User:Nbahn/Transactional analysis—Key ideas of TA
From main article: Transactional Analysis#Key ideas of TA
TA emphasizes a pragmatic approach, that is, it seeks to find "what works" in treating patients, and, where applicable, develop models to assist understanding of why certain treatments work. Thus, TA continually evolves. However some core models and concepts are part of TA as follows:--
- 1 The Ego-State (or Parent-Adult-Child, PAC) model
- 2 Transactions and Strokes
- 2.1 Kinds of Transactions
- 2.2 Phenomena Behind the Transactions
- 2.3 Ways of Time Structuring
- 3 References
The Ego-State (or Parent-Adult-Child, PAC) model
At any given time, a person experiences and manifests their personality through a mixture of behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Typically, according to TA, there are three ego-states that people consistently use:
- Parent ("exteropsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel, and think in response to an unconscious mimicking of how their parents (or other parental figures) acted, or how they interpreted their parent's actions. For example, a person may shout at someone out of frustration because they learned from an influential figure in childhood the lesson that this seemed to be a way of relating that worked.
- Adult ("neopsyche"): a state of the ego which is most like a computer processing information and making predictions absent of major emotions that cloud its operation. Learning to strengthen the Adult is a goal of TA. While a person is in the Adult ego state, he/she is directed towards an objective appraisal of reality.
- Child ("archaeopsyche"): a state in which people behave, feel and think similarly to how they did in childhood. For example, a person who receives a poor evaluation at work may respond by looking at the floor, and crying or pouting, as they used to when scolded as a child. Conversely, a person who receives a good evaluation may respond with a broad smile and a joyful gesture of thanks. The Child is the source of emotions, creation, recreation, spontaneity and intimacy.
Berne differentiated his Parent, Adult, and Child ego states from actual adults, parents, and children, by using capital letters when describing them. These ego-states may or may not represent the relationships that they act out. For example, in the workplace, an adult supervisor may take on the Parent role, and scold an adult employee as though they were a Child. Or a child, using their Parent ego-state, could scold their actual parent as though the parent were a Child.
Within each of these ego states are subdivisions. Thus Parental figures are often either nurturing (permission-giving, security-giving) or criticizing (comparing to family traditions and ideals in generally negative ways); Childhood behaviours are either natural (free) or adapted to others. These subdivision categorize individuals' patterns of behaviour, feelings, and ways of thinking, that can be functional (beneficial or positive) or dysfunctional/counterproductive (negative).
Ego-states do not correspond directly to Sigmund Freud's Ego, Superego and Id, although there are obvious parallels. Ego states are consistent for each person and are argued by TA practitioners as more readily observable than the pats in Freud's hypothetical model. In other words, the particular ego state that a given person is communicating from is determinable by external observation and experience.
There is no "universal" ego-state; each state is individually and visibly manifested for each person. For example, each Child ego state is unique to the childhood experiences, mentality, intellect, and family of each individual; it is not a generalised childlike state.
Ego states can become contaminated, for example, when a person mistakes Parental rules and slogans, for here-and-now Adult reality, and when beliefs are taken as facts. Or when a person "knows" that everyone is laughing at them because "they always laughed". This would be an example of a childhood contamination, insofar as here-and-now reality is being overlaid with memories of previous historic incidents in childhood.
Ego states also do not correspond directly to thinking, feeling, and judging, as these behaviors are present in every ego state.
Berne suspected that Parent, Adult, and Child ego states might be tied to specific areas of the human brain; an idea that has not been proved.
In more recent years the three ego state model has been questioned by a marginal TA group in Australia, who have devised a "two ego-state model" as a means of solving perceived theoretical problems:
"The two ego-state model sought to correct inaccuracies in the three ego-state model Berne devised. The two ego-state model says that there is a Child ego-state and a Parent ego-state, placing the Adult ego-state with the Parent ego-state. The information we learn at school is all Parent ego-state introjects. How we learn to speak, add up and learn how to think is all just copied from our teachers. Just as our morals and values are copied from our parents. There is no absolute truth where facts exist out side a person’s own belief system. Berne mistakenly concluded that there was and thus mistakenly put the Adult ego-state as separate from the Parent ego-state." For anyone interested in sourcing this deviation from mainstream TA, see 
Transactions and Strokes
- Transactions are the flow of communication, and more specifically the unspoken psychological flow of communication that runs in parallel.
- Transactions occur simultaneously at both explicit and psychological levels. Example: sweet caring voice with sarcastic intent. To read the real communication requires both surface and non-verbal reading.
- Strokes are the recognition, attention or responsiveness that one person gives another. Strokes can be positive (nicknamed "warm fuzzies") or negative ("cold pricklies"). A key idea is that people hunger for recognition, and that lacking positive strokes, will seek whatever kind they can, even if it is recognition of a negative kind. We test out as children what strategies and behaviours seem to get us strokes, of whatever kind we can get.
People often create pressure in (or experience pressure from) others to communicate in a way that matches their style, so that a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling parent will often engender self-abasement or other childlike responses. Those employees who resist may get removed or labeled as "trouble".
Transactions can be experienced as positive or negative depending on the nature of the strokes within them. However, a negative transaction is preferred to no transaction at all, because of a fundamental hunger for strokes.
The nature of transactions is important to understanding communication.
Kinds of Transactions
There are basically three (3) kinds of transactions:
- Reciprocal/Complementary (the simplest)
- Dublex/Covert (the most complex)
Reciprocal or Complementary Transactions
A simple, reciprocal transaction occurs when both partners are addressing the ego state the other is in. These are also called complementary transactions.
- A: "Have you been able to write the report?"
- B: "Yes - I'm about to email it to you." ----(This exchange was Adult to Adult)
- A: "Would you like to skip this meeting and go watch a film with me instead?"
- B: "I'd love to - I don't want to work anymore, what should we go and see?" (Child to Child)
- A: "You should have your room tidy by now!" (Parent to Child)
- B: "Will you stop hassling me? I'll do it eventually!" (Child to Parent)
Communication like this can continue indefinitely. (Clearly it will stop at some stage - but this psychologically balanced exchange of strokes can continue for some time).
Communication failures are typically caused by a 'crossed transaction' where partners address ego states other than that their partner is in. Consider the above examples jumbled up a bit.
- A: "Have you been able to write that report?" (Adult to Adult)
- B: "Will you stop hassling me? I'll do it eventually!" (Child to Parent)
is a crossed transaction likely to produce problems in the workplace. "A" may respond with a Parent to Child transaction. For instance:
- A: "If you don't change your attitude, you'll get fired."
- A: "Is your room tidy yet?" (Parent to Child)
- B: "I'm just going to do it, actually." (Adult to Adult)
is a more positive crossed transaction. However there is the risk that "A" will feel aggrieved that "B" is acting responsibly and not playing their role, and the conversation will develop into:
- A: "I can never trust you to do things!" (Parent to Child)
- B: "Why don't you believe anything I say?" (Adult to Adult)
which can continue indefinitely.
Duplex or Covert transactions
Another class of transaction is the 'duplex' or 'covert' transactions, where the explicit social conversation occurs in parallel with an implicit psychological transaction. For instance,
- A: "I need you to stay late at the office with me." (Adult words)
body language indicates sexual intent (flirtatious Child)
- B: "Of course." (Adult response to Adult statement).
winking or grinning (Child accepts the hidden motive).
Phenomena Behind the Transactions
All people adopt life/childhood scripts. Redefining and discounting are methods by which a person -- usually unconsciously -- filters and warps his/her view of reality. Injunctions and drivers are values that are adapted into scripts.
Life (or Childhood) Script
- Script is a life plan, directed to a reward.
- Script is decisional and responsive; i.e., decided upon in childhood in response to perceptions of the world and as a means of living with and making sense of the world. It is not just thrust upon a person by external forces.
- Script is reinforced by parents (or other influential figures and experiences).
- Script is for the most part outside awareness.
- Script is how we navigate and what we look for, the rest of reality is redefined (distorted) to match our filters.
Each culture, country and people in the world has a Mythos, that is, a legend explaining its origins, core beliefs and purpose. According to TA, so do individual people. A person begins writing his/her own life story (script) at a young age, as he/she tries to make sense of the world and his place within it. Although it is revised throughout life, the core story is selected and decided upon typically by age 7. As adults it passes out of awareness. A life script might be "to be hurt many times, and suffer and make others feel bad when I die", and could result in a person indeed setting himself up for this, by adopting behaviours in childhood that produce exactly this effect. Though Berne identified several dozen common scripts, there are a practically infinite number of them. Though often largely destructive, scripts could as easily be mostly positive or beneficial.
Redefining and Discounting
- Redefining means the distortion of reality when we deliberately (but unconsciously) distort things to match our preferred way of seeing the world. Thus a person whose script involves "struggling alone against a cold hard world" may redefine others' kindness, concluding that others are trying to get something by manipulation.
- Discounting means to take something as worth less than it is. Thus to give a substitute reaction which does not originate as a here-and-now Adult attempt to solve the actual problem, or to choose not to see evidence that would contradict one's script. Types of discount can also include: passivity (doing nothing), over-adaptation, agitation, incapacitation, anger and violence.
Injunctions and Drivers
TA identifies twelve key injunctions which people commonly build into their scripts. These are injunctions in the sense of being powerful "I can't/mustn't ..." messages that embed into a child's belief and life-script:
- Don't be (don't exist)
- Don't be who you are
- Don't be a child
- Don't grow up
- Don't make it in your life
- Don't do anything!
- Don't be important
- Don't belong
- Don't be close
- Don't be well (don't be sane!)
- Don't think
- Don't feel.
- In addition there is the so-called episcript:
"You should (or deserve to) have this happen in your life, so it doesn't have to happen to me." (Magical thinking on the part of the parent(s).)
Against these, a child is often told other things he or she must do. There is debate as to whether there are five or six of these 'drivers':
- Please (me/others)!
- Be perfect!
- Be Strong!
- Try Hard!
- Hurry Up!
- Be Careful! (is in dispute)
Thus in creating his script, a child will often attempt to juggle these, example: "It's okay for me to go on living (ignore don't exist) so long as I try hard".
This explains why some change is inordinately difficult. To continue the above example: When a person stops trying hard and relaxes to be with his family, the injunction You don't have the right to exist which was being suppressed by their script now becomes exposed and a vivid threat. Such an individual may feel a massive psychological pressure which he himself doesn't understand, to return to trying hard, in order to feel safe and justified (in a childlike way) in existing.
Driver behaviour is also detectable at a very small scale, for instance in instinctive responses to certain situations where driver behaviour is played out over five to twenty seconds.
Broadly speaking, scripts can fall into Tragic, Heroic or Banal (or Non-Winner) varieties, depending on their rules.
Ways of Time Structuring
There are six ways of structuring time by giving and receiving strokes:
This is sorted in accordance to stroke strength, Intimacy and Games to in general allow for the most intensive strokes.
This means no strokes are being exchanged
A ritual is a series of transactions that are complementary (reciprocal), stereotyped and based on social programming. Rituals usually comprise a series of strokes exchanged between two parties.
For instance, two people may have a daily two stroke ritual, where, the first time they meet each day, each one greets the other with a "Hi". Others may have a four stroke ritual, such as:
B: Hi! How do you do?
A: Getting along. What about you?
B: Fine. See you around.
The next time they meet in the day, they may not exchange any strokes at all, or may just acknowledge each other's presence with a curt nod.
Some phenomena associated with daily rituals:
- If a person exchanges fewer strokes than expected, the other person may feel that he is either preoccupied or acting high and mighty.
- If a person exchanges more strokes than expected, the other person might wonder whether he is trying to butter him up or get on good terms for some vested interests.
- If two people do not meet for a long time, a backlog of strokes gets built up, so that the next time they meet, they may exchange a large number of strokes to catch up.
A pastime is a series of transactions that is complementary (reciprocal), semi-ritualistic, and is mainly intended as a time-structuring activity. Pastimes have no covert purpose and can usually be carried out only between people on the same wavelength. They are usually shallow and harmless. Pastimes are a type of smalltalk.
Individuals often partake in similar pastimes throughout their entire life, as pastimes are generally very much linked to one's life script and the games that one often plays. Some pastimes can even be understood as a reward for playing a certain game. For example, Eric Berne in Games People Play discusses how those who play the "Alcoholic" game (which Berne differentiated from alcoholism and alcoholics) often enjoy the "Morning After" pastime in which participants share their most amusing or harrowing hangover stories.
Activities in this context mean the individuals work together for a common goal. This may be work, sports or something similar. In contrast to Pastimes, there is a meaningful purpose guiding the interactions, while Pastimes are just about exchanging strokes. Strokes can then be given in the context of the cooperation. Thus the strokes are generally not personal, but related to the activity.
Intimacy as a way of structuring time allows one to exchange the strongest strokes without playing a Game. Intimacy differs from Games as there is no covert purpose, and differs from Activities as there is no other process going on which defines a context of cooperation. Strokes are personal, relating to the other person, and often unconditional.
Return to: Transactional Analysis#Key ideas of TA
- SkepticReport * The Etiology of a Social Epidemic
- Tony White: Graffiti : Two ego state model
- Tony White’s Weblog » Blog Archive » THE TWO EGO STATE MODEL
- The terms "warm fuzzy" and "cold prickly" originate in A Warm Fuzzy Tale, by Claude Steiner.