Transactional Behaviour or Transactional Analysis

It’s funny to think that we all have an inner Parent, Adult and Child in us at every second of the day. But once you realise that, you begin to see when you shift from one to the other.

In the 50’s Eric Berne started to see the link between vocal communication and our internal monologues when interacting with other people.

His starting-point was that when two people encounter each other, one of them will speak to the other. This he called the Transaction Stimulus. The reaction from the other person he called the Transaction Response.

The person sending the Stimulus is called the Agent. The person who responds is called the Respondent.

Transactional Analysis became the method of examining the transaction wherein: ‘I do something to you, and you do something back’.

Berne also said that each person is made up of three alter ego states:

The Parent

This is our built in authority voice. It is formed when we were young. We were conditioned by biological parents or parental figures, teachers, older people, next door neighbours etc.

Our Parent is made up of a recorded number of responses. Typically phrases include ‘how to’, ‘under no circumstance’, ‘always’ and ‘never forget’, etc. Our parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.

The Adult

This is the here and now. It is how you reason with the world around you, how you deal with situations as they are happening. They can include things like: Independence, Self awareness, reasoning etc. This self develops at around 10 months old and is formed by seeing the interaction between our parent figures and our child self.

The Child

Our internal reaction and feelings to external events form the ‘Child’. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data within each of us. When anger or despair dominates reason, the Child is in control. We have outbursts of emotion, we throw tantrums. But we also love unconditionally and develop strong bonds.

Flicking between them

During any 5 minute period we can jump from one of these inner self’s based on what is happening to us physically, emotionally or in the external influences.


An example would be, when you are driving to an interview and there is a road block or some type of delay.

The Parent will kick in with things like:

“Why didn’t you set off an hour earlier, why did you have to have that extra cup of coffee or take to long getting ready”

Then the Child might kick in:

“Oh I’m going to get told off, everyone will look at me when I get there later, they might laugh at me”

But then the Adult will kick in:

“Calm down, you can’t make traffic go faster, everyone will understand”

That would be where you regain control and for instance, ring the company to let them know you may be late, or take the next exit etc.

Parent is our ‘taught or inherited’ idea of the world around us runs.

Adult is our ‘own thoughts’ about the world around us and how it works.

Child is our ‘feelings or emotional’ idea about how the world around us is.


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