- People are ok – they all have worth, value and dignity (they just may not do OK things), no one is one up from the other and we all have a right to be accepted.
- We can all think and decide what is best for us and what we want (ie we are responsible for ourselves and our own actions). We can all change.
- We make decisions as children about the world and how we will respond to it. We decide the best ways to survive and get what we want from world. We still often maintain these patterns as adults, patterns which are often counterproductive to us. (eg crying/manipulating/getting angry/sulking to get what we want)
- Ultimately we decide how to react to a certain situation ie how to feel/think/behave – no-one has the power to make us feel a certain way.
The Ego State Model
Eric Berne introduced the concept of ego states to help us to understand how we relate to ourselves and others. An ego state is a consistent pattern of thinking, feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour. (Berne 1964). Ultimately however it is a theory and not an actual fact. Ego states are portrayed as 3 circles stacked on top of each other.
Parent ego state. When we are growing up we take in (introject) the ideas, values, feelings and behaviours of our primary caregivers (usually our parents). When we say something or feel just as our parents would have done then we are probably in our Parent ego state. When we are nurturing, telling off, commanding, controlling, etc then we may also be in our Parent ego state. And obviously as actual parents we will often be in our Parent ego state. Our Parent can also be used (positively and negatively) on ourselves. eg if we are kind to ourselves or if we are telling ourselves that we are no good.
Adult ego state. In the Adult ego state we are responding to the information in front of us directly and not unhealthily influenced by our beliefs from the past. We see people as they actually are and ask for information rather than projecting our own ideas onto them or making assumptions. A fully intergrated Adult will utilise all three ego states healthily and appropriately.
Child Ego state. When we are children we learn ways of responding which best get our needs met in response to our environment. As Adults we replay these strategies which may not always go down well with others - or indeed ourselves! For example, we may sulk or get angry to get our own way, we may adapt quickly to others and miss our own needs, we may feel particular feelings (eg fear or rebelliousness) towards people in a position of authority. Obviously these are the more negative aspects of the Child ego state. More positive aspects may come from our free Child such as being playful or creative. If we are talking to ourselves from our Parent ego state then our Child will usually respond, for example if our own Parent tells us that we are no good then our Child may get depressed, anxious or angry in response.
You may already recognise some of these aspects in yourself and realise that you have a 'favourite' ego state or one that you go into more naturally than others. If that is the case then it is worth becoming aware of this and starting to use this awareness to make changes where you might have unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling and behaviour. I will post more on ego states and TA in a later post.
Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play. Grove Press
Stewart, I. & Joines, V. (2012). TA Today. Lifespace Publishing