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Typical Features of TA

Transactional Analysis, TA, is both a theory of development and a system of social psychology, that is, it is both theory and practice. The theory contains key concepts that connect it it with Freudianism, and with brain research too. As a social psychology, Transactional Analysis postulates relationships within the mind and proposes relationships of various kinds between individuals.

In short, this integrative approach contains elements of psychoanalytic, Humanist and Cognitive approaches as it postulates ego states: Each ego state is individually manifested, and formed by experiences.

The simpler PAC model (below) can be fine for getting (more) complementary and reciprocal transactions, rather than frustrated or "crossed" transactions.

Transactional Analysis introduced
The PAC model with added colours.

As a theory of personality, TA proposes how people are structured psychologically, by making use of a much simplified model - the PAC model. It incorporates the Parent, Adult and Child, - three personality instances that have parallels to the superego, ego, and libido (id) of Freudian thought, and are given the added names exteropsyche (Parent), neopsyche (Adult), and archaeopsyche (Child).

Within each of these three ego states of TA are subdivisions: one affirming and nurturing, another negating and demanding. Thus, TA posits we contain a nurturing (permission-giving, security-giving) Parent pattern, and a critical (comparing criticisingly) Parent pattern of behaviour, feelings, and ways of thinking. it might work better if we consider our repertoire as Parental figures as not just either this or that (plus or minus modes), but as belonging to a range of options between such poles, of course. By cultivation and maturation some can handle things quite neutrally too, for example. So "more or less" has to be added to the simplified elements of the structure. It stands to reason.

We also have a free and adapted (more or less "tamed") Child pattern. The Adult of rational handling, may be infiltrated or "contaminated", for example if beliefs are taken as facts.

What helps, serves being functional. What is termed negative, is getting or being dysfunctional and counterproductive.

The TA model, called PAC, is frequently used to help understanding of how we function and express ourselves. The basic ideas are likewise used to get to grips with quite typical interactions in larger settings, for example families and corporations. Outside the field of therapy, TA has been used in education to help teachers communicate clearly at appropriate levels, and also in councelling, management and communications training.

During the 1970s, TA spread throughout the world with thousands of people becoming Certified Transactional Analysts and even more using the concepts without formal training, for one of the strengths of TA has been readily helpful and useful concepts. They were devised mainly by the originator, Eric Berne MD.

Key words like "Child" and "strokes" and "games" soon were part of our culture. In this connection, "stroke" brought images of attention and touch, and not of disease. And "games" were not fun, but something to work hard to get rid of, in order to get game-free, or authentic.

In more recent years the accuracy of the three ego state model (PAC) has been questioned, and the value of the divisioning in it too.

TA, fit for corporation achievements

Knowledge of TA can bring zest to living. Even though TA, "Transactional Analysis is a theory of personality and systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change," TA is becoming increasingly useful in the management of organisations as well. TA finds application in organizational, educational and in a variety of other settings now.

The PAC model represents three parts of the personality, as Eric Berne conceived it. The model can be an effective tool to understand why people behave in certain odd ways or other discomfortable ways. The model is also used to improve communication and ways of management.

The PAC model is applied in business management, personal study, an otherwise alongside with Karpman's Drama Triangle, and a study of TA Game theory and what is involved in "life scripts". The script analysis technique used in TA provides a method to look at these early decisions and make changes if necessary.

Many firms and corporations have discovered that TA brings added competitive advantage, for it is a great help to actualize the potential and achievements of people in organizations. Besides, it can be used in interventions and assessments fit for personell management.

TA provides effective tool for solving certain dilemmas too. Individuals get what is basically simple tools to understand themselves and some of their most significant relationships.

Basic TA ideas

Dr. Eric Berne theorised that the human personality is made up of three "ego states", as he called it - Parent, Adult and Child - They are rather like the Superego, Ego and Id (Libido) of Sigmund Freud, but there are some interesting differences too.

Each state has its patterned thought system and feelings, now and then with aligned behaviour too. Each of the three systems inside our personality is thus like a state within the state. So thinking, feeling and making value-judgements can take place in each of the three ego states.

What is called transactions in this context are communication exchanges between people. Transactions consist of what is called stimuli and responses. When people interact they do so in one of three different ego states.

Ego States

It has been said: "When I'm making value-judgements, I'm in Parent."

Terms like Parent, Adult, and Child with capital first letters refer to ego states.

PARENT: The Parent is a collection of pre-recorded, pre-judged, and maybe prejudiced matters. They involve the codes for living. One one side there is a nurturing side to it when it is supportive, on the other side a downright critical side to it. The Parent may be controlling, deciding, playing a role, and reasoning, and may be right about it.

Critical parentlike voices are known as the harsh super-ego, and may go together with low self-esteem, and some self-punishing streaks, unless we are careful.

ADULT: Processing well and dealing fairly and neatly is of the Adult. Sound and helpful fact-based decisions are of the Adult too. The Adult is a logic-based reservoir of handy stuff. Logical thinking, rational dictums and moral feelings, goals, handling of reality, or realism goes into this side of ourselves. The Adult can be deadly if essentially contaminated by delusions or prejudices.

CHILD: In transactional analysis (TA) the Child is seen as the source of creativity, recreation and procreation; a handy source of renewal in life. Impulsive, imagninative, and impressionable, it may be suppressed. That would be no good in the long run, as id (life zest) depends on flowing patently or freely for us to thrive and keep on being well. Here is a link to psychosomatics. If suppressed, disturbed, maybe at the point of being set on controlling even a nurturing parent figure. We should not have unrealistic expectancies. The Adult has to learn much so that we may avoid becoming unrealistic.

Dangers of Taking to Over-Simplified Models

Berne's PAC model does not incorporate what is termed the Witness (Sanskrit: sakshi and sakshin, awareness, witness consciousness) - and the Observer. This Observer can be trained [Link 1], for example by meditation. [Link 2]

In some contexts an intelligence that rides atop of both P, A, and C may seem subsumed in TA thinking. At any rate, in fig. 3 is put a FOURTH instance into the model in a fairly integrative way:

Transactional Analysis, improved PAC model
FIGURE 3. Enlarged PAC model, shaped like a flower. In WPAC, W stands for 'Witnessing Instance'.

As above, P stands for 'Parent', A for 'Adult', the rational handling instance, and C stands for 'Child', the zest-filled and at times fad-ridden libidinous urges from inside. And W stands for 'Witnessing awareness', quite simply. In Born to Win [Bob], James and and Jongeward claim that the way of TA is to increase conscious awareness. In this way of illustrating sides to our personality, such improved awakening would correspond to making the W area grow, in part into the other three instances depicted. The mariposa tulip here serves as a remembrance or token of it:

Transactional Analysis token - Calochortus luteus
A yellow mariposa lily illustrates the WPAC model, where W in the centre stands for (Central) Witness, P for Parent, A for Adult and C for Child.

The enlarged model makes it easy to see the place and role and "paddings" of the inner Witness. The Witness is of consciousness, deep consciousness, and may help in organising frivolous outlets (C aspects), may assist rational handling (A functions), and parenting - controlling, nurturing or urging parts and some other copied handlings ways of ourselves (P).

Assume the postulated Witness is a central instance - the outlet of the Deep Mind itself in Buddhist thought [Cf. [Link]. The Witness is intuitive - the TA Child is far less so, and follows plots. Some of them are built-in. Also, the Witness may be said to be an aspect of Inner Awareness too, and can, properly cultivated, rise above plots and scripts that run in families.

The concept of the Witness is very old, and found in major Upanishads and other works of antiquity. "You [the Self] dwell in me in a state of equilibrium as pure witness consciousness, without form and without the divisions of time and space," affirms the Yoga Vasistha [Venkatesananda, 1984]. Clarifying one's awareness is what Zen and other forms of Buddhist training is about, and is found in Hindu (Tantric) yoga too. The Witness instance can be trained in very many ways. A page on such training: [Link]

In the WPAC model there is room for it and some avenues of thinking to be associated with it (in time). For the time being, the Witness - i TA's PAC thinking and associated training - will just be subsumed in this discourse: It could pay very well to place a central "Witness bubble" in the figure of each person who communicates, and in any two-way arrangement of interactions.

Ego-side transactions

Transactional Analysis, TA
FIGURE 4: WPAC Parental ongoing interactions. The Witness watches or monotors what's going on (to one's ability)

A series of ongoing parental interactions is presented by our NEW model, the WPAC, to show just where the Witness (W) is to be found in interactions. The Witness is a part of ourself that sorts out, or tries to. It may come up with unsuitable conclusions as well as suitable ones, on an ongoing basis.

It is good to count in yourself too, to figure better. The wise men of Gotham did not sense to count in themselves, each in turn, in a wonderful little story:

Twelve Men Went Fishing

Once on a time, on a bright spring day, twelve men of Gotham went fishing at the river. Some of the men fished from the riverbank, but some of the men decided they would wade into the river to fish. All the men caught many fish, and as the day went on, they grew merrier and merrier.

When the sun dipped low in the west, the men found it was time to head back home to their wives and families after a long day fishing. They all agreed.

"But wait," said one of then, "I hope no one has drowned," said the fifth man.

"We'd better find out!" said a third, looking around.

They all stared at the swiftly flowing river. And then they wanted to count themselves to make sure.

The first man began. He pointed to each of the others, one at a time, saying, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven . . ." he counted. "That's only eleven," he said and seemed puzzled. "We were twelve when we came."

"I'll count," said the second man. "You could have made an error." And he too pointed at each man. "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven . . . only eleven!" he cried.

One by one they counted, and one by one they all counted but eleven men.

"One of us has drowned!" they shouted together, and sprang to the river. There they searched for their lost companion. They dived into the cold water and searched some more. They were soaked and cold, but they cared for one another, and so they searched till the sun had nearly set.

Then a good-looking courtier rode past. "Hi ho," he waved to the men, for they looked worried and troubled as they were dashing to and fro, diving and jumping in their drenched clothes. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Sir," said the first man, "we came to fish in this river today, and there were twelve of us when we began, but now we are only eleven."

"One of us has drowned," said the second man.

"We're searching to find our friend," added a third one sadly.

"Yes," shouted all the others. "We must find the missing one."

The courtier smiled. "How much will you pay me if I find your twelfth man?" he asked.

"Sir," said they, "we'll give you all the money we carry on us."

"Give me the money," said the Nottingham man.

The damp men from Gotham began to pour their coins out of their satchels and their pockets.

"We'll give you our fish, too," said one of them, and they handed the courtier their buckets full of fish.

The courtier gathered the coins and fish. "Now," he said, "line up here, on the riverbank," and the twelve men of Gotham lined up before the courtier.

The courtier began to count. He tapped each man upon the shoulder with his riding staff as he counted. "One," he said, "and two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven." He tapped one more time: "And here is the twelfth man," he said, tapping the shoulder of the number they had been missing.

"You've found our friend!" the men jubilated.

"A man's best friend and worst enemy is himself." (American proverb, in Mieder 1996:234)." It may at least become costy at length not to keep yourself well in mind and in the good play. – To revert to the PAC model: Fig. 5 shows the same thing as fig.4 by the still common, over-simplified model that Eric Berne put into good use in many of his books, and that adherents have been using to this day, maybe with enlargements, like Karpman's drama triangle.

Transactional Analysis, TA
FIGURE 5. Chit-chat - Talking about the weather could be by way of Parent-Parent transactions.

Transactions can complement each other, they can cross each other, and they can be covert (hidden).

There are six definite combinations or possible types of transactions to be reckoned with, namely Parent-Parent, Parent-Adult, Parent-Child, Adult-Adult, Adult-Child, and Child-Child.

Transactional Analysis, TA
FIGURE 6. Adult-Adult transactions could be reasoning together.

Transactional Analysis, TA
FIGURE 7. Having fun together should be of Child-Child transactions.

Transactional Analysis, TA
FIGURE 8. PAC models showing two basic contaminations.

If personality instances interfere with one another, it is called contamination in TA, and contamination is considered very important to get rid of, to clean out to one's ability - "not too little, not too much" at the time, and a warm, loving or friendly touch can help a lot too. That takes us to strokes, TA strokes.

TA Strokes

These strokes are pats or hugs, and figurative hugs too. Praise may be understood as that, for example. Many people need encouragement, need to develop the ego and their sense of self-esteem - need to develop constructive methods of relating or transacting with other people. But not all people. Some people - like hermits - are able to live at a higher level, in which the ego is hopefully well transcended and "stroking" is not much needed.

Another problem with "stroking" or patting is that it often becomes mechanical, conventional or artificial and lacking in genuineness - maybe like sullen kisses that amount to nothing good.

If we are deeply dependent on stroking, hugs and praise or appraisal from others, we hardly are much unique, and dependencies tend to reflect base needs, Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs suggests. He orders needs into five levels, butting basic needs we have in common with most animals, on bottom. Only on the highest, postulated level self-initiated drives, for such as self-development and much else, get force or take shape. If lower needs are tolerably well fulfilled, one may rise if the higher outlets are not blocked. If so, one is inhibited from developing to the next level of (personality and spiritual) maturity.

Kiss the darlings around, take sensible care and adhere to propriety and things could go well. Transactional Analysis is one means to help people get aware of great blockages from their upbringing, and learn to lessen the impacts of many untoward features "built into oneself", often hindering, often hampering, often not good enough. TA helps one understand much conditioning, thanks to Eric Berne, MD.

There may be many valid interpretations of what is worth while. [With John J. Sparkes. [In Keegan 1993:135]

We could allow for that where we are, perhaps . . . Also:

Nothing really takes the place of loving touch(es). A pat on the shoulder, a caress on cheek or hair, a hug, a kiss, a back rub, a massage are samples. - Muriel James. [1974:43]

Problems are something that everybody has at one time or another, families, as well as individuals . . . Basically, they can [agree] to let each other know if a situation is getting tense and [agree] to let each other know before it becomes intolerable. They can [agree] to accept each other's feelings without discounting them. They can also [agree] to demonstrate warmth and affection as often as possible. At least once a day. - Muriel James, [1974:42]

Stroking had better tend to complementary transactions, or harmonious ones. There are no illustrations of strokes so far here. The clue is to make a Child feel happy. One may reach that Child from the Parent, Adult and Child state in oneself, one or more at the same time, well blended, and appropriate in the situations. Good luck.

TA for parents
A few TA quotations

Transactional Analysis of Eric Berne and others, TA, Literature  

Berne, Eric. Games People Play. Reissue ed. London: Penguin, 2010.

Berne, Eric. Principles of Group Treatment. New York: Grove, 1966.

Berne, Eric. Sex in Human Loving. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973.

Berne, Eric. The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups. New York: Grove, 1966.

Berne, Eric. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy. New York: Grove, 1971.

Berne, Eric. What Do You Say After You Say Hello? The Psychology of Human Destiny. New York: Bantam, 1973.

Ernst, Franklin H. 2008. Handbook of Listening. Transactional Analysis of the Listening Activity. 2nd ed. Vallejo, CA: Addresso'Set Publications.

James, Muriel. The OK Boss. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1975.

James, Muriel. Transactional Analysis for Moms and Dads. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1974.

James, Muriel, and Dorothy Jongeward. Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1971.

Jongeward, Dorothy, et al. Everybody Wins: Transactional Analysis in Management. Rev. ed. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1976.

Jongeward, Dorothy, and Philip Seyer. Choosing Success: Transactional Analysis on the Job. New York: Wiley, 1978.

Keegan, Desmond, ed. Theoretical Principles of Distance Education. London: Routledge, 1993.

Mieder, Wolfgang (main ed.), Stewart A. Kingsbury, and Kelsie E. Harder: A Dictionary of American Proverbs. Paperback ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Morrison, James, and John O'Hearne. Practical Transactional Analysis in Manangement. Reading: Addison-Wesley, 1977.

Steiner, Claude. Transactional Analysis: An elegant theory and practice. The International Transactional Analysis Association. Nd. Online.

Stewart, Ian, and Vann Joines. TA Today: A New Introduction to Transactional Analysis. Nottingham: Lifespace Publishing, 1987.

Stewart, Ian. Transactional Analysis Counselling in Action. 3rd ed. London: Sage, 2007.

Swensen, Clifford. Introduction to Interpersonal Relations. Glenview: Scott, 1973.

Tilney, Tony. Dictionary of Transactional Analysis. London: Whurr Publishers, 1998.

Tudor, Keith, ed. Transactional Analysis Approaches to Brief Therapy: Or What Do You Say between Saying Hello and Goodbye? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002.

Venkatesananda, swami, tr. The Supreme Yoga. Yoga Vasistha. 3rd ed. Freemantle: Chiltern Yoga Trust, 1984.

White, Tony. New Ways in Transactional Analysis: Proceedings of the Loftus Street Seminar. Volume 1. 2nd ed. North Perth WA: TA Books, 2000.

Widdowson, Mark. Transactional Analysis: 100 Key Points and Techniques. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge, 2010.

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