VOS: The Basics of Transactional Analysis: Understanding the Three Ego States

The Basics of Transactional Analysis: Understanding the Three Ego States

Psychology explained

July 2023

The Basics of Transactional Analysis: Understanding the Three Ego States

Hello, VOS community! In today's insightful post, we’re going to unravel the enigmatic world of Transactional Analysis (TA). This psychological theory, created by psychiatrist Eric Berne, provides us with practical tool to understand our own and others' behavior patterns. Central to this theory are three "ego states": the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. Let's understand more about what these states entail.

Ego States: What Are They?

In Transactional Analysis, ego states are consistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that we all possess. You can think of them as distinct parts of our personality that interact with each other and are activated in our interactions with others. Understanding these ego states can help us navigate our relationships, manage conflicts, and foster better communication.

1. The Parent Ego State

In the Parent ego state, we think, feel, and behave as our parents or other influential caretakers did when we were children. This state is like an internalized representation of these figures. For instance, if you find yourself repeating phrases or advice your parents used to say, you're likely operating from your Parent ego state.

The Parent state has two aspects: the 'Nurturing Parent' who expresses care, validation, and permission, and the 'Controlling Parent' who criticizes, prohibits, and demands.

2. The Adult Ego State

The Adult ego state represents our ability to think, feel, and act in response to what's happening in the present, based on current information and reality. This state is rational, objective, and deals with things as they are, not influenced by our past or assumptions.

For example, when we make decisions based on the information we have at the moment—like choosing the fastest route to work—that's our Adult state at work.

3. The Child Ego State

The Child ego state embodies our experiences, feelings, and behaviors from childhood. When we respond in ways we used to when we were children—like feeling extreme joy while eating ice cream, that's our Child state.

The Child state, like the Parent, has two aspects: the 'Free Child' who is spontaneous, creative, and playful, and the 'Adapted Child' who obeys or rebels against the rules and norms established by the Parent and Adult states.

Each of us contains all these ego states within us, and we switch between them in our interactions with others. Gaining awareness of our ego states can significantly improve our understanding of ourselves and our relationships. In our next article, we will explain how to use this knowledge in practise. So stay in touch!

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