Chapter 6: Growth Resources in Transactional Analysis
Transactional Analysis (TA for short) was developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne, who was born
in Montreal, Canada, in 1910. He received his medical degree at McGill University and his psychiatric training at York Psychiatric Clinic. After extensive training at the New York City and San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institutes, his application for membership as a psychoanalyst was rejected. Apparently this spurred him to develop his own understanding of personality, relationships, and therapy.(1) TA did not receive widespread attention until Games People Play was published in 1964. (It sold over three million copies.) Berne lived in Carmel, California, dividing his practice between that city, where he did his writing, and San Francisco, where he also led a TA training group. He was a shy person who kept considerable distance from others, including those who cared about him. He loved and admired the fun-loving Child in other people and always arranged to have a party after training seminars. He died of a coronary in 1970.
In my two brief contacts with Eric Berne, (2) I was struck by the freshness of much that he was saying and the relevance of many of his ideas to my work. In my experience, TA is one of the four most fruitful sources of tools for use in growth-oriented counseling, therapy, and teaching — the other three being gestalt therapy, psychosynthesis, and feminist therapy. I make use of TA’s conceptual tools regularly in teaching and growth groups, in counseling and therapy. TA’s
concepts are easily taught. Its language is non-threatening, even playful. Many people can use its concepts and methods as self-help tools. In marriage counseling and enrichment, the relational orientation of TA makes it particularly valuable. The system lends itself to integration with other, complementary approaches such as gestalt therapy.
TA’s Understanding of Growth
TA offers an easily understood conceptual picture of the nature and goals of growth. Its theory of growth is based on a tripartite understanding of personality. All persons have three dimensions, or “ego states,” in their personalities — Parent, Adult, Child (PAC). Our Parent ego state consists of the intemalized attitudes, feelings, and behavior patterns of our parents (and other authority figures — e.g., teachers) as we experienced them in the early years of our lives. The inner Parent has two parts — the nurturing Parent, which is caring and loving, and the prejudicial Parent, who is full of demands, “oughts,” and “shoulds.” The Child ego state consists of the feelings, attitudes, and behavior patterns of the little girl or boy we once were. This ego state also has two parts — the natural Child, who is spontaneous, playful, and creative; and the adapted Child, who is dominated or “spoiled” by the inner Parent. The Parent and Child, though formed in early life, continue to function actively in current behavior and relationships. The Adult ego state is the present-oriented, coping-with-reality part of the personality. Each of the ego states is essential
for a full life. The Child brings creativity, intuition, spontaneity, and enjoyment to one’s life. The Parent side enables one to be a good parent to one’s children. Because of its accumulated experience, it frees the Adult from having to make innumerable decisions daily (such as looking both ways before crossing a street). The Adult is essential for coping constructively with reality.
A healthy, growing person, in TA’s understanding, is one in whom there is “a happy mixture of Parent, Child and Adult with the Adult in the driver’s seat.”(3) In such persons, the free, effective Adult takes information from the Child, the Parent, and from external reality, and then makes a decision to act in a way that will result in movement toward constructive goals. Persons can function intentionally only to the degree that their Adult is emancipated from control by their Parent and Child sides. The liberated Adult can then choose when it is appropriate to be guided by the inner Parent and when to let the fun-loving, natural Child frolic freely. The ultimate goal of TA therapy is “autonomy,” which is manifested in the recovery of three capacities — awareness, spontaneity, and intimacy. Awareness allows one to enjoy being alive in the present. Spontaneity means freedom to choose and liberation from the compulsion to play manipulative games. Intimacy is the game-free openness of the aware person.
TA is essentially a growth- and hope-centered approach. Based on his therapeutic work in mental hospitals with “regressed” patients who had failed to respond to other therapies, Berne came to a startling conclusion. He became convinced that everyone, even “deteriorated” schizophrenics, has a complete Adult which can be mobilized! The potential for growth is still there, even in persons labeled “hopeless” by conventional psychiatric diagnosis. The crucial issue in therapy is how to activate the long-neglected Adult. As Eric Berne put it, “There is always a radio, the problem is how to get it plugged in.”(4) So-called “immature” people are those in whom the Child side takes over inappropriately and unproductively. Berne was keenly aware of what came to be called the “Pygmalion effect” in therapy. He saw the importance of relating to persons in terms of their strengths and potentialities rather than their weaknesses and “pathology”: “If a patient is treated as though he had a ‘weak ego,’ he is likely to respond accordingly. If he is treated as though he had a perfectly good ego which only needs to be activated . . . he will become more rational and objective toward the outside world and toward himself.”(5)
Berne’s growth orientation was saved from superficial optimism by a realistic view of the power of games and scripts, which make the achievement of game-free spontaneity, awareness, and intimacy exceedingly difficult. “Games” are stereotyped, repetitive, mutually manipulative interactions between two people. Berne wrote, “A game is an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome.”(6) Games are also defenses by which we seek to protect ourselves from not-okay feelings. Every game has a pay-off for both persons, but the price is high. Games are the opposite of open, authentic, loving, and growing relationships.
By observing their parents’ games, young children learn the one or more games that will dominate interaction among their ego states and in their relationships through their lives. In addition, children adopt an unconscious life plan or “script,” which they expect to fulfill. This expectation causes them to behave (without their being aware of it) so as to make their script come true. To the degree that a person’s games and scripts are functioning outside their awareness, they are locked into feelings and behavior programmed by their old Parent and Child tapes. Under these circumstances, their feelings of autonomy and freedom are largely illusory.(7) Their growth potentials are frozen.
In spite of this deep programming, the Adult does have the power to change. TA therapy aims at helping people empower their inner Adult to change from programmed responses to more spontaneous, appropriate, and constructive responses in each situation. Berne declared, “While every human being faces the world initially as the captive of his script, the great hope and value of the human race is that the Adult can be dissatisfied with such strivings when they are unworthy.” (8) As people become aware of their games and scripts, and the destructive consequences of being under their control, the motivation to change increases. The momentum of change accelerates as they discover that, in fact, they can change, to some degree! Although Berne held considerable hope for fortunate individuals (who have TA therapy) to break out of the trap of their programming, he was pessimistic concerning the possibilities of people generally doing so.
TA concepts are useful growth tools all along the wholeness continuum, from relatively dysfunctional to highly functional persons. When they seem appropriate, I present the basic PAC tool during an early session and then coach clients on how to use it. Some people, of course, do not find the TA approach useful. However, relatively functional people often begin to use TA concepts quickly to understand and mobilize their inner responses and change their relationships. The fact that TA helps some people acquire freeing insights quickly (often within the first session) is one of its assets. With less functional people, a series of sessions of “coaching” in using TA tools is usually required before they begin to have the skill to use them on their own.
Structural Analysis in Growth-oriented Counseling
There are four phases of the process of TA therapy, each representing a significant dimension of personal growth work. The first three are useful in short-term crisis counseling, in growth groups, and in marriage enrichment and counseling. All four phases are useful in longer-term therapy. The first phase, structural analysis, seeks to help people learn to recognize when particular ego states are in the driver’s seat of their inner lives. The aim is to free the Adult to guide behavior and to choose when to let the Parent and Child sides be activated.
I usually introduce the PAC approach in counseling or growth group sessions by diagramming it on a sheet of paper and giving an illustration or two of the times I let my own Parent and Child take over unconstructively. I then ask if what I have described throws any light on feelings and problems that we have been discussing. Some clients respond immediately, giving examples of how they let their Child or Parent sides take over. I explain that they may find it helpful in changing the responses they don’t like, to practice being aware of when these takeovers occur. By attending to our inner Parent-Child responses we exercise and thus strengthen our Adult. If, during a counseling session or growth group, I sense that a person’s Child or Parent is turned on, I may inquire, “Which part of you is in the driver’s seat now?” The question often activates the person’s Adult awareness, which gives him or her power to choose other responses.(9)
In a key passage Berne declared:
Actionism is an essential feature of structural analysis. The Adult is regarded in much the same light as a muscle which increases its strength with exercise. Once the preliminary phase of decontamination and clarification [of the Adult] are well underway, the patient is expected to practice Adult control. He must learn to keep the Adult running the show for relatively long periods. . . . It is he, and not the Child, who decides more and more effectively when the Child shall take over.(10)
Structural analysis is particularly useful in crisis counseling to help persons interrupt the vicious cycles of panic and paralysis (their frightened Child), which produce inappropriate behavior, which in turn increases the feelings of panic and helplessness. The crisis counselor’s task is to make her or his nurturing Parent available to the person by showing genuine caring and warm empathy. This nurturing tends to quiet the frightened Child in the person and to free energy (which was going into the Child ego state) for use by the person’s coping Adult. But, all during this nurturing support, the counselor should raise reality questions, which often help to activate the person’s Adult. I use four types of questions to help persons mobilize their Adult: What are the important things in this crisis with which you must deal? With which part of your crisis situation will you deal now in order to begin improving things? What concrete plans will you make for this constructive action? What resources within yourself and your relationship (including your spiritual resources), can you use in implementing this action plan? Berne was convinced that feelings will change if behavior changes. As people in crises use their Adult to improve their situation in small but significant ways, their self-confidence, hope, and cope-ability gradually increase.
Structural analysis can be useful to us “workaholics” to help us understand and diminish our addiction to excessive working. The repetitive will-of-the-wisp message from one’s demanding Parent to one’s adapted Child is clear: “Keep working! Keep achieving! If you ever accomplish enough, I may accept you.” Liberation of one’s playful Child from the domination of the demanding Parent can occur as one’s Adult learns to enjoy this fun-loving, creative, spontaneous part of oneself.
Transactional Analysis in Growth-oriented Counseling
The second phase of TA growth work, transactional analysis, aims at helping persons learn to recognize and control the Parent-Child ego states, which are dominating their transactions with other people. For example, many of the mutually frustrating, circular fights that bring couples to marriage counseling are Parent-Child transactions. To illustrate, a husband, arriving late, responds defensively to his wife’s Adult questions about his lateness by coming on with his critical Parent (evident in his accusing, condescending tone of voice and verbal attack): “If you weren’t such a nagging bitch, maybe I’d want to get home faster! Did you ever think of that?” Wife (whiny, angry Child voice): “I’ve got a right to complain when you’re so damn selfish and don’t care about me!” Such circular P-C arguments produce escalating mutual hurt and distancing, never a resolution of the basic issues between two people. P-C fights can be interrupted only if one party activates her or his Adult and hooks the other’s Adult. When such an unproductive argument occurs during a counseling session or marriage group, the counselor may ask, “Are you aware of what’s going on between you?” In some cases, this question activates their Adult sides so that they become aware of their futile P-C cycle. Then through Adult-to-Adult negotiations, they may work at resolving their conflicting needs by constructive compromises that enable some of each person’s needs to be met.
One of the unique assets of TA is that it provides conceptual tools for discovering the interrelationships between what occurs within an individual and what occurs between that person and others. This linking between intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics makes TA particularly useful in relationship counseling and enrichment work. Back-and-forth movement in counseling, from structural analysis, focusing on interaction among the three ego states within each individual, to transactional analysis, focusing on what is going on between the persons, often illuminates the correlation of these two dimensions of our lives.
In marriage enrichment workshops, it is helpful to teach structural and transactional analysis to couples as a tool for interrupting their own negative spirals of conflict. The exercise at the end of this chapter can be used to teach this experientially, or a couple can be asked to reenact a recent unproductive argument in front of the group. Such a reenactment usually results in a demonstration of Parent-Child interaction. In using this approach, it is essential to debrief the feelings stirred up in the participants thoroughly and then to ask them to suggest and try (in role playing) alternative ways of communicating that will avoid the mutual-frustrating P-C interaction. In this way one coaches couples in Adult-to-Adult communication, thus enabling them to experience effective ways of resolving conflicts.
It is important in work with couples to help them learn to activate their nurturing Parent sides to give each other more positive “strokes,” the warm expressions of appreciation and affirmation that all of us need. Negative cycles of mutual deprivation happen less frequently when couples learn to give and receive more affirming strokes and thus to initiate cycles of mutual nurture.
Structural analysis and transactional analysis are useful tools in youth counseling and teen growth groups. The key growth task with which many adolescents struggle is how to keep their Adult in the driver’s seat, to avoid slipping back into unproductive behavior domination by their inner Child, and yet to allow their playful Child to enjoy life. Many teen-agers understand TA concepts quickly and enjoy the playful experience of “catching” their own and one another’s games. By exercising their Adult sides in this way, they strengthen their ability to keep them in the driver’s seat of their lives.
The third phase of the TA process, game analysis, consists of helping persons learn to identify and interrupt the repetitive self-defeating game or games they are programmed to use in relating. It is difficult, but many people can learn to recognize and interrupt old repetitive games. They can learn to avoid having their adapted Child hooked when someone comes on as prejudicial Parent. To the extent that their Adults can interrupt their manipulative games, their potential for authenticity and intimacy will be increased. Most married couples have one or two games which dominate their interaction. Some favorite marital games are: “If It Weren’t for You . . .” (the
projection of blame); and “Uproar” (having a fight to avoid anxiety-producing sexual intimacy); “Why Don’t You — Yes But” (futile P-C advice-giving); “I’m Only Trying to Help You” (rationalizing manipulative behavior); “Kick Me” (played by a submissive person); and “Look How Hard I’ve Tried” (to convince the counselor one is the “helpful” and “righteous,” wronged partner). Game analysis helps people discover the payoff of their games, the rewards they must be willing to give up in order to stop the games. The payoffs are often defenses against fears and “not-okay” feelings. In spite of the payoffs, nobody really wins interpersonal games, for the price of playing such a game is to sacrifice an open, loving, intimate relationship. An important reward of interrupting one’s marital games is that one can thus avoid teaching them to one’s children.
The fourth phase of TA is script analysis. This aims at helping people identify their unconscious life plan, which they expect and are living out. Some people are “programmed” with tragic scripts, which cause them to live as losers with overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and joylessness. An example of a tragic script is that of a woman whose father was an alcoholic. Her unconscious script called for her to keep trying to prove that she could do a better job with an alcoholic than her mother did with her father. Consequently, by the time she came for counseling, she had married and divorced a series of three alcoholics. The goal of script analysis is to help people free themselves from the control of their scripts by becoming aware of them and then mobilizing their Adult to choose a more potentializing life plan.
TA can be a tool in liberating ourselves from the growth-restricting sex-role programming most of us intemalized as small girls and boys in our culture. Hogie Wyckoff observes:
As women and men we were socialized to develop certain parts of our personalities while suppressing the development of other parts. . . . Sex role scripts invade every fiber of our day-to-day lives. . . . A man is “supposed to be” rational, productive, hardworking, but he is “not supposed to be” emotional, in touch with his feelings, or overly loving. On the other hand, a woman is not supposed to think rationally, be able to balance the checkbook, or be powerful.
A particularly unhealthy result of male-female sex role training is that gaps have been created in people which limit their potential to become whole human beings. Often what happens with men and women is that they feel incomplete when they lack a partner of the opposite sex, so that they continually look for fulfillment in another.(11)
In our culture men are pressured to conform to a script that impoverishes their lives and relationships by preventing the full development of their nurturing Parent and their free playful Child. They are pressured by culturally defined male scripts to always stay Adult — rational, strong, in control. Typical life-distorting scripts for men include “Big Daddy,” “Playboy,” and “Jock.” Women are impoverished by being culturally scripted to overdevelop their nurturing Parent (and thus to exist for the purpose of taking care of and pleasing “their man” and their children) and to feel powerless because they have not developed their potential Adult competencies. Scripts which trap the potential of many women include “Mother Hubbard” (who takes care of everyone but herself), “Poor Little Me,” “Nurse,” and “Queen Bee.”(12) In their guide to the use of TA by women for self-liberation, Dorothy Jongeward and Dru Scott declare:
When a woman becomes aware of the negative or destructive elements in the messages she has been programmed to follow, she realizes that she has options. . . . She no longer limits her growth to bend to the boundaries set by collective pressures. Just as a little girl can make early decisions that affect the blueprint of her life [her script], a woman can make a redecision to change her life’s direction in a positive way. She can help the little girl inside choose to be a winner.(13)
When men and women reclaim their full selves by breaking out of their culture’s conditioning, they can relate to each other as equals in a satisfing variety of ways: Adult-to-Adult (in solving a reality problem together); playful Child-to-playful Child (in good sex, for example); nurturing Parent-to-Child (as one cares for the other during sickness or a crisis in that person’s life); and nurturing Parent-to-nurturing Parent (when they are engaged in mutual affirmation and caring).
As a growth-oriented therapy, TA is essentially a self-help approach. The role of the therapist is that of enabler, teacher, and coach, whose task is helping people’s Adults learn to interrupt their own growth-diminishing games and scripts. TA therapists aim at relating to their clients Adult-to-Adult, thus activating or “booking” their Adult. They often tell clients openly what they are doing in therapy and why. TA counselors seek to work themselves out of a job as quickly as possible by teaching clients the basic tools they need to activate their own Adults.
TA offers resources to growth-oriented counselors who are committed to changing the wider systems beyond intimate relationships. A crucial need of our times is to develop institutions that encourage and support Adult behavior. Authority-centered, Big Parent institutions and governments try to keep people’s submissive Child sides in control of their inner lives. Such institutions diminish the growth of millions of people.(14)
Churches are particularly prone to being Big Parent institutions. When they are, they stifle the very thing they exist to facilitate — spiritually centered growth toward wholeness. In Born to Love Muriel James shows how to use TA to enhance the life of a church. She discusses how TA’s concepts can be used in discussing theological concepts; in understanding the dynamics of a committee; in holding a staff or a congregational meeting; in choosing music for the choir; in preaching and in teaching as well as in personal growth and counseling groups.
TA Resources for Spiritual Growth
Although Eric Berne had little to say about religion, Thomas Harris, Muriel James, and Tom Oden have applied TA to religious and ethical growth in illuminating ways. Harris observes: “The Parent-Child nature of most western religions is remarkable when one considers that the revolutionary impact of most revered religious leaders was directly the result of their courage to examine Parent institutions and proceed, with the Adult, in search of truth. It takes only one generation . . . for an inference about experience to become a dogma.”(15) Clergy persons have often retained control over their people by fostering in them “Not-Okay Child” feelings of fear and guilt, which constrict their spiritual growth. Without a free, energized inner Adult, the prejudicial Parent and the over-needy Child will distort one’s beliefs, values, and experiences of God. Parental religion is a projection of infantile wishes onto the way one perceives spiritual reality, thereby blocking authentic spiritual experiencing. TA is a useful tool for helping people “put away childish things” spiritually by de-Parentifying their religious attitudes and beliefs. This process frees them to develop their own Adult beliefs based on their own spiritual searching and discoveries. By letting go of their projection of prejudicial Parent attitudes onto God, they free themselves to experience the nurturing, loving Parent and reality-affirming Adult aspects of God’s Spirit.
TA can help facilitate growth in the areas of ethics and values. To the extent that people’s behavior is controlled by old programming (P-C games and scripts) no free choices are possible. Therefore, no genuine ethical behavior can occur. In spiritual growth work, people can evaluate their old ethical programming (internalized in their childhood conscience) and claim as their own those values which ring true in their Adult experiences. As long as people are living out of the secondhand values that they internalized from their parents, they will always be ethically ambivalent and self-sabotaging in their behavior. As people develop their own Adult values they can commit their life-styles to them more wholeheartedly.
Muriel James and Louis Savary have added an important dimension to TA in their discussion of the “spiritual self.” They see this as the deepest core of our
being, which unites and enlivens the three ego states. They describe religious experience “as awareness of the Power Within penetrating the Inner Core, flowing through the Parent, Adult, and Child, and expressing itself in relation to God.(16) The “Power within us” is the renewing experience of the Spirit of love. When the Power Within flows through one’s Child, one’s relationships with God and with people become more trusting and loving. When it flows through one’s Parent, one is empowered to respond to one’s own needs and the needs of others! When it flows through one’s Adult, a person will be enlivened in the area of responsible decisions based on accurate perceptions of reality.
TA’s Limitations from a Growth Counseling Perspective
From the Growth Counseling perspective, TA has much to offer. It also has some weaknesses and limitations. Because TA is essentially a rational therapy, it requires supplementation by more in-depth, feeling-level methods. Certain gestalt therapy methods, for example, complement TA, by providing effective means of changing growth-blocking Parent and Child tapes. Muriel James’ and Dorothy Jongeward’s Born to Win and L. Richard Lessor’s Love and Marriage and Trading Stamps are books that integrate TA and gestalt approaches.
Another limitation of TA is the oversimplified way in which the PAC ego states are often described. Clinical experience has made it clear to me that there are several different Child sides from different stages of our early lives.(17) There is not just one Parent but several, representing our mothers and fathers and other authority figures as we experienced them at various stages
of our early lives. These inner Parents often are in conflict among themselves. There is also an inner Adolescent, who tends to become activated when we relate to teen-agers.(18) Our Adolescent’s inner Parents are different from those of our Child simply because our parents responded differently to us as teen-agers than they did to us as children. The persons we
once were, at each life stage, are still there influencing our present lives. Our inner relationships from the past are much richer and more complex than the simplistic PAC schema suggests. It’s important in our growth work for our Adult to get acquainted with all these inner “persons” from our past. Getting to know and like our inner Adolescent, for example, can enable us to relate more constructively to teen-agers.
Tom Oden points out that Eric Berne tends to champion the natural Child and castigate the Parent as the primary culprit in diminishing a full life.(19) There is no doubt that the spontaneity and creativity of many people is diminished by rigid, controlling inner Parent messages. Many of us do need to be liberated from such oppressive Parent influences within ourselves. But many younger people today have not internalized heavy-handed Parent ego states. Their parents were emotionally absent or ethically confused and afraid to set dependable limits. Such people need to re-Parent themselves by developing constructive inner guidelines to enable them to have responsible, mutually caring relation-ships. Because of Berne’s valuing of the natural Child, TA has tended toward hyperindividualism that underestimates the need for healthy self-other commitments for covenants of mutual growth. When using TA in growth work it is important to utilize the contributions of people like Muriel James and Tom Oden, who have gone far beyond Berne in emphasizing a sense of interpersonal and societal responsibility as a part of TA.
In Game Free Oden has developed a “theology of interpersonal communion,” which increases the usefulness of TA as a spiritual growth resource by strengthening its theological foundation. There is an awareness in Christianity that ultimate Reality itself undergirds and affirms our “Okay-ness.” This awareness can help people move from self-rejection to self-acceptance. As Oden puts it: “God lets us know through historical events that we are, despite our sins, okay, affirmed, accepted, embraced with infinitely forgiving love.”(20)
Experiencing Your Parent-Adult-Child-Adolescent
The purpose of this exercise is to let you experience several of the many valuable dimensions of your personality. The exercise can be used in a variety of counseling and growth-group situations. (In the instructions that follow, stop at each slash mark, giving yourself time to do what has been suggested. In a growth group, have someone read the instructions, giving ample time at each slash mark to complete the task.)
Find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed for at least twenty to thirty minutes./ Wiggle and stretch your body, letting it hang loose./ Take several deep breaths, letting any tensions you feel flow out as you exhale. Close your eyes as you do this./ Now, in your mind create a motion picture of the house or apartment where you live now. Make it as vivid as possible, being aware of the colors, sounds, smells, and anything else that’s important to you
in your home./ See yourself alone in your house. What are you doing? How do you feel?/ Now bring any other people who live with you into the picture. Be sensitive to changes in your feelings./ Now go back in your memory and create a clear picture of the first house you lived in as a small child, adding colors, sounds, smells, and so on, which are associated with that house in your memory,/ Be yourself as a small child alone in your favorite room of that house./ What
are you doing? How do you feel about living in that house? Try letting yourself be that child for a while./ Bring one of your parents into the room with you./ What is going on between you? How does each of you feel about the other?/ Bring your other parent into the room. What is happening among the three of you?/ What are the feelings of each of you?/ If you lived with only one parent, be aware of how the last instruction made you feel./ Recall a time when your parents punished or criticized you severely. Relive that experience fully in your mind./ Recall a time when your parents behaved affirmingly and lovingly. Relive that experience./ Bring others who lived in that home (siblings, other relatives, pets) into the room, one at a time, being sensitive to what happens between you and in your feelings./ Go out of your home, now. Be aware of how you feel about your relationship in the neighborhood/ at school/ in your church/ with other relatives’ Now recall the happiest day of your childhood. Relive that day, savoring the good feelings you still have about it./ Recall the most unhappy day of your childhood — the time you felt most miserable, hopeless, or rejected. Relive that day, re-experiencing the painful feelings you still have about it./
Be aware of the part of you that has been in your childhood situation and the other part which has been watching from your present adult perspective./ Let this Adult part of you express your warmth, esteem, and caring for your inner Child. Comfort and caress the hurting Child within you./ Say to your Child, “I love you” (using your name)./ How does the Child respond to your love and nurture?/ Now, form a picture of the house or apartment in which you lived as an
adolescent./ See yourself as a teen-ager in that house./ Be that teen-ager for a while. How do you feel about yourself? About life?/ Repeat the experience of bringing your parents and other significant persons into the room, one at a time./ How do your feelings compare with those you experienced in your childhood home?/ Relive an experience of criticism or punishment by your parents when you were an adolescent./ Relive an experience of being praised, loved, appreciated./ Go out of your house now and join your teen-age friends./ What are you doing with them? Have your feelings changed?/ What are your feelings about sex? About masturbation?/ About religion?/ Right and wrong?/ The church?/ Growing up?/ Relive leaving home. Say good-bye to your family. What are your feelings and theirs?/ Be aware of the Adult part of you that has been observing
yourself as a teen-ager. Try to let yourself as an Adult do something to express your love and esteem to the teen-ager within you./ Before opening your eyes, think about how you experienced your inner Child and Teenager./ How do these inner parts of yourself influence your present feelings and relationship?/ When you are ready, open your eyes./ Discuss your learnings with a trusted friend./
In this exercise, I hope that you got in touch with your inner Child and your inner Adolescent, as well as the Parents you carry within you. Your Adult was the part of you that watched what was happening, from your present perspective. The experience of letting your Adult express warm love and respect to your inner Child and your Teen-ager is a form of “self re-parenting.”(21) This is a valuable way to care for yourself, to be a good nurturing Parent to yourself. By using
the strength and warmth of your Adult, you can forgive your parents for their inadequacies (which all parents have) and reprogram your inner Parent to be more caring. (I found it helpful when my parents died to comfort “Junior,” the Child within me, by holding and rocking him in my fantasy.)
If this exercise was helpful, I suggest that you use the same approach to revisit other periods of
your life (in childhood, youth, young adulthood, and so on) to do the unfinished growth work from each of those stages. Do this with a trusted friend or in a small growth-support group. If you encountered an accumulation of powerful and painful feelings at any life stage, you may need the help of a skilled therapist to work that through. Working through old, unfinished pain and blocked growth can reduce the power of one’s past and release vital energy for living with more creativity and zest in the present!
Further Exploration of Transactional Analysis
Berne, Eric. Games People Play. New York: Grove Press, 1964. A compendium of many types of games; includes an initial chapter summarizing the overall TA system.
—Principles of Group Treatment. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966. Describes how to use TA in growth and therapy groups.
—Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy. New York: Grove Press, 1961. The most
comprehensive and technical discussion of TA’s principles.
—The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1963. TA’s approach to group dynamics.
—What Do You Say After You Say Hello? New York: Grove, 1972. A detailed discussion of scripts.
Campos, Leonard, and McCormick, Paul. Introduce Yourself to TA. Stockton: San Joaquin T.A. Institute, 1974. A valuable pamphlet giving a summary and overview of TA in simple language.
Harris, Thomas A. I’m OK — You’re OK. New York: Harper, 1969. A popularization of TA, which includes application of its principles to ethics, religion, and organizations.
James, Muriel, Born to Love: TA in the Church. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1973. A discussion of using TA principles in the church including their relevance to theology.
—et al. Techniques in Transactional Analysis for Psychotherapists and Counselors. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1977. Forty-three papers on the philosophy, principles, methods, and applications of TA, and the relation of TA to other therapies.
James, Muriel, and Jongeward, Dorothy. Born to Win: TA with Gestalt Experiments. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1971. An integration of TA framework and gestalt therapy methods.
James, Muriel, and Savary, Louis M. A New Self. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1977. A valuable self-help book using TA.
—The Power at the Bottom of the Well: TA and Religious Experience. New York: Harper, 1974. Explores the spiritual self seen as the power and the integrative center of the three ego states.
Jongeward, Dorothy. Everybody Wins: TA Applied to Organizations. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1976. Relates TA to understanding and changing organizations and institutions.
—and Scott, Dru. Women as Winners: TA for Personal Growth. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1971. Uses TA and gestalt methods to help women create a new, positive identity.
Lessor, Richard, and Acton, Clare C. Love, Marriage and Trading Stamps: A TA and Gestalt Approach to Marriage. Chicago: Argus Communications, 1971. TA and gestalt therapy methods for use by couples to improve their marriages.
Oden, Thomas C. Game Free: The Meaning of Intimacy. New York: Harper, 1974. A theological discussion and critique of TA.
Reuter, Alan. Who Says I’m OK? A Christian Use of TA. St. Louis: Concordia, 1974. A theological-biblical discussion and critique of TA.
Steiner, Claude. Games Alcoholics Play: An Analysis of Life Scripts. New York: Grove Press, 1972. A discussion of the dynamics of the games alcoholics and those around them play.
—Scripts People Live. New York: Bantam Books, 1974. A discussion of life scripts and how to change them.
1. See Claude Stemet, Scripts People Live (New York: Bantam Books, 1974), pp. 10 ff. for further biographical information.
2. I first heard Berne at a one-day workshop in Los Angeles around 1962; in 1964, I took part in a weekend training event in the mountains at Idylwild, California, at which he was the principal resource person.
3. Muriel James and Louis M. Savary, The Power at the Bottom of the Well (New York: Harper, 1974), p. 14.
4. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy (New York: Grove Press, 1961), p. 235.
5. Principles of Group Treatment (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 221.
6. Games People Play (New York: Grove Press, 1964), p. 48.
7. Principles of Group Treatment, p. 310.
8. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, pp. 125-26.
9. For a more detailed account of how to present PAC in counseling sessions, see Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, pp. 130-38.
10. Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, p. 146.
11. “Sex Role Scripting in Men and Women,” chap. 13 in Steiner’s Scripts People Live.
12. See Scripts People Live, chaps. 14 and 15.
13. Women as Winners (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1971), p. 87.
14. An important TA resource for helping institutions become effective environments of growth is Dorothy Jongeward’s Everybody Wins: TA Applied to Organizations (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1976).
15. I’m OK — You’re OK (New York: Harper, 1969), p. 226.
16. The Power at the Bottom of the Well, p. 28.
17. Jacque Schuiff discusses the stages of the development of the Child in her Cathexis Reader (New York: Harper, 1975).
18. After I wrote this, my attention was called to an article by Janis Litke, “The Spindle — The Teenager in the Adult,” Transactional Analysis Journal, vol. 3, no. 4.
19. Game Free: The Meaning of intimacy (New York: Harper, 1974), p. 87.
20. Ibid., p. 85.
21. For additional methods of self re-parenting see Muriel James et al., Techniques in Transactional Analysis (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1977), chap. 38.