Transactional Analysis 1: ego states & basic transactions

Transactional Analysis 1: ego states & basic transactions

Have you ever found yourself in a situation with someone where you seem to repeat the same uncomfortable or even destructive patterns with them every time you meet them? For instance, you might feel you’re never able to say no to a particular person, or that someone in your life always puts you the defensive with a constant stream of criticism. Maybe there’s someone who always relegates you to the role of listener, never taking an interest in what’s happening with you. And each time you might think, “never again, next time it’ll be different,” but it never is. Transactional analysis, or TA, is a theoretical framework used in therapy and counseling, which suggests that one of the overriding factors in the perpetuation of these situations is not the other person’s behavior, but our own state of mind. TA suggests we shift between three distinct ego states: Parent: This is a state in which you think, feel, and behave in ways based on how your parents and other authority figures acted. Adult: Here, you think, feel, and behave in response to the here and now, you’re able to draw on your full life experience, and generally, you’re geared to a realistic objective appraisal of your experiences. Child: In this state you think, feel, and behave, just like you did in your childhood. So there are the three ego states, but what might they look like if you saw them in action? For instance, what if you suddenly caught sight of someone sunbathing nude outside the window? In your parent ego state, if the attitude you had experienced from parent and authority figures towards nudity was hostile, you might feel disgusted and outraged. You might bang on the window, tell the person to get some clothes on or clear off. Alternatively, your parent ego state might express itself by showing concern for the sunbather, you might see the sunbathers getting a bit burned in places and start trying to push sun tan lotion on them. so here we have the two typical manifestations of the parent. We have the controlling parent, who judges and seeks to manipulate people to do what they say. Then we have the nurturing parent, who wants to look after people. Going back to the window, instead of moving to a parent state, we might move to child. As a child you might have been told that nudity was shameful, and trained to avert your eyes, to feel embarrassed or even guilty. If you felt and did these things, you’d be in your child state. Now there’s another site of the child state that doesn’t give a damn about what people think; it does exactly what it wants to do. This child might see the sunbather and think: “That looks fun, I’m going to rip off all my clothes and join them!” Whether the sunbather likes it or not. So again, there are two sides to this state, There’s the side where the child’s adapted itself to the demands of parents and other authority figures. And the free child, who just does what it likes. What does the adult state look like? Well, the adult state is the most open to information in the here-and-now. The adult enjoys its own spontaneous responses, not responses programmed into it by authority figures. Having no big judgments about nudity, the adult has no need to suppress it. The adult is aware that we all have bodies, and isn’t threatened or disgusted by their reality. Fundamentally, the adult respects the sunbather as an equal. The big buzz words here are respect and awareness. Unlike the parent and child states, the adult isn’t subdivided. That’s because it’s thought to have access to all information, and that’s one of the reasons that it’s often a goal of TA Therapy to strengthen the adult state. This isn’t to say the parent and child states are bad, (later in the series I’ll be looking at the positives they can give us, like structure and creativity) but because of their very limited awareness compared to the adult, the parent and child aren’t great ones to rely on. To illustrate why, let’s go back to the start of the video, where I spoke about finding yourself in endlessly repeated patterns of negative behavior with some people. What state would you say these folks are in? Well, it’s not going to be adult. Let’s look at why that is: We move between the ego states all the time, but not in a random way. we change states in response to the thoughts and events we experience. Events, thoughts, and memories that seem unfair might put us in our parent state, where we become judgmental, angry, or superior. Events, thoughts, or memories that embarrass us might put us in our child state, where we might feel ashamed and think we’re bad. We change states in response to people too. Here are a couple of examples of how that might happen: Bill is Jackie’s boss, Jackie comes in late and misses an important meeting. Bill: You’re USELESS! Jackie: I know… I’m sorry. Let’s look at what happened there. Bill had been in his adult state. seeing Jackie, he was angry and switched to parent, criticizing her harshly. Jackie had also been in her adult state, but in response to being shouted at, she moved to child, where she felt small and bad, and meekly apologized. Another example: Dan lives with Mike. Dan finds a spider in the shower. He has a fear of spiders. Dan: There’s a spider, I can’t go in there! Mike: Don’t worry, I’ll take of it. Again, let’s look at the ego states. Dan might have started out in adult deciding to have a shower. But then, seeing the spider, switches to child. Feeling scared and helpless. Mike was in his child state. But seeing Dan brought out his protective, nurturing parent. Notice what the arrows are doing in both cases. They’re aligned. These are said to be complementary interactions, or, transactions, they have an important property because in theory, being complimentary, they set up a reciprocal pattern in these situations that could be maintained indefinitely. But not all transactions are complimentary. Let’s go back to Bill and Jackie: Bill: You’re USELESS! Jackie: Don’t you DARE talk to me that way! Here, we have an initial parent statement that aimed at Jackie’s child [state]. But here, Jackie responds by moving to her parent feeling and expressing outrage. This is called a Crossed Interaction, reflecting the crossed arrows. Unlike complementary transactions, which are seen as stable and can go on indefinitely, cross transactions are highly unstable, and one of two things tends to happen: Either the transaction will stop, or there’ll be a shift of ego-state in one of the parties to create a new stable, complimentary transaction, like this: Bill: You’re USELESS! Jackie: Don’t you DARE talk to me that way! Bill: You’ve missed the meeting! Jackie: I don’t CARE what I’ve done. You don’t talk to people like that! Bill: But… Jackie: Now you can bloody-well apologize! Bill: I… Jackie: I’m waiting. BIll: I just meant that- Jackie: I said I’m waiting. Bill: Okay, I’m sorry. Jackie: I don’t think you mean it! Jackie: Right, that’s it – I’m reporting you for harassment! Bill: Look, I am! I’m really sorry. So what started out as Bill trying to put Jackie in a child state ended up with Bill firmly in the child state, and Jackie as parent. Now that the transaction shifted, it can stay like that with Bill perpetually submitting to Jackie. It’s not necessarily a comfortable state of affairs, particularly for Bill, but it can be psychologically stable. What about the other uncomfortable, but stable situations mentioned at the start, like constantly being spoken over by someone in your life? First, let’s look at you. How do you feel in that situation? Maybe you feel a little dominated. Maybe somehow less entitled than the other person. Maybe you were trained as a child to always listen when someone else was talking. How do you experience the other person? Maybe they seem like a bigger personality to you. Maybe the prospect of their anger or disapproval feels very aversive. Here, we have a child-parent relationship going on. You don’t necessarily need to be saying child and parent things, the other person doesn’t have to be telling you to shut up and listen, but psychologically, you’re relating to them as a child to a parent. The dotted line as opposed to the full line indicates the psychological relationship. Why wouldn’t this happen to the adult? Well as an adult, unlike the child, you don’t feel inferior or entitled to less, you feel equal. You might have been taught that it’s polite to listen when somebody else is talking, But as an adult, you’re aware that listening politely is a strategy that works in some, but not all contexts. As an adult you choose the most appropriate strategy for the situation. Other people don’t seem [to have] bigger personalities than you, You give them credit for being able to respond to you in an adult way, and if they can’t that’s because of their own shortcomings, not yours. Also, you don’t fear disapproval as an adult; you can hear disapproving comments and weigh for yourself whether or not they feel accurate. If they do feel accurate, unlike the child who can get lost in unproductive guilt or anxiety at this point, the adult can simply decide to change their behavior. If it doesn’t feel accurate the adult can simply reject the feedback. What about a situation where someone always gets you to do favors you don’t want to do? Maybe they seem to act small and helpless. They might use a whiny pleading voice – and what does that bring out in you? Maybe you feel responsible for their emotions. Maybe you feel like the bigger, more capable person. Here, we have a parent-child relationship going on. Again, psychologically, would this happen to an adult? Again, as an adult, you see yourself as equal. No more intrinsically capable than them. Where you are more capable at a particular thing, you know it’s because you worked at it yourself, so constantly doing that thing for someone else actually prevents them from becoming capable. You don’t feel responsible for others, but for yourself. You see others as equals, not as small and helpless. And following on from that, you feel comfortable saying no, partly because you give credit to the other person for being able to accept the word ‘no’ in an adult way and again, if they can’t do that, as an adult you are aware that it’s their shortcoming, not yours. So with the adult’s wider awareness and sense of equality and fairness, these uncomfortably unbalanced relationships don’t really gather any momentum People who took over them or tried to take advantage Will either have to change their behavior around the adult or go off and find other targets. As I’ve mentioned, TA Therapy’s goal is often to strengthen the adult state. If you’re interested in doing that, one starting point is to look at what events and people trigger your parent and child states. Do you assign responsibility equally? Do you have to be in control? Do you feel forced into taking control? Do you have a hard time making decisions and try to get others to make them for you? Do you feel, fundamentally, you’re not as good as others? And what might these things bring out in other people, perhaps in reaction to you? In this video I looked at Ego States and Basic Transactions. In the next video, I’ll be taking a closer look at conflict, manipulation, and psychological games.

100 thoughts on “Transactional Analysis 1: ego states & basic transactions

  1. More psycho babble. poithg nvkqe mc posir g opqwitpu  kjgn. And that made just as much sense as this videol

  2. I've been searching for signs of intelligent life on YouTube, I haven't found any, I'm aborting the mission NOW.  Psychiatry, Psychology et al are not sciences.

  3. Your heroes, Freud and Jung et al were drug addicts and occultists.  Do any of you ever do any research on ANYTHING?

  4. Brilliant, love your videos; but I need to ask, are you Mata?
    If you are I can not tell you how epic that would be for me…

  5. This information woke me up in the mid 70's and now I've rediscovered it today. Simple, easy to apply and very life changing.

  6. I think parent parent transactions are much more stable online. Or at least they can stretch on for long periods. "You're an idiot. No you're an idiot. No, You're,…etc."

  7. I think this is a wonderful introduction to the Ego States, but something very important has not been demonstrated or alluded to – and that's the Adult – Adult transaction, what that would sound and look like, such as between the boss and the employee who comes late to work. A perfect opportunity to assign and assume responsibility.

  8. Not only is this immensely educational and instrumental but I was laughing out loud at the graphical representations.

  9. i am unaware of my own inner mental life like ther is me and then ther is this thing i dont even wanna look at which is my inner mental emotional processes i am so served from myself i dont keep track of my thought i dont really even think ther is a roating derby in my head and some times i attach myself by random to this and that image my social emotional cognition fucked up too i totally fail to understand others or come up with a proper response i misunderstand every thing very grossly –what kinda fuck head am i ?

  10. So it's ok if you see someone nude sunbathing to walk up to them and rub sun cream on them because I can tell them it's my "parent" ego. Thanks, will try this out.

  11. This is a brilliant introduction to TA. TA has within it the code that I have been trying to understand my whole life! I look forward to working with it as a coach and in service of my personal transformation into an adult!

  12. My psychology teacher in highschool was awefull. I might had taken more interest in it had I've been thought things like this.

  13. Yesterday I had a really great interaction with my dad. He was talking to me about a subject we're both knowledgable about but have different opinions on. Usually I don't have the energy to maintain an Adult response to his usual 'my opinion = truth' type way of Parent-demanding-a-Child way of talking, but yesterday I did, and his normally aggrivating behaviour didn't bother me at all – it amused me :). Also, because I maintained a calm Adult state, his Parent state got a bit wobbly and started to become more of an Adult state. It was great!
    So yeah, thanks for putting words to these states and encouraging healthy thoughts and responses, friend. 🙂


  15. I guess this is something else to consider along with being a cloud cuckoolander and using passive aggressiveness and group think to destroy the world.

  16. The need of strokes is missing from this film….Strokes are the center of TA because it's the transaction of strokes or tokens what creates a successful social relationship.
    furthermore, when we talk about ego states..Parent and child have a negative connotation. A nurturing parent in real life, is an individual in adult ego state…A playful child is an individual however young, whose stroke needs are being met, fundamentally by other individuals in 'adult ego state' who could be the parents, a teacher, or a friend.

  17. Currently reading "What do you say after you say Hello?" – ERIC BERNE, having a hard time figuring out TA, thanks for your video

  18. So basically this arbitrarily sorts all of human behavior into controlling/nurturing adaptive/free and other. Sure I guess you can do that, framing issues in this sense does seem like it might make good therapy I guess. But this idea of conversational equilibrium could just as easily be separated into aggressive, retreating and thoughtful. Or boss/subordinate/peer. I suppose the terms might not be as important as the real relationships they describe….yeah I missed the point. The point is to describe a set of known behaviors so we can talk about them in various ways isn't it.

  19. All three videos are really interesting and I'll certainly be looking to read more on TA. I do think there will be many out there who don't get that it's just a theoretical framework and think that is in fact scientific truth. I'm also not keen on the terms "parent' and 'child', I think they bring too much baggage with them. Dominant and submissive better? Sounds a bit kinky. Superior, equal and inferior states seems about right…

    Anyway, thanks TheraminTrees for another great video.

  20. I've read "Games People Play" and "What Do You Say After Hello" by Eric Berne a few times and several other TA tittles beside.

  21. Slight expansion: the Controlling Parent influence can sometimes positive and necessary (eg look before crossing the road; brush your teeth), and the Nurturing one sometimes negative (overbearing / cocooning ). But keep going, I like your videos!

  22. Very well explained. When I start a new job I tend to go into child mode. It can be a nightmare and the anxiety. Oh boy

  23. Really unhelpful!!!this does not provide any ideas for improving future meeting, you cannot predict the other persons action to do anything about it! sort of like steering ship by watching the wake. Now IF you could be sure that the other person was ALWAYS in one of the 3 states this could help—but you can't. the NLP concept is completely more useful.

  24. TheraminTrees I have a passion for these arguments. I know a little about the relationships between a therapist and his patient and I can simply say that this video is pure gold. Thanks to the subtitles I understand well the whole video, I think it's great. Very good job. I'll watch part 2 and 3. Thanks.

  25. This knowledge isn't present in therapies.
    Since all psychiatric centers have "Sint" in front, they want to keep you in child state.

  26. I just picked up the book: Games people play, by, Eric Berne. And on the front cover it says, transactional analysis so I looked that up and got the definition which was not too helpful and then clicked on this video and it explained it perfectly! Thanks!

  27. My mom read Eric Berne’s book when she was younger . This is so helpful, thank you for making this video so simple to understand.

  28. What if I considered myself better than others but refused to help nor care for them, would that make me an evil parent?

  29. Sick cultish brainwashing shit. They advocate I'm ok you're ok, anything goes, hedonistic pleasure, and pedophilia. Stay far, far away from TA and all it's minions

  30. Yesterday, I heard first time PAC in my therapy class. I tried to find a fine line among three but could not. As said my teacher, It is Thought (P), Taught (A) and feel (C).

  31. It's a pity that this video illustrates the various ego states using nudity. The explanations are excellent – clear and easily understood. But the example is inappropriate to send to my email list. Anyone know of another video on PAC ego states that is easy to understand intro to Transactional Analysis?

  32. This is legit waaaaaaaay better then therapy. Well usually when therapy doesn’t help anymore TA is a great thing to learn. My mom is a life coach in TA. She’s amazing and explaining it and helping others.

  33. every video about this topic overlooks the best part about this theory – that you can force the other person into a different state.

    This video lightly touches on the exploitative points of this theory by saying therapists try and use it – or ABUSE it. But the fact is that, once you know about this theory, and once you are observant in daily life, you can use it to your advantage. You can exploit it. Because it's a very effective theory

  34. Transactional analysis has been discredted for many years now. It is really just a bunch of made up stuff. It has no clinical basis and in my somewhat narrow experience just causes a lot of unpleasant squabbling. The bits that may have practical application can be found in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

  35. Pitty you didn't explain the best way to defuse the situation, when spoken to like the example with Jacky.

    Instead of fighting for the parental state, I try to wake up my "opponent" and bring him down to the adult state, instead of going for the child state.

    Not many people will accept the child state, while an adult state will have more chance to succeed. Also is the cross equal to the millions of year old method of the intimidation scene that is prior to the physical fight scene.

  36. I dont know. Versatility is a good trait. But this is bending too much is not.

    I rather be assertive and firm. Either follow me and fight the war with me or get the fuck out of my way.

  37. This model doesn't seem to account for all interpersonal interactions. What about curiosity as a childish behavior? It doesn't fit with rebelliousness or compliance. It also doesn't fit with nurturing or controlling behavior, nor is it respectful. How do you try to fit all interpersonal interactions there if it can't even afford to allow for a situation where questions are asked with legitimate, not disrespectful nor compliant, not controlling nor nurturing curiosity? Do you send anything that doesn't fit into the adult state, despite children presenting that behavior?

  38. I'm GoNnA RiP oFf AlL mY ClOtHeS aNd JoIn 'Em – TheraminTrees
    Am I acting in the child state at the moment… : (

  39. From what I can tell, I'm actually fairly good at staying mostly in my Adult state, and my Parenting state is far more nurture leaning, in part because my adult state sees that as the most reasonable, logical, and fair thing to do, and I nurture more with logical reasoning than belittlement and protectiveness. I don't have perfect control of it though, my child state leads me to isolate myself sometimes, probably due to my anxiety, but often when I find I'm doing so, I can enter a conversation with myself as an adult and objectively evaluate the situation (or at least as close to objectivity as the human mind is capable of). This interplay of them might suggest that these aren't 3 completely distinct and isolated states we switch between, but rather a spectrum of states that build off of each other and flow between each other, just like many other parts of life.

  40. Been reading Berne's 'Games People Play' today and it's a revelation. As much as I might pride myself on my efforts to be rational and decent most of the time, I'm almost always in Parent or Child mode. Really behaving and feeling like an Adult, suddenly I feel better physically and don't hate myself. No need to take things personally, feel stung or wounded, or react acerbically or moralistically.

    I hope I can keep this up. I think up to now I've been trying to be the Adult, but really just being a Parent, adopting an attitude that was a little superior and pious.

    Like I say, I hated myself.

  41. If a well-read psychologist wasn't sharing this theory, then I'd immediately call it a load of nonsense. So I'm a "parent" whenever I look out for someone? I'm a "child" whenever I defer to someone else's feelings? Why not say that my offense at the idea of being placed into a box like this isn't a "child" rejection of authority, but just my honest thoughts expressed how I see fit?

  42. How does a situation of having been a child of parents who forced nudity on you and subsequently having developed an aversion to it apply to this?
    What state would a negative reaction to a naked sunbather mirror in that case? As the person is not mirroring the opinion of the authority figures in their life, is it still the "parent state"? Genuinely curious

  43. … I studied TA 40 years ago as part of my BA in Psychology and Sociology, (The Open University) and then went on for a Psychology Masters. It opened a whole world of observing others; and (Intriguingly) into my own behaviour. But you can do much more than just observe :0)

  44. It is sounds like you're saying, if a person is scared and show emotions with being scared they are in a child state of transactional analysis.

  45. Thank you for this information, I understand it well. Btw, can I borrow your example about nudity in my reporting??? Please, my classmates will be able to understand our report better with that example

  46. I think the reason I didn't like some of my high school teachers is that they acted like parents, whereas I wanted to be treated as an adult

  47. Fantastic video. Exactly what I was looking for. I have a new work colleague who I find extremely difficult to work with. Doesn’t listen, interrupts, believes she knows best and lacks empathy working with a group of fragile clients. Thank you so much for giving me a little more clarity into human behaviors. 🙏😁

  48. so morally and factual falls claims from woman, which they get no fair treatment for are so normal that you even use it as example? you must live in the West. Don´t you too find it breathtaking that woman has so much unearned "unholy" power with that harassment claims=lies?

  49. I think I'm becoming more aware of applying transaction to my own life. As a person concerned about my self-perception of an well-reasoned and intelligent individual, my main objective is to strengthen the adult state as much as it can possibly can. Any feedback to my goals is good

  50. I'm confused about the adult ego state. I learn best by examples, and while your examples of the Parents state and Child state is easy to understand, the adult ego state was like "Having no big judgements about nudity, he has no need to suppress nudity. The adult is aware that we all have bodies and isn't threatened or digusted by their reality. Fundamentally, the big buzz words are respect and awareness." And then the adult just said "Peace" I don't understand, how would someone in the Adult Ego state enjoy entertainment? How do they handle converations? You do say that people under that state are spontaneous, but without pre-pregrammed states, how could they come up with an idea so fast without thinking? I'm so confused

  51. Thanks for these. I feel like I have ways to objectively navigate my relationships after years of stumbling from 1 toxic person to another.

  52. Everybody click refresh a few times so the ad people have to pay TT more and his videos get higher in the recommendation feed

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