Introduction to Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change. Introduced to the world by Dr. Eric Berne in his groundbreaking book call “Games People Play” where he explains the theory of games. According to Dr. Berne, games are ritualistic transactions or behavior patterns between individuals that can indicate hidden feelings or emotions.

A runaway success, Games People Play spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list in the mid 1960s – longer than any non-fiction book over the preceding decade. Games People Play and Transactional Analysis have gone on to influence and inspire millions of people, including Thomas A. Harris, author of I’m OK – You’re OK and Muriel James, author of Born to Win.


Dr. Eric Berne is the author of Games People Play, the groundbreaking book in which he introduces Games and Transactional Analysis to the world.   Grown azz kids incorporates the TA psychology of human relation to suit our purpose as a production community for personal and community development.


Transactional analysis embraces a positive view of human nature. Some basic assumptions are:

  • All people are important and their concerns are valid.
  • All people should be treated as equals and with respect.
  • With a few exceptions, all people have the ability to think as adults.
  • All people decide their own destiny and can make changes to it.

From these assumptions TA creates a form of therapy that is not only problem-oriented, but also goal-oriented. It aims to free the people from maladaptive patterns of behavior based on past thinking. In doing so, they will be able to choose a new direction in life. In fact, the basic goal of transactional analysis is to help a people make new decisions about their current behavior and change the direction their lives are taking. In other words, a person will learn to write their own life story instead of allowing it to be written for them.

When Eric Berne first published his theories on Transactional Analysis, he spent years formulating the framework of this approach. The key to this methodology was a transaction – the fundamental unit of social intercourse. Berne also defined a stroke – the fundamental unit of social action (strokes are discussed in more detail later in this paper).

Many of the criticisms of the “science” (or lack thereof) behind psychotherapy was the fact that there was no basic unit for study, measurement, and classification. For example, the study of chemistry was revolutionized with the atomic theory of John Dalton; without the atom as a fundamental unit, the advancement of chemistry as a science would have proceeded slowly or not at all. By identifying and defining a transaction, Berne provided to the psychotherapeutic sciences the “atom” that was needed to allow for rigorous analysis.

In addition to the analysis of the interactions between individuals, Transactional Analysis also involves the identification of the ego states behind each and every transaction. Berne defined an ego state as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior.”

Berne ultimately defined the three ego states as: Parent, Adult, and Child. It should be carefully noted that the descriptions of these ego states do NOT necessarily correspond to their common definitions as used the English language.

Before describing each of the three ego states, it is important to note that these are fundamentally different than Freud’s Ego, Id, and Superego. Berne describes this best when he writes in Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy:

“It will be demonstrated that Parent, Adult, and Child are not concepts, like Superego, Ego, and Id, or the Jungian constructs, but phenomenological realities.5 Stated another way, Freud’s ego states are unobservable, theoretical states; but Berne’s three ego states can be confirmed with observable behaviors.

The following are detailed descriptions of the three ego states:

Parent – The parent represents a massive collection of recordings in the brain of external events experienced or perceived in approximately the first five years of life. Since the majority of the external events experienced by a child are actions of the parent, the ego state was appropriately called Parent. Note that events perceived by the child from individuals that are NOT parents (but who are often in parent-like roles) are also recorded in the Parent. When Transactional Analysts refer to the Parent ego state (as opposed to a biological or stepparent), it is capitalized. The same goes for the other two states (Adult and Child).

Examples of recordings in the Parent include:

  • “Never talk to strangers”
  • “Always chew with your mouth closed”
  • “Look both ways before you cross the street”

It is worth noting that, while recording these events, the young child has no way to filter the data; the events are recorded without question and without analysis. One can consider that these events are imposed on the child.

There are other data experienced by the child that are not recorded in the Parent. This is recorded in the Adult, which will be described shortly.

Child – In contrast to the Parent, the Child represents the recordings in the brain of internal events associated with external events the child perceives. Stated another way, stored in the Child are the emotions or feelings which accompanied external events. Like the Parent, recordings in the Child occur from childbirth all the way up to the age of approximately 5 years old.

Examples of recordings in the Child include:

  • “When I saw the monster’s face, I felt really scared”
  • “The clown at the birthday party was really funny!

Adult – The Adult is the last ego state. Close to one year of age, a child begins to exhibit gross motor activity. The child learns that he or she can control a cup from which to drink, that he or she can grab a toy. In social settings, the child can play peek-a-boo.

This is the beginning of the Adult in the small child. Adult data grows out of the child’s ability to see what is different than what he or she observed (Parent) or felt (Child). In other words, the Adult allows the young person to evaluate and validate Child and Parental data. Berne describes the Adult as being “principally concerned with transforming stimuli into pieces of information, and processing and filing that information on the basis of previous experience”6 Stated another way, Harris describes the Adult as “a data-processing computer, which grinds out decisions after computing the information from three sources: the Parent, the Child, and the data which the adult has gathered and is gathering”7

One of the key functions of the Adult is to validate data in the parent. An example is:

“Wow. It really is true that pot handles should always be turned into the stove” said Sally as she saw her brother burn himself when he grabbed a pot handle sticking out from the stove.

In this example, Sally’s Adult reached the conclusion that data in her Parent was valid. Her Parent had been taught “always turn pot handles into the stove, otherwise you could get burned.” And with her analysis of her brother’s experience, her Adult concluded that this was indeed correct.

In an attempt to explain Transactional Analysis to a more mainstream audience, Dr. Thomas Harris developed the following summary. Although this is a very good tool for beginners to learn, keep in mind that this a wildly simplified approach, and can have the effect of “dumbing down” Transactional Analysis. The summary is as follows:

Parent – taught concept
Child – felt concept
Adult – learned concept

A more comprehensive understanding of Berne’s ego states can be obtained by consulting Games People Play or Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, both by Dr. Berne. Information on both of these books can be found in the Bibliography page of


Grown (adult)Azz (parent)Kids(child) is a production community which incorporates TA ideology from a production perspective. Giving the Ego states a production Interpretation of a Producer (Adult) Director (parent) Star (child). The Concept is to use the TA Ideology to create a focus clear working environment and build a success process the will create a mutual agreement with oneself and others to build a satisfying completed production.


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