Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Games We (all) Play 3

It is important to note that Dr. Eric Berne was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst steeped in the Freudian tradition, though not at all orthodox as I have pointed out in a previous post.  In fact he had fallen out with the orthodox Freudians and had wished not to be identified with them at all.  However, it is not too surprising to find that Transactional Analysis (TA) evolved out of Freudian psychoanalysis.  Berne relates that he had once had an adult male patient who had admitted that that he was really "a little boy in an adult's clothing."  In subsequent therapy he often asked his patient whether it was "the little boy" or "the adult" that was then talking in him.  Consequently, using this practical therapeutic background and other sources of study, Berne concluded that within each person are three selves or three "ego states" that often contradict each other.  Once again I will return to the foundational work by Berne and quote in own words here, which I think and feel are important:

In technical language, an ego state may be described phenomenologically as a coherent system of feelings, and operationally as a set of coherent behaviour patterns.  In more practical terms, it is a system of feelings accompanied by a related set of behavioural patterns.  Each individual seems to have available a limited repertoire of such ego states, which are not roles but psychological realities.  This repertoire can be sorted into the following categories: (1) ego states which resemble those of parental figures; (2) ego states which are autonomously directed towards objective appraisal of reality and (3) those which represent archaic relics, still-active ego states which were fixated in early childhood.  Technically, these are called, respectively, exteropsychic, neopsychic, and archaeopsychic ego states.  Colloquially their exhibitions are called Parent, Adult and Child, and these simple terms serve for all but the most formal discussions. (Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, 23)

When I was studying Berne at college all those years ago our lecturer spoke of the PAC ~ PAC dynamic for two interrelating persons.  Diagrammatically this lecturer had each person represented by a Venn-like diagram with three points in it called P, A and C and the other person was represented in like manner.  Berne used three equal circles under one another with P in one, A in another and C in the third to represent the three ego states of person 1 and three other equal circles with the same letters to represent person 2. 

The three selves Parent, Adult and Child correspond loosely and roughly to the Freudian structural categories of the personality, Id, Ego and Superego. In this regard the Parent category corresponds to the Freudian Superego, the Adult to the Ego and the Child to the Id.  Here is what Tom Butler-Bowdon has to say in a marvellous new book on psychology classics:

In any given social interaction, Berne argued, we exhibit one of these basic Parent, Adult, and Child states, and can easily shift from one to the other.  For instance we can take on the child's creativity, curiosity and charm, but also the child's tantrums or intransigence.  Within each mode we can be productive or unproductive. 

In playing a game with someone we take on an aspect of one of the three selves. Instead of remaining neutral, genuine, or intimate, to get what we want we may feel we need to act like a commanding parent, or a coquettish child, or to take the sage-like, rational aura of an adult. (Tom Butler-Bowdon, Fifty Psychological Classics: Who We Are, How We Think, What We Do, Nicholas Brealey, 2007, 28)

As regards its history the WIKI has some interesting insights which I quote here fully and give the appropriate link by way of acknowledgement:

TA is not only post-Freudian but according to its founder's wishes consciously extra-Freudian. That is to say that while it has its roots in psychoanalysis - since Berne was a psychoanalytic-trained psychiatrist - it was designed as a dissenting branch of psychoanalysis in that it put its emphasis on transactional, rather than "psycho-", analysis.

With its focus on transactions, TA shifted its attention from internal psychological dynamics to the dynamics contained in people's interactions. Rather than believing that increasing awareness of the contents of unconsciously held ideas was the therapeutic path, TA concentrated on the content of people's interactions with each other. Changing these interactions was TA's path to solving emotional problems. TA at WIKI 

To be continued.

Above I have uploaded a picture of our first years who won the Leinster Soccer Final this past school year. Playing games are important to growing up physically, socially and emotionally strong.

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