Transactional Analysis is first and foremost a therapeutic tool for positive change and growth. It can be used either in therapy for the individual concerned or on a more surface level for problem solving in everyday life.
TA is basically the study of how people take on certain behaviors, either by accident or from their early caretakers or authority figures and then continue to play them out in their adult lives. It is a model for people to use to work towards ‘autonomy’, a place from where they can choose to live the way they want to and not to be still acting as if they are controlled by past events or messages.
Transactional Analysis then is a modern psychotherapy model, which has; it’s own particular language and theory of personality. It states that the person transacts with a person in certain ways, structures their time between life and death in a particular way, plays their own particular games and lives out their own unique script.
An understanding of Transactional Analysis can give hope for the person in that they can change their script and choose the way they want to re-write their own life plan, without hanging on to inappropriate behaviors of the past.
The creator of Transactional Analysis Was Eric Berne, a Psychiatrist and a man who was largely influenced by Freud, though by the time of his death in 1970,he had become a,in some ways, a critic of Freud. Transactional Analysis though does have its roots in Psycho dynamic theory.
The personality for Transactional Analysis, for Berne, is based on the recognition of three quite different ego states, called specifically the Parent, Adult and Child.
An ego state for Berne is:
‘a system of feelings accompanied by related set of behaviour patterns.’
For example, spontaneous feelings, compliance and rebellion are all features of the child ego state and may be activated by the individual at any time throughout his life.
Berne recognised that three such ego states must be in everyone and that together they make up the unique individuals Personality.
For Berne the ego states are not roles but are phenomenological realities.
Each ego state is concerned with what actually happened in the past for that person and how they acted will determine how they act in the here and now. The decisions that they made then will determine the decisions and behaviours they now make in the present.
The Parent Ego State
The parent ego state contains the attitudes and behaviours that are observed and copied from the individual’s caretakers and figures. In other words the spoken and unspoken rules. The “shoulds’ and the ‘oughts” of life. The individual’s early parent is formed in the child from birth to approx five years and in Transactional Analysis terms is called the parent in the child or the P1. The complete parent ego state or the P2 is formed between the ages of five years to approx twenty years as a result of even more external stimuli from their authority of caretaker figures.
The Child Ego State
The Child Ego State is primarily concerned with feelings though that does not mean that when in the ‘here and now’ experience the person does not have access to attitudes and thinking, but it simply means that when activated feelings are usually the executive energy force.
The child ego state is the part of the personality, which is preserved from actual childhood; it also contains all the impulses a person was born with. The child ego state is, as said above, primarily about spontaneous feelings, needs and wants of the child. It is also important to note that the child ego state contains ‘recordings’ of childhood memories and experiences. Therefore, when the person feels and acts as they did when they were very young, they are experiencing their child ego state.