The ego state model of personality is a central concept in Transactional Analysis. As a practitioner of Transactional Analysis, the ego state model is one I often use in my work as a psychoanalytic approach to therapy and personal growth. The model posits that individuals have three distinct ego states that operate within their personality: Parent, Adult, and Child. The founder of TA, Eric Berne defined an ego state as ‘a system of feelings accompanied by related set of behaviour patterns.’
Berne believed that there are three ego states in everyone and that together they constitute our individual personalities.
The Parent ego state is characterised by learned behaviours, attitudes, and values that were passed down from one’s own parents or other authority figures. This state can be further divided into two sub-states: the Nurturing Parent (providing care and support) and the Critical Parent (providing rules and boundaries). When individuals are in the Parent ego state, they may act in ways that reflect the attitudes and behaviors they learned from their own parents or other authority figures.
The Child ego state is characterised by emotions, impulses, and behaviours that reflect earlier stages of development. This state can also be further divided into two sub-states: the Free Child (spontaneous and creative) and the Adapted Child (conforming to others’ expectations). When individuals are in their Child ego state, they may act in ways that reflect their emotional reactions to situations.
The Adult ego state is characterised by a rational, logical, and objective approach to life. When individuals are in the Adult ego state, they are able to process information and make decisions based on the present reality, without being influenced by emotions or past experiences.
The ego state model of personality suggests that individuals can switch between these three ego states depending on the situation and their emotional state. By identifying which ego state is most dominant in a given situation, individuals can gain insight into their behaviours and make conscious choices about how to respond.
Transactional Analysis Therapy
Transactional analysis aims to help individuals develop their Adult ego state to be more effective in their personal and professional relationships. Through therapy, individuals can learn to recognise and manage their emotional reactions, communicate more effectively, and make choices that are aligned with their values and goals.