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Transactional Analysis

  Transactional analysis, in psychology, is a model of mind and human interaction developed by Eric Berne. He built on Freud\'s model using Paul Federn\'s idea of ego states, that is, ‘distinct states in which the ego is manifest at any time’. Berne was at pains to point out the difference between his ego-state model and the id, ego and superego of Freud. According to Berne there are three ego-states: Parent, Adult and Child. These are always denoted with a capital letter to separate them from other uses of the same words. A small letter refers to the real life of the parent, adult and child, but the Parent, Adult and Child ego-states refer to an internal reality. The Child ego-state uses strategies, responses and behaviours replayed from childhood; the Parent ego-state uses strategies, responses and behaviours copied from parents; and the Adult ego-state responds to the here and now, using all the skills a person has learnt so far and all the resources available to the grownup person. Transactional analysis regards every person as moving constantly from one state to another in every phase of their lives. The Parent ego-state is not necessarily the correcting conscience of the Superego and the Child ego-state does not describe the unconscious state of the id, but sets off feelings, thoughts and behaviours. The Adult ego-state is a purer state of response to reality, which may free itself of the Child and Parent. It is the Adult which transactional analysis wishes, as a therapy, to enlist, to help diminish the disabling other internal ego-states if they have too strong a hold on the psyche.

Communication is always seen to come from one of the ego-states and each communication is called a ‘transaction’, and in this methodology the sequences of these transactions are analysed, hence the name ‘transactional analysis’. Because the communications often contain the strategies we learnt as children, which may no longer be working for us, transactional analysis aims to move out of what the therapy calls a fixed lifescript into autonomy, and the tools the adult uses for this purpose are awareness, spontaneity and a capacity for intimacy. MJ

Further reading Eric Berne, Games People Play; , Ian Stewart and , Vann Jones, TA Today: a New Introduction to Transactional Analysis.



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