Transactional Analysis in practice
Reading Time of Article: 4 min
Transactional Analysis allows better understanding of what is at stake in relationships between two people. Transactional Analysis is a personality theory with two levels to be explored:
- Structural analysis, the study of personal communication (verbal and non-verbal).
- Functional analysis, the study of the individual’s behaviour.
The structural model of Transactional Analysis
Eric Berne has shown that the individual registers and integrates different states through which he or she goes. At the adult age, the complete structure of the personality encompasses three ego states, which are: the Parent, the Adult and the Child. In Berne’s analysis, the terms Parent, Adult and Child are not related to the age of the person.
- The Parent corresponds to emotions and behaviour by imitating prominent educational figures.
- The Adult characterises behaviour and feelings in line with the situations they encounter.
- The Child corresponds to emotions and behaviour as experienced in our own childhood.
These three systems determine a singular identity as well as the reference framework through which each of us perceives reality.
The functional model of Transactional Analysis
Let us look now at “how” a person behaves according to these three ego states. These manifestations are observable realities (body movement, facial expression, tone of voice, posture and gaze).
- The Parent looks out for others to protect them and take care of them. They impose norms or values.
- The Adult addresses the situation, solves problems and expresses their emotions to respond to their needs.
- The Child takes care of themselves.
The Vocabulary of Transactional Analysis
Used to “steal” recognition from others, “psychological games” group together a set of “simple or hidden transactions” (the name given to a verbal and behavioural exchange between two people). For example: “Aren’t you going to tidy away the files on your desk?”, which implies the hidden message “The files should be tidied away in a drawer”. To understand relational conflicts and deal with them better, Eric Berne returns to the representations of the Karpman Drama Triangle (Stephen Karpman observed three roles needed to set up drama in theatre: a Persecutor, a Saviour and a Victim).
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