Transactional analysis

     Our  caretakers and the environment we lived in shaped us by molding patterns of behavior and states of ego that are used as a matrix to sustain our communication. Like a tree, we are alive in a constant growth, limited by the weather, the soil or by the start we had when we were just a twig. All kinds of factors continue to influence us, just that once we realize their existence, we become one of the shapers!

     As humans, we are social creatures, having 8 relational needs even since our birth. These are: the need for security, the need to be validated and affirmed as significant, the need for acceptance by someone strong, wise, stable and dependable, the need for mutuality or shared experience, the need for self-definition, the need to make an impact on others, the need to have the other person initiate and the need to express love. It is curious there is no need to be loved or maybe it is THE NEED- the sum of all of our relational needs being met…

     Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and also a method of therapy developed by Eric Berne and it’s based on social interactions that are influenced by different states of ego, offering an understanding of a life script. The unit for measuring a social interaction it is called “transaction“. The states of the ego are Parent, Adult and Child, also known as the PAC model and they are strong forces that influence our ways of thinking, feeling and behave.

    Juggling with these states with almost every line we use, we do tend to prefer one of them over the others. It is not hard to guess what kind of childhood someone had, based on their preferred state- if there is no significant intervention from the outside, the subject will stabilize his own position by attacking everything that threatens it with avoidance or manipulation. This is how threats are being transformed into justifications. This preferred ego state is manifested by the mental attitude that brought it to life and is maintaining the life script. Unhealthy childhood experiences may lead to fixations on the Parent or Child ego states as we enter the Karpman’s drama triangle of Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim– a social model of human transactions. Counterproductive interactions may lead to different games people play, bringing an unexpected switch in a predictable pattern of roles.  Games are dysfunctional ways of obtaining signs of recognition that are called “strokes” in TA, with a series of hidden complementary transactions that has a targeted outcome. Don’t worry, there are good games too, maybe more interesting to study…

     The main idea is to understand the patterns that we have absorbed since childhood and realize that we can leave them and build a new life script, independent of the one our caregivers have cultivated in us!

     The text above was written after reading the following books:
– Rene de Lassus- Transactional analysis
– Eric Berne- What do you say after you say hello?
– Eric Berne- Games people play

     The following is a conversation with my friend, Sebastian- thanks for exchanging ideas! 

     Sebastian:  I have come to a different conclusion. The scars of childhood can be lifted from the shadows and studied and understood, but they will never go away. They will actively and repeatedly shape our interaction with the world all our life, unless we use constant mental energy to see how they again and again affect our behavior and actively block the pattern of behavior. No psychotherapy or katharsis can ever eradicate the influence, only bring the scars out into the light.

     Me: Sebastian, I understand what you wrote and I really appreciate you took the time to come with an answer just on point. However, I have to express the following: Scars don’t interfere with our functioning! The point is not to erase a scar, but to stop the bleeding and heal our wound, so that we can go on with life in our terms! Sometimes, even if the causing factor is gone, the scar won’t heal even for years or a lifetime, because we are blocked in a pattern and we recreate it by attracting the same type of hurting factors- to protect the “identity”= life script we wrote in our childhood. This is the main idea- that sometimes a Victim is recreating patterns to unconsciously search Persecutors and reaffirm the first position she/he knew in life because this is how she/he understands interaction- a girl falls for the same type of guy that ends up cheating her every time, etc… Once you understand how the pattern was formed, you don’t put your energy into blocking it, but you simply destroy it by deconstructing it, by seeing how it was shaped and learning how to create another one. We have to do more than see the wound, we have to understand why something or someone hurt us and how they learned to do it and so, let it heal. We should be happy when the scar starts to form because there is no bleeding and we are over it. We learn to be grateful for the fact that very often someone who has been hurt and healed, doesn’t hurt others- we learn to protect our selves by protecting others when we recognize the initial pattern that we were stuck in as a Victim. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can always control our reaction to it! A wound limits our functioning especially if we have it for a long time, it can get infected and decompensate the whole body. A scar on the other hand, it’s telling a story. It’s up to us which one!

     Sebastian: OK, Bleeding stopped, but every time you come close to a replica situation of the initial trauma the wound will hurt again. A shadow passing your emotions – and if you are not mentally aware you will act by reflex, repeat the pattern. You say: “but you simply destroy it by deconstructing it”. I don’t believe in that. I don’t think you can destroy it, but you may be able to see, understand and control it. You say we can control – exactly, there must be a conscious control, whereas someone without a scar will not have to conscious avoid repeating the pattern. Heal you say, but …. STILL leaves scars and often scars that can hurt again and again, and even affect function…. in the physical body this happens with injuries as well as the physical processes in the brain that dictates emotions/acts. Nothing can go back to what it was… everything changes all the time.

     Me: Nothing is what it was… “everything changes all the time…” you can create new patterns that will be stronger than the initial ones!

     Sebastian: Yes if that is what you mean with deconstruction…. that a NEW stronger pattern can be overlapping (CBT?)- then I believe in it…. according to my studies. Total healing = wishful thinking

     Me: It’s not just wishful thinking… total healing= the stimulus doesn’t recreate the first scenario- you own your emotional reaction and behavior- maybe you control it at first, but then you do it without effort- you detach from your childhood pattern and you don’t let it define you!

     Sebastian:  How… by just wishing it? Or just saying: I will not be defined by my childhood patters/experiences! We are designed to store traumas, it’s evolutionary. If it was easy to eradicate them, our species could have (would have) died out. It’s a reason why traumas run deep and stay. It’s not just a mistake in our design.

     Me: There is a cause and its effect, more than this, causes and effects. We store emotional events, but there are also coping mechanisms -retrograde amnesia- to “forget” traumas- better said they are buried deep, not with the wish of keeping them safe but to keep us safe- we avoid facing them! Even in this case, the subconscious mind will work on an effect. It’s not done just by saying… it’s transactional analysis and it’s a lot to learn, it takes time. Concepts such as trauma/ being designed deserve separate discussions and have to be incorporated in a cultural/ spiritual context.

     Sebastian: And the time it takes is your whole life. On your death bed you may still suffer the memory of that humiliation you felt at a certain situation at the age of 5.

     Me: You may or may not… 

One thought on “Transactional analysis

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