Carol Solomon, Ph.D.
Abstract This article is written to acquaint readers with basic transactional analysis theory and to provide a beginning understanding about how these concepts can be used in real life. I first learned about Transactional Analysis from Dr. Eric Berne when I studied with him in Carmel, CA beginning in 1966. Quickly, I learned the value of this simple language as I began to understand my own life script. I became intrigued with my newfound ability to see how I was interacting with the people around me and how they interacted with me. I’ve been talking the language of TA ever since. For those of you who are not familiar with it, here are the basics.
Figure 1 Ego States
Ego States Each of our personalities is made up of various parts: the Parent, the Adult, and the Child ego states. These ego states can be diagrammed as shown in Figure 1. The Parent ego state is a set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are learned or “borrowed” from our parents or other caretakers. The Parent ego state can be divided into two functions. One part includes the nurturing side and can be soft, loving, and permission giving. This is called the Nurturing Parent ego state. It can also set limits in a healthy way. The other side of the Parentego state is called the Critical Parent. (It is also sometimes called the Prejudiced Parent.) This part of our personality contains the prejudged thoughts,
feelings, and beliefs that we learned from our parents. Some of the messages that we hold in our Parent ego state can be helpful in living while other Parent messages are not. It is useful for us to sort out what information we carry around in our heads so we can keep the part that helps us in our lives and change the part that does not.The Adult ego state is our dataprocessing center. It is the part of our personality that can process data accurately, that sees, hears, thinks, and can come up with solutions to problems based on the facts and not solely on our pre-judged thoughts or childlike emotions. The Child ego state is the part of our personality that is the seat of emotions, thoughts, and
Vol. 33, No. 1, January, 2003
feelings and all of the feeling state “memories” that we have of ourselves from childhood. We carry around in our Child ego states all of the experiences we have had, and sometimes these childlike ways of being pop up in our grown-up lives. This can be fun when we are in a situation in which it is safe and right to play and enjoy ourselves. It can be a problem when our Child view of the world causes us to distort the facts in a current situation and prevents our Adult ego state from seeing things accurately. The Child ego state can also be divided into two parts: the Free Child ego state (also referred to as the Natural Child) and the Adapted Child ego state (which also contains the Rebellious Child ego state). The Free Child is the seat of spontaneous feeling and behavior. It is the side of us that experiences the world in a direct and immediate way. Our Free Child ego state can be playful, authentic, expressive, and emotional. It, along with the Adult, is the seat of creativity. Having good contact with our own Free Child is an essential ingredient for having an intimate relationship. When we adapt in ways that make us less in touch with our true selves (our Free Child), we decrease the amount of intimacy we are able to have in our lives. The Adapted Child is the part of our personality that has learned to comply with the parental messages we received growing up. We all adapt in one way or another. Sometimes when we are faced with parental messages that are restricting, instead of complying with them, we rebel against them. This becomes our Rebellious Child ego state. This can be seen as an alternative to complying. It is still, however, a response to the parent messages, and so it is a...