Transactional Analysis and Ego States

“Transactional Analysis (TA)” or “Transactional Analysis Approach” is a theory of personality and psychotherapy developed by Eric Berne and his colleagues, who were trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. As a humanistic approach, Transactional Analysis presents both a structural model of personality and a functional behavioral model. Thinking that psychoanalysis is time-consuming, complex and weak in communicating with clients, Eric Berne moved away from psychoanalysis and focused on TA theory in order to make significant changes in the lives of his clients.

The historical development of TA can be handled in four stages. The first phase started with the definition of ego states (Parent, Adult, Child) by Bern, which provides an explanatory perspective on thinking, feeling and acting. Berne decided to study personality by observing the here and now phenomena such as the client’s voice, gestures, and words. Eric Berne thought that these observable criteria provided a basis for drawing conclusions about an individual’s past history and predicting future problems. The second phase focuses on transactions and games. During this second phase, TA became popular because of the clear concepts it contained and because people were able to recognize their own games. TA was seen primarily as a cognitive approach, as little attention was paid to emotions at this stage. In the third stage, TA turned its attention to life destiny and destiny analysis. The fourth stage, which covers the period from 1970 to the present, is characterized by the inclusion of techniques that also manifest themselves in Gestalt therapy, group therapy and psychodrama in TA. TA tried to balance its early emphasis on cognitive factors and insight by being more active and moving towards emotional structures in this process.

Based on an anti-deterministic worldview, TA adopts the belief that human beings have the capacity to go beyond the ordinary and choose new goals-behaviors. However, this does not mean that we are free from the influence of social forces. TA also recognizes that we are influenced by the demands and expectations of key people around us. This influence is especially evident in the decisions taken in early childhood, when individuals are more attached to the people around them. According to TA, we make decisions at some point in life, both physically and psychologically, in order to survive. But these early decisions can be reviewed and questioned and replaced if they no longer serve.

According to Stewart (2000), the philosophical assumptions of TA can be summarized in three statements:

1. All people are good. Everyone has value and dignity. First of all, this situation is an expression of existence rather than a behavior. Everyone is valuable no matter what they do or who they are. Believing that all people are equal is not treating everyone the same, but accepting the existence of everyone. Everyone is neither good nor bad, just different. Despite these differences, every person is OK.

2. Everyone has the capacity to think. Anyone who does not have a significant brain injury has the capacity to grasp the changes in their environment and themselves. All psychological problems can be resolved by the person himself, with the appropriate approach and when the necessary information is given to the individual.

3. Everyone decides their own destiny and these decisions can be changed later. The environment and people we live in can have a greater or lesser effect on us. But whatever the circumstances, we decide how to react.

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