According to Eric Berne our personality consists of 3 major ego states. A Parent state, an adult state and a Child state.
The parent state consists of two parts: the nurturing parent (mother) and the controlling parent (father). The Child state consist of two aspects as well: the natural/spontaneous child, and the Rebellious child. Therefore, each of us enacts in the world from five ego states.
The Child ego state is the most vulnerable in one’s personality, and develops in early childhood. The child adopts messages he receives from the parent (the real parent) and from his life circumstances as a child, and this influences him in three ways:
- Which kind of ego states will be more dominant in his anigram?
- It also has an effect on how will he translate his experience in the world (I am ok, you are ok, I am not ok- you are ok, I am not ok- and you are not ok, or I am not ok and you are not ok). This develops into three major roles that the child will develop: a Victim, a savior or a blamer.
- This experience will promote him to develop a life script which he will strive to fulfill during his life time.
Later on in life, the child will also borrow roles and adapt scripts from fairy tales (and the one who reads/tell him the tale, and the unconscious messages that he/she delivers are of great influence on the script the child will develop. In adolescence, the child begins to meet more people and sick out those who will play the roles his script requires. He rewrites his script to take account of his new environment. The basic plot remains the same but the actions is a little different.
Almost every script has roles for good guys and bad guys, winners -princess, and losers-frogs. The object of the script is to turn frogs into princess. Now. When two people meet, there are six ego states involved, and nine possible transactions. A transaction is a message/interaction, that is being delivered from a person A ego states> to person B ego states. (At face value and unconsciously) and the reply from person B to person A.
Berne defines between transactions that are potentially positive (complementary),like a message from person A parent ego state that is delivered to person B parent state. And the reply comes back from person B parent ego state to person A parent ego state.
However, communication is distracted when for example person A delivers from his adult ego state, to person B adult ego state, and person B replies from his parent ego state to his partners’ s child ego state (cross transaction).
Example for complimentary transactions between two adults students studying in the Library and interacting both from their rebellious child’s state:
Student A: this is so boring
Student B: yes, let’s get out of here, the teacher will not notice…
Example for cross transaction between husband and wife:
Husband (from adult state to adult state): have you seen my red tie?
Wife: (from controlling parent state to child state): It’s about time you tidy up your clothes!
As a psychodrama director I observe my protagonist and try to evaluate (according to the tone of their voice, the vocabulary he uses, etc.) from which ego state he is enacting?
For example: if he uses the world “you should” or “you never” or “always” I will immediately ask him “who told you this”? Or “when did you hear that”?
This expression characterizes the control parent ego state, and will most probably give us a lid where some healing needs to take place. I will try to find cues to his script: “who does he put as the “bad guy” and who and the “good guy”. I will observe whether he takes the victim role, the savior, or the blamer, and use my observation, in doubling statements to support the protagonist and help him gain insight. If I observe that there is a dominant ego state in his enactment, I will try to moderate it by asking group members to offer doubling statements. Sometimes, I will also take the protagonist out of the out of the scene to a mirror position and ask him for his observation on the enactment, and usually he will be able to recognize himself from which ego state he was responding (as a child, as a victim, etc.) and if he would like to try a new role, I will offer role taking.
My knowledge of TA will help me look for the wounded child within the protagonist, and will guide me to help him explore what was the message he configured as a child that built his script. Once we know the script there is an opportunity to work on a new script in a form of a Surplus Reality.