Transactional Analysis Helps to Sort Out Our Inner Voices

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The first step toward learning to use your mind as a servant for your will rather than allowing it to roam unchecked is to begin learning about what I call your “observer self”.

Transactional Analysis (TA) helps us to recognize the “voices” we have inside ourselves so we can learn how to observe our thoughts.

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 the 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 with the other two roles (called ego states) being smaller.

Games People Play is the title of his first book and was a best-seller in the 1960’s. After 40 years and 5,000,000 copies, Games is still relevant today.

Eric Berne influenced other authors; Thomas Harris, who also wrote about TA with his book, I’m OK-You’re OK, and Muriel James’s book, Born to Win. Berne founded The International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) which is still active and has several of the main ideas at their site.

The main ideas from TA are ego states (parent, child and adult), strokes, transactions, life script, contracts and games people play. One of the newer ideas from the TA group is about the blame game (i.e. why do blame-simply choose steps needed to move forward).

Two of the main concepts for the TA philosophy are that we are each worthy of being accepted and people can change. Of the three ego states-parent, child and adult-when I studied TA, I found that I could only identify 2 ego states. I had a very judgmental parent (these are thoughts and ideas I had adapted from my parents) and child (mine was the willful me-only child state. When I first used this information to check myself, I found that I had no adult (the ego state used to live in the here-and-now with responses dependent on new responses). No wonder that I lived in yesterday or tomorrow. I had no inner guide to deal with today.

From GoodTherapy — Transactional Analysis:

“Parent consists of recordings of external events observed and experienced by a child from birth through approximately the first five years of life. These recordings are not filtered or analyzed by the child; they are simply accepted without question. Many of these external events are likely to involve the individual’s parents or other adults in parent-link roles, which led Berne to call this ego state “the Parent.” Examples of external events recorded in this state:

  • Do not play with matches.
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Do not speak to strangers.

Child represents all brain recordings of internal events (feelings or emotions) that are directly linked to the external events observed by the child during the first five years of life. Examples of events recorded in this state may include:

  • I feel happy when Mom hugs me.
  • Dad’s late night movie was very scary.
  • I feel sad when Mom is sad.

Adult, the final ego state, is the period in which a child develops the capacity to perceive and understand situations that are different from what is observed (Parent) or felt (Child). The Adult serves as a data processing center that utilizes information from all three ego states in order to arrive at a decision. One important role of the Adult is to validate data which is stored in the Parent:

  • I see that Suzie’s house was burnt down. Mom was right — I should not play with matches.”

From Life’s Too Good —Transactional Analysis: How To Use Transactional Analysis To Communicate Effectively:

We All Have Split-Personalities or Ego States:

The theory is based on the idea that we have 3 parts (or Ego States) to our personality (the Parent, the Adult and the Child).

Parent, Adult and Child Ego States exist in each of us irrespective of our own age.

Here are a few pointers to understand and recognize these Ego States:

Whenever we interact with others, transactions take place between our different Ego States.

It’s easier to explain with an example. Here’s a conversation between a boss and his employee and in brackets the Ego State they use.

  • At what time is the train due? (Adult)
  • – It’s late by 5 minutes (Adult)
  • Absolutely typical! (Critical Parent)
  • – Yes, they always manage to run late and they never give any warning! (Critical Parent)
  • I checked your document for our meeting. It’s full of spelling mistakes! You should have run the spell-check. (Critical Parent)
  • – Oh, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. (Adaptive Child)
  • I can hear the train arriving. (Adult)
  • – That’s good, we’re not too late. (Adult)
  • Let me help you with your luggage. (Nurturing Parent)
  • – Oh, thank you very much! (Free Child)
  • Oh wow! They’re giving out free Champagne! (Free Child)
  • – Fantastic! (Free Child)”

From You Tube Explanations of TA:

A Beginner’s Guide to Transactional Analysis

Impact Therapy — Using TA in a Session

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