A form of group psychotherapy originated by Eric Berne, which focuses attention on characteristic interactions between individuals and the “games” they play in social situations.Berne holds that group therapy, if it is to be effective, must develop methods of its own and not simply adopt procedures used in individual therapy. The logical starting point, he believes, is the multitude of transactions which take place in the group situation, since they reveal the internal “ego states” which lie behind these social responses. These ego states can be classified into (1) ex- teropsychic, that is, borrowed from external reality and labeled “Parent”; (2) neopsychic, oriented to current reality and labeled “Adult”; and (3) archaeo- psychic, consisting of relics from the past, and labeled “Child.” A structural analysis of the individual will show how these three systems interact intrapsychically— that is, “their mutual isolation, conflict, contamination, invasion, predominance, or cooperation within the personality.According to this theory, all transactions between individuals, whether constructive or destructive, reflect these inner relationships. Transactional analysis is therefore concerned with (a) the diagnosis of the specific ego states involved when a person interacts and communicates with others, and (b) the way these states can lead to understanding or misunderstanding by the people involved in the transaction.Berne reports that patients can readily recognize the Parent, Adult, and Child components when clinical material is brought to their attention. For example, he is able to how them that they assume different postures, gestures and tones of voice when one or another of these states is in control. Moreover, he believes that each of these states is complete in the sense that it is formed of id, ego, and superego components—that is, egocentric impulses, conscious goals, and the precepts and norms of society. Diagrams are presented to illustrate the way the three states are involved in different transactions and to show how misunderstandings take place. As an example, a statement made by one patient in an adult ego state may be encoded by another patient on an adult level—a transaction that makes for smooth communication and full understanding. On the other hand, a so-called “crossed transaction” may take place, in which patient two makes a response which he intends to be adult, but patient one misperceives it and sees it as the product of the Parent and not the Adult ego state of patient two. He then reacts to it as a child would react to a critical parent. Berne maintains that misperceptions of this kind are the most prevalent cause of misunderstandings in marriage, social life and work situations.The object of transactional group therapy is to make each participant aware of the Parent, Adult and Child components of his attitudes, feelings and behavior, so that he can learn to function in a more integrated manner. This involves analyzing the conflicts among the systems and working toward control by the Adult state. Berne stresses, however, that integration ddes not mean destruction of the Child component— for when the confusions which originated earlier in life are rectified, the Child ego state can contribute to the individual and his relationships exactly what an actual happy child can contribute to family life. (Berne, 1958)In his original article, Berne used the term “game” to denote the habitual, and often deceitful, transactions which people adopt in dealing with others. In his own language, a game is “a recurring series of transactions, often repetitive, superficial rationally with a concealed motivation.” He held that each of these games is by itself merely a segment of a “script” which a person uses in “performing” throughout life. When this script is analyzed, it is found to be an unconscious plan based on fantasies derived from early experience, and a major force in shaping the individual’s entire life. Transactional analysis has therefore been described by Berne as the analysis of scripts.In a recent book he has attempted to describe the most common Games People Play (1964). To dramatize these games, and to demonstrate their relevance to everyday life, he gives each type a colloquial label and exposes its true purpose as a “con,” a “gimmick” or a “payoff”—that is, a deceptive trick, an ulterior motive, or a reward of some kind. In the “Yes, but” game, for example, a woman courts a compliment but tries to show that it was undeserved. In this way she attempts to demonstrate her superiority by making the compli- menter feel stupid. This, then, is the “pay-off” which he has been “conned” into making. Other game titles are “Rapo,” “Let’s You and Him Fight,” and “Ain’t It Awful.”The aim of this popular presentation is to make people more aware of then- social interactions, although its net effect might be to make them self-conscious and overconcemed about social manipulations of a relatively trivial nature. The crucial question is whether this type of interaction actually plays an important part in the emotional disturbances that afflict human beings.Berne has applied his transactional approach not only in private group therapy sessions but with patients in prisons and hospitals who are not usually handled by psychoanalytic methods. He also holds seminars, publishes a journal, and has organized the International Transactional Analysis Association.

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed January 20, 2019).