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The Ego-state Model

The Ego-state Model

This model states that at any time each person is either in Parent, Adult or Child mode.

  • Parent is acting as one’s parents did and can be termed “controlling” or “nurturing”.
  • Adult is using current information and resources to choose appropriate behaviour.
  • Child is behaving as one did as a child and can be termed “adapted” or “free”.

All these ego-states have their place, and can be appropriate.

For example:

  • Being in controlling parent may be appropriate for a police officer dealing with a drunken lout.
  • Being in nurturing parent may be appropriate for a nurse with a frightened patient.
  • Being in free child might be appropriate for a honeymooning couple running on a beach.
  • Being in adapted child might be appropriate for someone having tea with the Queen (remembering their manners!)

BUT they can be inappropriate:

For example:

  • Being in controlling parent when dealing with a late employee.
  • Being in nurturing parent by doing someone else’s work for them when all they needed was a hand.
  • Being in free child when driving a motorbike down a crowded road.
  • Being in adapted child when discussing an ailment with your GP.

Therapists hear clients give examples of these. Examples may be of their own inappropriate behaviour, which can then be challenged using the model , or typically in how they are relating to others. Perhaps a boss who is treating them from Parent to Child, or a real parent who will not communicate Adult to Adult.

TA therapists use the term crossed transactions for when communication is not parallel. This, when used in awareness, can be a very useful tool.

To use the examples above, if the boss speaks to your client as parent to Child, the client can deliberately respond as Adult to Adult. The result is one of two things: either the boss is forced to shift to a parallel communication, or the communication breaks down. The same would apply with the other example.

A complication to this theory is that of €œUlterior transactions€. An example is of a salesperson who explains that a product is top of the range, but probably out of the customer’s price range. This, on a surface level, seems to be an adult to adult communication, but at a deeper level the salesperson is communicating to the customer’€™s Child, hoping to push them into a child like response of I’€™ll take it!

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