Transactional Analysis (TA)

Transactional Analysis (TA) is a personality and psychotherapy for personal growth. It has wide applications in Clinical Psychology, organizations and education also. Transactional Analysis can be defined as many things, first and foremost it is a philosophy that begins with the belief that each of us is fundamentally OK whilst also expressing a point of view and a description of people which gives us an understanding to the structure of personality.

Woollams and Brown (1978) describe it as "An ever-expanding system of related techniques designed to help people understand and change their feelings and behaviors."

Eric Berne began to develop the theory of TA before 1958 when he had his first articles published containing the principles of TA and its concepts. His first book Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy was published in 1961. This laid out a theory of personality and interpersonal relationships, in all his works extended over thirty - two years including seven books and fifty articles, transcripts and papers (Stewart 1992).

Berne described TA primarily as "a unified system of individual and social psychiatry", because of his extensive work within the psychiatric community both working with individuals and groups. In its strictest sense the term transactional analysis was used by Berne to denote the analysis of transactions. In his book Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy 1961 he described TA as “Structural and transactional analysis that offers a systematic, consistent theory of personality and social dynamics derived from clinical experience, and an actionistic, rational form of therapy which is suitable for, easily understood by, and naturally adapted to the great majority of psychiatric patients".

TA Today (Stewart & Joines 1987) describe TA as defined by the ITAA (International Transactional Analysis Association) as "a theory of psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change". Stewart and Joines go on to say it is a theory of personality which uses a three part model known as the ego state model, which helps us understand how people function and express their personality in terms of behaviour.

Briefly TA also provides us with a theory of communication, it gives a method for analysing systems and organisations. It also offers a theory of child development, it offers life script explaining how are influenced by our history and the decisions we make about ourselves, others and the world because of that. It offers explanations as to how we continue to repeat patterns of behaviour that may be self-defeating. Overall TA gives us a theory of psychopathology, a system of psychotherapy, a treatment system for all types psychological problems from average neurosis to psychosis.

Dr.Eric Berne, the originator of TA, considers a transaction as the unit of social intercourse. A transaction consists of a transactional stimulus (TS) and a transactional response (TR). TS is the behavior (verbal or nonverbal) produced by one person in acknowledgement of the presence of others when two or more people encounter each other. TR is the response to TS by another person.

Ego States

In his encounters with his clients, Dr. Berne understood that there exist three distinct states in all people. People change from one state to another in the course of their transactions. This change can be easily noticed by the manners, appearances, words, gestures, and tones.

The three distinct states called the ego states are the Parent ego state, the Adult ego state, and the Child ego state. The Parent ego state is produced by the play-back of recordings in the brain of unquestioned or imposed external events perceived by the person before his social birth i.e., before the age of 5 years. This ego state consists of NO's, DON’T's, HOW -TO's and the facial expressions, tone of voice, manners etc. of the person's parents. In other words, this ego state consists of the "taught - concepts" of life.

The Child ego state is the response the little person produced to what he saw, heard, felt and understood. Most of these are feelings because the child has not developed verbal responses at that time. In other words, this ego state may be considered the collection of "felt-concepts" of life.

The Parent ego state begins with the biological birth of the individual and extends up to and age of five years. The Child ego state also starts with the physical birth and continues to develop until the social birth (around the age of five).

The Adult ego state develops after both the Parent and the Child ego states have began to develop. This state begins to develop from about ten months of age. The function of this state is to update both Parent data and Child data by continuous examination of these data with respect to actual reality. Thus only those taught concepts and felt-concepts applicable and appropriate to the present are accepted. Thus the Adult state is said to be the "thought-concepts" of life.

Fig -1 PAC System

Berne opines that the recordings in the brain that causes the ego states cannot be erased at all, but "we can choose to turn these recordings off".

Berne represents the ego states as circles and represents TS and TR by arrows drawn from the respective ego state of the first person to that of the second person.

Types of Transactions

Berne identifies two types of transactions:

1. Complementary Transactions
Complementary transactions

Examples of Complementary Transactions

  • Parent-Parent, Adult-Adult, Child-Child, Child-Parent, Parent-Child, Child-Adult, Adult-Child, Adult-Parent, Parent-Adult

    First Rule of Communication

    We have the first rule of communication in TA :
    "When TS and TR on the P-A-C diagram make parallel lines, the transaction can go on indefinitely."

  • Fig 2. Parent-Parent Transaction
    (Complementary Transaction)
    2. Crossed Transactions
  • Examples of Crossed Transactions

    Adult-Adult and Parent-Child; Adult-Adult and Child-Parent; Parent-Child and Parent-Child; Child-Parent and Child-Parent

  • Second Rule of Communication

    Here we have the second rule of communication in TA:

    "When TS and TR in the P-A-C diagram cross each other, communication stops."

    Fig.3 Parent-Child and Child-Parent
    (Crossed Transaction)

    Duplex Transaction

    There can be implied communications along with the primary communications. Eg., "Where did you hide the can-opener?" Here the main stimulus is Adult-Adult. But the word hide has an implied stimulus elicited from the Parent of the communicator to the Child of the receiver. This type of communication is called duplex transaction. The duplex transaction (the implied TS or TR) in the transactional diagram is represented by broken arrows.

    Fig.4 Adult-Adult with Parent-Child and Child-Parent
    (Duplex Transaction)

    Personality and Psychopathology According to P-A-C system

    There are two ways in which people differ according to TA. This is either due to contamination or exclusion.

    In contamination, the P-A-C system overlaps. For example, when Parent and Adult overlap, we have a Parent contaminated Adult. This results in Prejudice. When Adult and Child overlap, we have a Child contaminated Adult. This condition causes delusion.

    Fig.5 Contaminated Adult
    (Prejudice and Delusion)

    In exclusion, the communication from one of the P, A, or C is cut off. For example, when Child is cut off, the person cannot play at all and is very rigid and serious, causing neurotic behavior. When the Parent is cut off, the person does not have any conscience at all. If his Adult is also contaminated with Child, the person will be psychopathic.

    Fig.6. PAC system with Child cut-off

    According to this system, psychosis results when the Adult is completely blocked from Parent and Child. This is called decommissioned Adult. If the blocking out of Adult is periodic, the result is Manic-Depressive personality.

    Fig.7. The Decommissioned Adult
    ( Psychosis)



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