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The Origins of Transactional Analysis



Virginie Graziani

Talent Management & Synergologist

3 May 2018

Reading Time: 2 minutes



The new approach developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne (1910-1970)


The father of Transactional Analysis (T.A.), Eric Berne graduated in medicine and then went on to train in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. As a psychiatrist in the medical corps of the US Army, his first interest was intuition. In 1956, Eric Berne decided to found a new approach. He published a series of articles entitled “Transactional Analysis: a new and effective method of group therapy” and founded the International Transactional Analysis Association (I.T.A.A.) to deal with the major increase in the number of practitioners.

In the last years of his life, Eric Berne worked on publishing his major works, “Games People Play” and “What do you say after you say hello?”, which were published a year after his death. In developing this method, Eric Berne proposed a theory that was easy to understand for the general public.

The aim was to tackle the mystery of relationships with other people and with oneself to help individuals change. In concrete terms, Transactional Analysis, is a tool to understand human behaviour, feelings and relationships between people. This theory of group dynamics and structures puts the focus on “how” rather than “why”.


The founding concepts of Transactional Analysis


Eric Berne showed that as humans grow, they go through different states that they codify and integrate. In this way, the person is built with three major co-existing components: the Child (feeling and emotions), the Parent (learning under the influence of the parental model) and the Adult (to process information with the cognitive means available).

In his theory, Eric Berne talks about “psychological games” to name a discussion between several people, in which we can also “listen to” a second level of discussion, allowing an interlocutor to “steal” recognition from others. In this type of dialogue, the real goal is not to continue the discussion at the level of what is said but on what is said at the hidden level.

In Transactional Analysis, Eric Berne highlights the vital concept of the need for recognition or “Stroke”, a polysemic word meaning both a caress and a strike. A person, by default, accepts signs of positive and/or negative recognition, rather than no signs of recognition at all. Psychological games are a model for understanding relational conflicts and dealing with them better.





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