All of us have a unique pattern of thinking and a unique pattern of responding to the various situations we are confronted with. The response of every individual to an exactly identical situation is unique. The collection of all these unique responses of an individual helps us identify a particular personality with the individual.
But, why do we think and act in a particular manner, favouring a particular response or a approach more than the other?
We can answer the above question if we can identify the parameters which define our responses. The knowledge of these responses can help us modify, restructure and fine-tune these parameters to make our personalities more flexible and more adaptable to situations.
Transactional Analysis (TA) – An analysis technique in physiology developed by Eric Berne can help us to answer the above asked question.
The basis of Transactional Analysis is the assumption that our brains stores and records each and every experience which we encounter in our lifetime. This total collection of experiences in our brain defines our personality. And when we experience our next event, the brain interprets and responds to it based on the historic data stored inside it.
The assumption stated above has been proven by medical science. Various neurological experiments, physiological examinations and other scientific analysis have proven that our brains stores and records our each and every experience. Along with that, the brain also stores each and every visual image, sound and emotional feeling experienced by us during a particular experience. Any stimulus which maps to any of these old stored data can make us relive the earlier experience.
An obvious question which comes up is; if the brain records everything, why do we forget so many things in our day to day life? It is because we can forcefully retrieve only a small set of data from our brain. This is because even though our brain is an excellent recorder, the querying aspect of our brain is underdeveloped. But it does not mean that if we cannot access any particular data, the data is lost forever. This inaccessible data can be accessed by the brain at a sub-conscious level (without us releasing it) to respond to situations.
We can understand the above retrieval concept with the help of a common incident. Recall the incident when you met an old friend of yours after a gap of few years.Statements such as “Oh! You have grown so tall? You have put on some weight!” are common in such meetings.
Now, if just before meeting your friend, someone would have asked you – “How did your friend look like when you met him/her the last time? What was the height of your friend when you met him/her the last time?” You might not recall with much accuracy the required details. But on meeting your friend, you are able to detect the slightest change in the facial characteristics, height and weight of your friend. It means the old data about your friend is precisely stored somewhere in the brain and used by the brain for comparison at a sub conscious level. This example shows us that our brain has all the data but forceful retrieval of all this data is beyond our capacity.
Once (and if) we are now comfortable with the assumption which Transactional Analysis utilizes, let us look into Transactional Analysis.
As per Transactional analysis – this capacity of the brain to record all our experiences and use them at a sub conscious level causes our personality to be segmented into 3 parts –
• The Parent
• The Child
• The Adult.
Remember these are not the stages of life but the segments of our personality. These three segmented parts work together to form our personality.
Let’s understand the characteristics of these three segments-
The Parent is the huge collections of recordings which are stored in our brain unquestioned or as ultimate facts. Most of the Parent is formed in the first 5 years of our life. Even after that, although at a slow rate, the adult keeps growing throughout our lifetime.
e.g. – When we are young, we are taught “Always use right hand for handshakes. Using a left hand is bad “. This fact is recorded in our brains. We start to believe in it without questioning. Even today, as a grown up, we feel reluctant to prefer our left hand for important things. Don’t we?
While external events are recorded in the Parent, the feelings associated with these events are stored in the Child. Most of the Child is formed in the first 5 years of our life but just like the Parent, the Child also keeps growing throughout our lifetime.
e.g. – When we are young, we all have experienced incidents where people laughed at us when we made mistakes. This could happen while making an error while reading out from a book in class or while we may have fell down while playing etc. These feelings of public embarrassment remains etched in our brains forever. That is why we fear public speaking and centre-stage so much. We face an audience and we start shaking all over.
The adult starts developing around the age of 4, when we ;earn how to crawl and walk around, The adult keeps getting more active as we grow up. As the adult starts growing , growth rate of the Parent and the Child slows down.
The growth of Adult can be associated with the growing inquisitiveness in young ones. The Adult does not agree to store any data without its analysis and validation. The Adult is the analyzer and used the data from Parent, Child and Adult experience to build up its response. It tries to explore and find answers.
The data of the Parent and the Child is experienced by us as our inner voice, inner feeling, voice of the heart, gut feeling response to any situation. The data of the Adult help us to approach a situation via logical deduction, analysis and thought process.
All of us have different data stored in these three segments of our brain as our experiences are unique. Hence, our response, reactions, thought processes and weightage to different issues are unique.
Lets see discussion practical examples to understand how our reactions are different based on different triggers.
1. Seeing a cockroach
Many of us freak out when we see a cockroach because some of us almost programmed in our Child be scared of the cockroach. When we are young we have seen people terrorized on seeing a cockroach. The sight of the cockroach triggers the old Child memory and we experience the same terror as a natural reaction. Things would not be so scary if we gave ourselves a chance to think about the same and practise to let our Adult be triggered on seeing the Cockroach.
2. Questions on Core beliefs
We do not let anyone question our core beliefs like God, Religion, Morals etc. They are deep rooted in our Parent. We never question them or let others question them. No matter how good at negotiating (An Adult characteristics) and discussion (An Adult characteristics) we may be , we may be not at all entertain the idea of anyone questioning our core beliefs .They are de facto correct for us and there is not need for discussions on them.
The Instinct is provided by the Child and the Parent. Many times our Adult logical analysis may tell us something else but we our inner belief, our gut feeling for a situations says something else. A large number of times our gut feeling is right as well .We cannot explain why the Adult response felt wrong but we knew it was wrong. It is because the Child and the Parent do not use logical deduction to come to a conclusion but that does not mean that they are wrong.
The above practical examples give us a peek into the vast scope of areas where transactional analysis could help us. For instance, It can help us to understand ourselves better, understand and interact with others efficiently with others and so on…..
If you find the topic interesting and worth exploring; I would recommend you a book –“ I’m Ok , You’re Ok” by Thomas A Harris.