Transactional Analysis



A form of group encounter therapy developed in Canada in the late 1960's and early 1970's


TA is designed to increase the communication effectiveness of individuals


"Social and Communication Training "


      just as we can make a financial transaction, TA examines the social transactions we make with one another on a daily basis.


In encounter groups, people are asked to respect the confidential information given to them.


      People are not forced to participate in activities they don't feel ready for.


The concepts are a combination of Rogerian and Freudian personality theories



Goals of Transactional Analysis


1. To learn the language and concepts underlying

Transactional analysis


2. Learning to analyze our relationships with one another in terms of TA.


3. To develop our ability to engage in straight, effective communication with one another on a daily basis.



A  TA Exercise


Involves two aspects :


First, learning to appreciate other people's viewpoints.


Second :  Realize that all interpersonal communications have two elements :


The verbal message


The non-verbal cues (body language) which accompanies the verbal message.



      In TA, they will have people try to imitate how others in the group are sitting, to see if you can submerge yourself in another persons viewpoint.


      This exercise is designed to increase your ability to relate to and empathize with other people, by trying to get you to take a point of view other than your own.


This is based on the Rogerian concept of "mirroring"



In  TA, they will tell you :


Talking without listening is not productive


Talking without looking is not productive.


To engage in effective communication you must both listen to the message and pay attention to the messenger.



      We also learn, by how other people react to us.


The reactions we get from one another are called "Feedback" in TA


In TA they ask, What would life be like without feedback ?


TA tries to get people to talk about themselves, so they encourage statements like "I feel, I think", over statements like "People feel", or "People do".


This helps sharpen your perception of your own viewpoint.


Transactional Analysis assumes that our present life, the "here and now" is affected to us by what happened to us in the past. (a causal view of human nature)


TA stresses that we have memories of past events, and that these memories can bring forth emotions as well.


Sometimes, our present emotional state "mirrors" a past emotional state.


We can recreate the emotional state of events which happened long ago.


TA specifies different types of "feedback"


When someone pays attention to us and gives us feedback, this is known as "stroking"


There are different types of strokes which we can receive.


Sometimes, we behave in a specific way designed to elicit a specific type of stroke from others.


Positive Strokes make you feel good.


Negative Strokes make you feel bad.



Although most stroking goes on at the verbal level, non-verbal gestures such as touching can also contribute to stroking.


In our daily life, we both give and receive strokes


Most people would rather receive a negative stroke, rather than no stroke at all.


To be not stroked, is to be unrecognized.



Relating to Rogerian Theories, Positive and Negative Strokes can also be described as


Conditional : Receiving a stroke for what we do.


"You did a great job on your project management assignment "


"That was the worst report I have ever read"


Unconditional : Receiving a stroke for who we are


"You are a good person"


"I've never seen such a snotty nosed brat"



In TA, they will spend time giving each other conditional and unconditional strokes until everyone understands the concepts and feels the positive benefit of receiving unconditional positive stokes.


If we want to improve our relationships with other people, TA teaches two things


First, you can seek out ways to give more unconditional positive strokes so others know how we feel about them as people.


Secondly, we can listen carefully to the strokes others give us to determine if their praise is for who we are or what we do.


This can allow us to separate the person for the action and still show love towards people whom we feel are doing foolish things.


When we criticize someone we care about, we can combine an unconditional positive stroke with a conditional negative stroke in order to get our point across.


Unconditional positive strokes makes us feel good, or O.K. in TA parlance.


O.K. describes the good feelings and beliefs we have about ourselves, the positive aspects of our self image.


The opposite is Not-OK (low, depressed)

The ways in which we arrange our day is called time structuring.


Most people time structure so they are not alone.


If we are alone, we can not receive strokes from others.


The six levels vary in the amount of interpersonal contact, and therefore the probability of receiving strokes.


When people are physically present but emotionally absent, they have withdrawn.


People withdraw when they fear negative strokes which they can not accept.


Withdrawal is not abnormal unless people resort to it with great frequency. 


Rituals are very predictable transactions which can produce word strokes :


Abe:   Hi !

Homer : How are you ?

Abe:  Fine, thanks, and you ?

Homer : Great, thanks ?


The positive stroke comes in the expression of interest in the other person's well being.


A good "word stroker" is seen as someone who can be counted on to be polite and very civil, possessing good manners.


Much less predictable than rituals are :


Pastimes :a less formal way of exchanging strokes which occurs in an informal setting. Idle chit chat at the bus stop, at a party, or with your neighbor can lead to the exchange of strokes. There can be gender specific pastimes : Women play  "supermarket" and man play "automobiles"

Pastimes are more intimate than rituals.


Activities :  If we perform our activity well, we can expect positive conditional strokes from others.


Activities are a major source of strokes throughout our life.


The next level of time structuring is


Games :  games are played by people in order to avoid intimacy


Games leave both players with Not-O.K. feelings


These Not OK feelings, however, are seen as preferable to risking intimacy with the other people.


People play games out of a fear of intimacy.


In TA, a game involves an exchange of strokes between two individuals which results in a "payoff" for each of the game players.


In Intimacy, strokes are also exchanged, but for the purpose of sharing with one another genuine feelings, not aimed at eliciting a specific  response, as in game playing.


Games can never lead to intimacy.

Intimacy  does not have to include a sexual relation.


Any two persons may be capable of intimacy.


With intimacy, people exchange unconditional strokes without looking for a payoff.



Although people can use all 6 different time structuring events, most individuals adopt a "basic position" which determines their specific time structuring preferences.


We can apply all six levels to our work  life, our social life, our sexual life, and our dealings with strangers.


Although it is unlikely that we can achieve true intimacy with strangers, TA is designed to produce those feelings within the group encounter situation.



Intimacy between two individuals can only be reached if they give up there games.


Games are what stands between us and totally free transactions and feelings.


TA theory of personality


Life experience is composed of Three sets of :


Ideas (cognitions), Feelings (affect),  and behavior


Each set is known as an "Ego State"


Ego State                     Fruedian Mental Structure


Parent Ego State                Super Ego


Adult Ego State                        Ego


Child Ego State                        Id 


Each one of these ego states has a particular way of communicating.


Our Parent Ego State is in control when we act or feel or think like those who raised us.


Our Child Ego State is in control when we behave or feel as we did when we were a very young child.

When we are extremely playful, or carefree, then our child ego state is in control.


When examining facts, or making careful decisions, our Adult Ego State is in Control.


As an adult, I take in information, recall things from memory, calculate and direct action.



An important (vital) part of TA is for you to be able to recognize what ego state is in control when you are communicating with other people.


And remember, both verbal and non-verbal cues can be used to identify the particular ego state you are currently in.


The next step is to be able to recognize what ego state other people are in.


By understanding your ego state and the other person's ego state , you will be able to tailor your communication most effectively, depending upon what ego state you are talking to.



Blocked Ego States


One way of examining psychopathology or maladjustment is to determine whether the individual has access to all three ego states.


Healthy individuals can change their ego states as the situation demands.


      Maladjusted Individuals, however, may suffer from a blocked ego state


If my child ego state is blocked, I may become a joyless workaholic in adulthood.  (OCD)


If my adult ego state is blocked, I will have great trouble perceiving reality.  Decision making will be based on "shoulds" and "should nots" , and not on a realistic assessment of the various decision alternatives.  (Borderline Personality Disorder)


If  my parent ego state is blocked, than I may live an amoral life and appear to function without a conscience. (Sociopath)



                        Ego States


Ego States begin to form when very young, and were basically set by the time we became teenagers


Ego States develop through our transactions with our real parents or guardians and others who raised us.


Our Parent Ego State has many of the same characteristics that our parents or guardians had.


Parents give both conditional and unconditional strokes, both positive and negative strokes.


Because of this, our parent ego state has two distinct parts :


The caring parent portion (positive strokes)


The disapproving parent (negative strokes)


Because of these two portions, we can sometimes act with great compassion, and sometimes with great disapproval and condemnation.


In both cases, however, we are still operating from our parent ego state

 Our Child Ego State also has two divisions :



The natural child :  Childhood freedom as its best.  Spontaneity, and freedom of expression represent our "natural child"


The adapted child :  The child which has learned to control their emotional state, live within a schedule



Within conversations, a specific portion or ego state becomes "hooked" into the conversation, and we respond from that specific ego state.


TA is about recognizing the Ego State you are currently in, recognizing the ego state of your conversation partner, and decide whether or not your current ego state is the most advantageous ego state for effective communication.


If you are aware of all your ego states, you will be better able to adopt the ego state which will give you the greatest benefit with any social transaction.



Miscommunication and Ego States


In dyadic (1 on 1) conversations, the communications between ego states can be described as complementary or crossed.


In complementary conversations, Each person is directing their comments toward the dominant ego state of the other person.


The two individuals could both be speaking from the same ego state or two different ego states. As long as each speaker recognizes what ego state the partner is operating from, communication will occur.


When we try to speak to the non dominant ego state of our conversation partner, communication becomes crossed and miscommunication is frequent.


Communication between ego states is known as stroking.



What is a Transaction ?



If you stroke someone, and they give you feedback in return (return a stroke), than a transaction has occurred.


A transaction is the exchange of strokes.



Adult - Adult transactions  :  Information and opinion is exchanged


Parent - Parent transactions : Often judgmental



Complementary communication can continue indefinitely. 


By recognizing Ego States, we can ensure complementary communication.


Often during a transaction, stroking is going on at multiple levels.



Messages given within strokes contain both a


Social Message : What is being said


Psychological Message : Tone of voice, non-verbal cues communicates other feelings or ideas.

(prosodic factors)


Here's a social message, which depending on prosody, can have one of two psychological message.


"I really didn't mean to upset you by coming in late"


The genuineness of the apology is seen as a function of the psychological message accompanying the social message.


Messages with a different social and psychological transmission are known as duplex transmissions in TA.


Sometimes the separation between verbal and non-verbal cues tips us off to a duplex communication


Overall Goal of Transactional Analysis



Make yourself aware of your triadic personality structure.


Increase awareness of your own ego state and the ego states of others.


Be aware of both social and psychological messages which exist within communication transactions. Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues.


Increase the chance for complementary transactions.


Be able to change from crossed communication to complementary communication when you realize different ego states are not talking to each other, but other ego states.


Reduce the need for game playing and increase the probability of intimacy.