What is Transactional Analysis and how it can help?

PND Transactional Analysis was founded by Eric Berne, who sought to demystify psychotherapy and developed concepts, language and methods which were understandable to everyone.
Transactional Analysis believes that we are all living according to our script – a life plan, that is formed at about the age of 6 under the influence of the authority figures.
From this early age we see the world through the prism of our life script and either ignore the facts that don’t fit in or notice only the matching episodes.
Obviously, our “script vision” does not allow us to see all the variety of choices that life has to offer. As a result, we keep moving in circles, sometimes wondering why same things keep happening to us again and again.
For example, the person with a “Work Hard” script, will keep working overtime despite the signs of deteriorating health. The thought of stopping and having a holiday would not even occur to him. Or the woman with Don’t be important script message might marry several times to the men who make her feel unimportant, therefore reinforcing her script beliefs.

Having a baby is a highly emotional time for anyone. When we are tired and under stress, that is the time when our Script directives become most powerful.
For example, somebody with a “Be Perfect” script type may feel that his or her perfect world is blown to pieces with the arrival of a little baby and nothing will ever be perfect again.
On the other hand, a person with a “Work Hard” script theme will understand motherhood as yet another hard task, that has to be worked on, and just get on with it.
If a mother grew up in a household where loud expression of emotions was taboo, she might find dealing with a colicky baby overwhelming. She might experience a sense of total helplessness, feelings of guilt or anger, or even get seriously depressed.

So how can Transactional Analysis help?
TA believes that our scripts can be changed and that we can live the life we choose, not the one we were programmed to live. After acknowledging your script beliefs you can then challenge them and replace them with the new ones.

Here is how it worked for some of my previous clients:

My first client, Laura, was a mother of 2, 5 year old and 1 year old twins. A successful business woman in the past, Laura was getting depressed staying at home with small children and relying on her husband to earn a living. Her husband was very supportive of her going back into business again, but she was torn between the desire to be a “perfect mother” and re-claim her “former life”. In a course of several sessions we explored Laura’s feelings about working and her feelings about being a mother, which revealed complicated relationship between her “inner child” and “inner parent”. What we achieved was Laura’s new ability to rid herself of adopted feelings and prejudices, which did not belong to her, and discover the feelings and desires of her own. With that new skill acquired Laura was able to build a new life, which included her children and her work, the way she wanted it, not the way she was “meant” to live.

Maria, mother of a three months old baby, felt overwhelmed by motherhood and new responsibilities. Always a perfectionist, she took her baby crying as a sign that she was not a good enough mother and was getting more and more depressed. Together we worked at detecting Maria’s inner critical voice and changing it to a voice of support and encouragement. Maria then learned to enjoy being a mum, rather than trying to Be a Perfect Mother.

What do your children need?


Do any of these complaints sound familiar?

My Marcie whines and demands, especially when I don’t have time to give to her.
Andrew just seems flat. I offer him the same thing over and over and he doesn’t respond, so I leave him alone.
My Elena flouts the rules and laughs at my anger.

If you have a similar lament, it may be time to try out some different ways of parenting or of understanding yourself.
Hearing these laments as part of the “SRC triangle” can help us deal with them. SRC stands for the psychological hunger for stimulation, recognition and certainty. These three human hungers can at times push aside needs for sleep or for food.
We need to feel alive(stimulated), acknowledged (recognised) and safe (certain).If we can’t get the one we need, we try to make do by substituting one of the others, but it is never quite satisfying.

So the three points on a triangle are:

Let’s do something! – Hunger to be energised and vital.
Look at me! – Hunger to be acknowledged and considered valuable.
Who’s in charge here?- Hunger for a framework in which to feel safe and confident and to get stimulation and recognition safely and appropriately.

As a parent, you can think about the following questions:

• Am I providing a balance of stimulation, recognition and certainty for my children?
• Is one of them easier for me to offer so that I offer it at the expense of the others?
• Is one of my children clamouring for me to meet one of the hungers because she is not getting enough of another?
• When children are not responding well to our offers, we can remember that children, like adults, have widely different temperaments. The book by Helen Neville and Diane Clark Johnson Temperament Tools, Working with Your Child’s Inborn Traits helps us to do just that.
• Am I putting one of my unmet hungers onto the children instead of noticing what they need?
• Do I have stimulation, recognition and certainty balanced in my own life?
• Am I accepting the satisfaction of one hunger in place of another when I could do something to get that hunger met directly?

The three hungers are equally important. It is safest to offer a balance of all three.
My Marcie whines and demands, especially when I don’t have time to give to her.
Marcie whining and demanding may be saying “ I need more recognition from you. I feel scared and angry when I am not sure if you value me”. The response: more time with Marcie, more loving and more noticing and commenting on what Marcie does.

Andrew just seems flat. I offer him the same thing over and over and he doesn’t respond, so I leave him alone.
Babies who are not touched and talked to languish or die. Andrew went flat.
We all need variety, action, challenge, excitement, touch. Andrew may need all of those.

My Elena flouts the rules and laughs at my anger.
Elena might need a better structure. Her parents could develop consistency if the structure has been lax. Or they can loosen up the rigidity, if the structure has been too rigid. Too many limitations often result in rebellion, passivity, or manipulation rather than safety.

If you would like to explore this topic further, you are advised to read
Growing Up Again by Gean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson.