Transactional analysis directly spawned from the ideas of Sigmund Freud. The basic principle is that each individual has three different “ego” states, which subdivides Freud’s idea of the ego but doesn’t make any changes to the id or superego. The ego regulates the instinctive desires of the id and manages the moralistic influence of the superego, and therefore forms most people’s primary state of being. Transactional analysis focuses on the specific ego roles people play and how their interactions can cause conflict. If you or your loved one is considering counselling, finding out about the theory helps you decide on the best approach for your needs.
Although they are further subdivided within Eric Berne’s transactional analysis approach, the three main parts of the ego are the parent, adult and child. These are basically models of behaviour which we assume as we deem necessary for the particular interaction. The adult is the ideal state for most people, because it is rational, reasonable and assertive. In this role, people are neither aggressive nor controlling, and are comfortable within themselves. The adult ego role is concerned with the present, and is not influenced by events or experiences from the individual’s past.
The parent is either controlling or nurturing. The controlling parent can be a disciplinarian or a teacher. Its role is to help people assuming the child role understand or live in society. This is usually done by the attempted transfer of ideals or beliefs, but can devolve into violence or outright bullying. The nurturing parent is the caring counterpart to the controlling parent. This is a positive state dedicated to offering unconditional support and love to the child. The nurturing parent’s goal is to protect and look after the child. These roles are learned from parents or other authoritative individuals during childhood, and in counselling the individual is helped to understand the root of their versions of these roles.
The final role which a transactional analysis therapist seeks to identify is the child. There are three types of child, and these are learned from our experiences in childhood. The natural child is the simplest form, who loves playing and longs to be protected. Non-speech noises such as “wheeee!” come from the natural child. The little professor is the experimental, explorative part of the child who likes to try out new things. The final type of child is the adaptive child, who either alters his or her behaviour to match current surroundings or rebels against the world around them.
Conflict stems from individuals trying to communicate with each other in contradictory ego states. If, for example, two people are communicating with each other in the controlling parent ego state, the other’s non-conformity to the desired adaptive child state creates conflict. Ordinarily, people will assume the complementary role (nurturing parent to natural child, for example) to the person with whom they’re communicating. During transactional analysis counselling, the therapist will help individuals realise when conflicts stem from contradictory ego states and therefore help them improve their communication.
Unhealthy experiences in childhood can also cause people to become fixated in either the parent or child ego state. This is thought to explain many different forms of mental illness, and psychotherapy is required in these cases. The counsellor will help the individual develop their alternative ego states and reduce their reliance on one particular state. The specific events in the individual’s past which lead to this fixation will be identified by the therapist, and through this they will be able to institute positive changes in their life.
If you or your loved one is suffering from a psychological condition, finding the right type of counselling will help them get better and live a more ordinary life. We can help you determine your treatment requirements and suggest the most suitable approaches to you. We understand that you’re going through a difficult time, and we’ll offer you help in any way we can. Our advice is friendly, confidential and absolutely free, so get in touch with us today!