relating to blame, which each correlate to a position on the Okay Corral:

  • I’m to blame (You are okay and I’m not okay – ‘helpless’)
  • You are to blame (I’m okay and you are not okay – ‘angry’)
  • We are both to blame (I’m not okay and you are not okay – ‘hopeless’)

None of these is a healthy position.

Instead the healthy position is, and the mindset should be: “It’s no-one’s fault, blame isn’t the issue – what matters is how we go forward and sort things out.” (I’m okay and you are okay – ‘happy’)”

(With acknowledgements to Jim Davis TSTA)

Photo credit.

One thought on “Transactional Analysis, the OK Corral and the Blame Game

  1. Pingback: A Negative Emotion Lasts 1-2 Minutes: Learn How to Let It Go | Emotional Sobriety: Friends & Lovers

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