Ego States and Types of Transactions in Transactional Analysis Theory

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  • 0:01 Transactional Analysis at Work
  • 1:04 Intrapersonal vs.…
  • 1:39 Ego States
  • 3:53 Types of Transactions
  • 5:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

What is a transaction? Are there different types of transactions? What role do ego states play? Find out the answers to these questions and more as you explore this lesson!

Transactional Analysis at Work

Imagine the following scenarios: your boss praises you for the details you put into a report, two people ring someone's doorbell and run away giggling, a college student asks his girlfriend to drive up to the lookout and gaze at the stars. How do you think these interactions could be analyzed? In transactional analysis theory, these interactions would be analyzed by looking at each transaction that takes place.

Eric Berne developed this theory, and he defined a transaction as the fundamental unit of social interaction. This created a basic unit that could be studied, measured, and classified. According to Berne, we can observe what people do and say to themselves and to other people and the resulting effects of each individual act. In this lesson, we will be looking at the transactions that take place on an interpersonal and an intrapersonal basis and examine how they can be interpreted.

Intrapersonal vs. Interpersonal

Let's begin with intrapersonal transactions. Intrapersonal transactions are interactions that a person has with themselves in their own mind. When you tell yourself you shouldn't do something or smile at the way that you look in the mirror, it is an intrapersonal transaction. On the other hand, interpersonal transactions are interactions that take place between two or more individuals. When a stranger smiles at you on the street or your mother calls to ask why she hasn't heard from you in a while, it is an interpersonal transaction.

Ego States

In order to understand these transactions, we first need to talk about Berne's concept of the ego states. According to Berne, an ego state is a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior. Berne defined three ego states that can be confirmed by observable behavior: the parent, adult, or child.

The parent is the ego state that contains the external events that were imposed on people in the first five years of their life. These are constructs that are imposed on the child. Examples would be 'Don't talk to strangers,' 'Always hold a grown-up's hand when you cross the street,' or 'Don't touch a hot stove.'

The child is the ego state that contains the feelings and emotions related to the external events that were imposed on a person in the first five years of life. These feelings or emotions are replayed in the person's mind when the corresponding external event is recalled. Examples would be 'Being approached by a strange person makes me feel nervous,' 'I feel safe when I hold someone's hand,' or 'I am scared of being burned.'

The last ego state is the adult. The adult is the ego state that evaluates what is really going on and makes independent decisions about the world. This ego state begins forming as soon as we gain the ability to control aspects of our environment. It allows a person to compare what they are told about the world with what they feel and experience. Let's use the hot stove as an example. The adult is told by the parent not to touch a hot stove and recognizes that the child's fear of being burned is reasonable. Therefore, the adult determines to use caution when it's necessary to use a hot stove.

Thomas Harris uses an extremely simplified way to explain these ego states. The parent is a taught concept, the child is a felt concept, and the adult is a learned concept.

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