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Dr Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis – An early TA history and theory
Transactional Analysis is one of the most accessible theories of modern psychology. Transactional Analysis was founded by Eric Berne, and the famous ‘parent adult child’ theory is still being developed today. Transactional Analysis has wide applications in clinical, therapeutic, organisational and personal development, encompassing communications, management, personality, relationships and behaviour. Whether you’re in business, a parent, a social worker or interested in personal development, Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis theories, and those of his followers, will enrich your dealings with people, and your understanding of yourself. This section covers the background to Transactional Analysis, and Transactional Analysis underpinning theory. See also the modern Transactional Analysis theory article.
Roots of transactional analysis
Throughout history, and from all standpoints: philosophy, medical science, religion; people have believed that each man and woman has a multiple nature.
In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud first established that the human psyche is multi-faceted, and that each of us has warring factions in our subconscious. Since then, new theories continue to be put forward, all concentrating on the essential conviction that each one of us has parts of our personality which surface and affect our behaviour according to different circumstances.
In 1951 Dr Wilder Penfield began a series of scientific experiments. Penfield proved, using conscious human subjects, by touching a part of the brain (the temporal cortex) with a weak electrical probe, that the brain could be caused to ‘play back’ certain past experiences, and the feelings associated with them. The patients ‘replayed’ these events and their feelings despite not normally being able to recall them using their conventional memories.
Penfield’s experiments went on over several years, and resulted in wide acceptance of the following conclusions:
- The human brain acts like a tape recorder, and whilst we may ‘forget’ experiences, the brain still has them recorded.
- Along with events the brain also records the associated feelings, and both feelings and events stay locked together.
- It is possible for a person to exist in two states simultaneously (because patients replaying hidden events and feelings could talk about them objectively at the same time).
- Hidden experiences when replayed are vivid, and affect how we feel at the time of replaying.
- There is a certain connection between mind and body, i.e. the link between the biological and the psychological, eg a psychological fear of spiders and a biological feeling of nausea.
Early transactional analysis theory and model
In the 1950’s Eric Berne began to develop his theories of Transactional Analysis. He said that verbal communication, particularly face to face, is at the centre of human social relationships and psychoanalysis.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’.
Who Can Benefit from Transactional Analysis?
Transactional analysis is frequently applied in the areas of medicine, communications, education, and business management as well as therapy.
The mainstream appeal of this technique has attracted leaders, professionals and other workers who strive to achieve maximum personal development or enhance their stakeholders’ management and relationship building.
Transactional analysis is considered to be one effective method of enhancing relationships with oneself and with others.
Transactional analysis is used widely in the educational arena but now also in many organisations which foster a positive, agile and constructive working culture.
This method can serve as a vessel through which educational principles and philosophy can be incorporated into the daily lives of ALL workers.
Eric Berne, (1964), Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Balantine Books
Thomas Harris (1996), I’m OK-You’re OK, Avon books
Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward (1971), Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments, Da Capo Press Inc