Here’s the final post on explaining ego states; one of the ideas in TA I use widely with my clients and that I find really helpful in understanding ourselves and why we think, feel and behave in the ways that we do sometimes.
It was Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis who originally described an ego state as “a consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour”. I have written about the other two egos states, Parent and Child in previous posts. Today I’m going to write about Adult. Where Parent, Adult or Child is capitalised I am referring to the concept of ego state, where lower case I am referring to real parents, adults or children.
When we are in our Adult ego state we are using thinking, feeling and behaviour in response to the “here and now”. So being in my Adult ego state means that I am in the present and will respond to a situation or stimulus using my capacity as an adult for solving problems, reality testing situations, being honest, direct and open about what I am thinking and feeling and being spontaneous.
I’m going to look again the examples I gave you in my posts about Child ego state and Parent ego state to explain this further. I want to talk about what the Adult response might be in those same scenarios as a way of demonstrating what I mean by a here and now response that uses all our resources for problem solving and reality testing. In the example of getting an answer wrong in a training course, I used this to demonstrate being in the Child ego state where the person re-experienced an uncomfortable feeling from childhood when getting an answer wrong. The Adult response might be to feel ok about not knowing an answer and then to reflect on what you have not understood and what additional information might needed to give the correct answer. So I am engaging my problem-solving skills as an adult to solve the “problem” of not knowing an answer.
Thinking about the Parent example of being cut up by a car driving too fast on the motorway, in this scenario I talked about the person getting angry and swearing like their Dad had done. The key point about this is, once again, that the response to the stimulus of being cut up by another driver does not look at problem solving. A response from Adult might be to check my own speed and see if I going too slow, I might move over out of the way of other drivers who want to get past. I might also think about my own driving behaviour and if I am driving safely and appropriately for road conditions.
How is this useful to us? Being in our Adult opens all up all of our resources to be used; so that we not using out-moded strategies that we have taken in from our parents into our Parent ego state that are not applicable to the lives we are leading. It also means not re-experiencing a child response to a situation and using old ways to get our needs met. The examples I have used are about taking action and problem solving. Other scenarios might involve being how you are in a relationship with your partner, how you parent your children, how you relax and have fun.
Are there certain situations that stimulate a Child or Parent response from you? What would be an Adult response? Would this be more useful?