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Quick Summary of Transactional Analysis

Updated on December 21, 2013

Transactional Analysis is the psychological assessment of communication and the personality traits associated with the way one may communicate in a given situation. Transactional Analysis seeks to identify one’s mental state during a set of communications and to further inspect the person’s psyche through their subjective behaviors. With the use of TA and through understanding the reasoning behind one’s behaviors and the causes of such, one may be able to manipulate a conversation in their favor using the correct TA state corresponding to the one being used by the subject. TA may be used to identify and correct weakened, yet necessary, ego-states, and may also be useful by professionals to maintain an appropriate dialogue with patients.

Transactional Analysis is a Neo-Freudian theory of personality, transforming Freud’s id, ego, and super-ego into a simpler version that can be applied not only to psychoanalysis, but transactional analysis. This theory was brought about by Eric Berne in the 1950’s, who sought to inspect the elements of “Parent”, “Child”, and “Adult” personality types, which remain active in all humans regardless of age. Berne believed that through studying one’s interactions and identifying how which ego-state one uses in a given situation affects interactions, and how identifying and using the corresponding states may give one the power to change the course of interaction. Psychological problems can be indicative if one of the states are overly or unnecessarily used in normal conversation.

The three ego-states Berne’s describes are the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. The Parent state refers to the parental (maternal/fraternal) feelings and positions one may hold in general which can be displayed in certain situations. The Parent state allows one to revert back to how they were parented and somewhat upholds the guidelines that were set for them in childhood, it is exuded from maternal/fraternal instinct and learned behaviors. The Adult state refers to the rational, logical, and computative, personally exclusive thought processes generally thought of as being held by adults, especially when separated from their other roles (caring parent, loving child, etc.). Berne’s refers to the Child state as natural and rebellious, exhibiting all the natural and raw emotions such as extreme happiness or anger, feeling as if things are “unfair”, being in need of extra interaction to console, and sometimes generally exaggerated emotions in comparison to ‘normal’ adult behavior. The Child ego-state is considered to be what one “feels” naturally inclined to do or behave as. These simple ego-state terms make it simple to figure how to use TA to your own advantage; when one is using the Child state you would supply the role of the Parent (whether it be reprimanding or rewarding) or the Adult to provide logical reasoning, when one is in the Parent ego-state, depending on the situation you would respond with either the Child state or the Adult state, and when one is in the Adult state, either may respond, again, depending on the situation and environment.

Transactional Analysis can be a very powerful tool in diagnostics, maintaining appropriate conversations and interactions, and also to manipulate situations to your favor. Eric Berne’s study and research of Freud’s ego-states have proved to be quite valuable in psychology. While it has taken years to be truly acknowledged in ‘main-stream’ psychology, TA has proved to be an invaluable resource. Pioneers in the field, hopefully myself included, will continue to research and further discover how the study of transactional analysis is a dynamic and important mechanism in the overall study of social psychology.


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