Transactional Analysis – Part 1 – Laymans Introduction

Sean gave me another critical piece of the puzzle. I asked him if he has been pacing the information so as to not blow my mind up and he claimed no that it just hadn’t come-up. Transactional analysis is an object-oriented way to document interpersonal interactions. Each interaction is a transaction and the currency of TA are strokes. Depending upon the depth of the transaction, a stroke can have little worth “hi” or a lot of worth “I noticed that you pasted your exam, it’s great that all your hard work is paying off.” Hi is simply an acknowledgement of mutual existence. The lack of this type of stroke will be noticed MORE than it being there. The comment about passing the exam is more complicated and validating to the ego. Acknowledgement of mutual existence is there, the recognition that they exist to the other person when they aren’t in front of them (noticing that they past the exam), the recognition of historic labor efforts, and the social recognition that passing an exam is a payoff.

Ego states and Social states

An ego state is the psychological state from which ones’ comment comes. Child, Parent, Adult. The social state is the apparent state from which a comment comes. For example, it being important that we are on time is socially adult but if we direct a comment towards someone who is always late it is from a Parent psychological or ego state. These states are indicated with a capital letter.

We learn these states from our parents and other caregivers and while we may never be aware that they are there, they are, and while we may never be aware that we jump around from one to the other, we do. They are biologically hardwired through years of experience and validation and for these reasons certain behavioral tendencies are really sticky and may never go away. Your Child is going to be your Child for most of your life. Your Parent is going to be your Parent for most of your life.

The Parent automates the day-to-day stuff that makes life manageable – shopping, cooking, cleaning, going to work, looking after loved ones – because it is both controlling and nurturing. The Child allows for play because it has been cultivated with a sense of freedom. Creativity is the realm of the Child and this represents an essential piece of a human beings spirit. The Child can become overly adapted however with the wrong proportions of control and nurture:

If Parent nurturing Then Child free.

If Parent controlling Then Child adapted.

The Adult ego state is reflective and purposeful. It exists in harmony with the universe as it calls upon past experience for information and solutions but transacts with the others in a deliberate way. It has well-established boundaries and accepts that each person has the right and responsibility to manage their own life and affairs. Adults engage in coaching with enlightenment or independence as the goal.

The goal of TA therapy is to coach the client to transacted with social and psychological states being aligned as Adult. They are aware of and use when appropriate their Child and Parent states but these are tools to use vs. compulsions to serve.

Why would Sean tell me about this? Because I needed to hear it as I was lacking a visual framework from which to logically represent what I have been feeling and living through.

My last post of 2011 was about how I had to accept that I didn’t know what my motivations were in most situations and why I act the way I do. I needed to give-up my belief that I know myself in order to finally observe how I act. This is still the case, but it’s getting easier. What is remarkable about it, is that once it was understood to me it became very easy to see things happen and feel the shift in my psychological state.

For example, I was recently compared to someone I didn’t like very much. There was a moment when I thought about what I had heard and what I wanted to say and then realized I didn’t really know what the comment meant. I replied with “yes, there are similarities between me and him.” It wasn’t the Child reply that initially popped into my head. Their reply was “well, actually, this is the one similarity” which was true. He and I both have a tendency to try and solve the problems of the people we care about; not necessarily a character flaw but it can be a Parent action. MOST people have this problem. The key thing with the interaction was that I didn’t let myself slip into an automatic Child-like reply of “yes, but…” The comment was accurate because the other person made it. The inverse comment would have been equally true – that he and I aren’t very similar. That’s the thing with conversations with people, almost everything is right under some circumstances so, well, what’s the point in arguing?

I know what I need to do, I know what I want to do and I haven’t been showing a lot of control over things. When I work and play, it’s purposeful and passionate. When I am a Parent, it’s about very few things in my own life and I do have a tendency to try and look out for the people I like. When I’m an Adult I’m okay and everyone else is okay.