Transactional Analysis (TA) is a theory of human development, personality, and communication. It was founded by Eric Berne (1910-1970). It has concepts that can be learned and applied as tools for personal and professional growth and change. The underlying philosophy is one of mutual self-respect and caring and a belief in peoples’ ability to be responsible, think for themselves and make their own decisions.
TA theories and models are easy to understand and use, and can be related to:
- Personal development
- Working in teams and groups
- Attitudes to self and others, building self esteem
- Personal styles, assertiveness, parenting, discipline
- Positive communication in social and professional spheres
- Learning and transformation
I work within the paradigm of Co-creative Transactional Analysis – a relatively new positioning of TA based on the social constructivist understanding that we can create our reality in connection with others, that together with another person we can learn and change, that both people are changed in the process, and that development and change always happen within a context and are impacted by people’s environments and culture.
Developmental (DTA) and Psychotherapy (PTA) approaches
Here is a useful way to reflect on the different approach between DTA and PTA.
DTA works from the outside to the inside, is concerned with health and growth, works in the here and now, engaging the neocortex in Adult.
PTA works from the inside to the outside, is concerned with pathology and often uses regression and seeks for cure and engages the emotional brain, as much trauma happens before there is language and so the work needs to be in the past engaging with early emotions.
Some Transactional Analysis Models
This model describes the three parts to people’s personalities – the Parent ego state holds copies of parent figures in the person’s past experience – here we store our cultural and group beliefs and traditions and values. The Child ego state holds all of our experience from the past (long ago and more recently) and the Adult ego state is our present time experience of internal and external events.
This model describes the psychological positions we take up resulting in games and unhealthy relationships. The WINNERS TRIANGLE gives options for change.
Windows on the World
This model describes our attitudes to ourselves and others, a respect for our common humanity, as being OK (+) or not OK (-)
This model shows options of using various modes of behaviour. There are 5 modes that are most useful where both us and others are considered OK and respected. There are 4 unhelpful modes where somebody is considered to be not OK (ourselves or the other).
The OK-OK box (the Get On With position) visually depicts the freedom and flexibility of behaving responsively from within the box, fluently choosing the behaviour that best serves each moment with each person. When we behave from a mode outside the box, we are reacting without awareness, using outdated patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviours which will quite likely lead to unhealthy psychological games.
Strokes are units of recognition given and received.
They may be positive or negative and can be for BEING (unconditional) or DOING (conditional). What we stroke we invite more of – we can choose to notice what people do well, or only what they do wrong. Stroke the behaviour, thinking and ways of being that are life-giving and promote OKness in everyone.
Our script is the story of our life – it is influenced by the big people in our life, initially when we are growing up, and then continuing throughout our life.
There are both positive and negative influences from others. We can update our scripts and begin to live a richer story. We can learn to understand and use our strengths to create an enabling and expansive life plan.
Discounting and Accounting
Discounting is an internal mechanism that involves people ignoring some aspect of themselves, others, or the situation.This maintains their beliefs about themselves, others and life (their scripts)
Accounting takes notice of the evidence and its significance and enables people to take responsibility to find solutions and act on them. This can be an empowering process for all concerned.
Symbiosis refers to dependency and counter-dependency. It is defined as when two or more people behave as though they share one set of ego states between them. Each person is discounting certain ego states. One person takes all the responsibility and makes decisions, and the other person is submissive.
This is the classic co-dependent relationship, for example, between a husband and wife.
In a learning situation, symbiosis may occur between the teacher and the student. An example is where a teacher, not believing in the ability of the student to think for himself, asks a question and then answers it himself, creating dependency.
Awareness can enable a choice to activate all three ego states in each person with empowerment and responsibility in both.