Transactional Analysis & Personality

Posted on 20 October, 2018 at 14:31 Comments comments (4)
I often use what we call the functional model of ego states to illustrate what might be happening in the clients internal dialogue.
This diagram explains aspects of our personality and how we communicate with ourselves, or the intrapsychic dialogue.
We all have the ability to reflect and know which ego state we could be in and the headings, underlined, and subheadings explain when we are in this ego state, thinking feeling and behaviours.
We do need all our ego states, Parent, Adult and Child, and we have a choice and can decide which ego state might be useful to us at any given time.
Firstly with your therapist to understand when, where and why this could happen in your own internal dialogue. This structured reflection and feedback can help you to familiarise yourself with your unconscious process and bring this into conscious awareness.
Once you become aware you can be supported to use your ego states to support your move from less helpful aspects of your personality that might be limiting your life, or causing mental health issues (such as anxiety, depression and/or relationship issues) to a more helpful way to self-soothe, calm self and open up your options around thinking, feeling and behaving.
Want to know more?
Contact me on 07824700980 or email me on [email protected] 

The drive for growth and mental health and wellness; Physis

Posted on 28 December, 2016 at 12:14 Comments comments (184)

“Je le pensay, & Dieu le guarit...We treat them but it is God who cures them.”

This key piece of Bernian (1963) theory awakened an interest, and then reading Petruska Clarkson’s (1992) journal article on the subject. Within this article I will look at definitions and interpretations of physis theory; critique, compare and contrast this with other self-actualisation, realisation theories and key seminal work. To then explore how physis theory underpins Transactional Analysis (TA) principles. To look at what the implications of Physis might be for diversity, social and cultural beliefs. Finally, why is knowledge of physis theory vital in clinical practice? What are the benefits for the client and TA practitioner?

Defining Physis
Physis or Phusis, as it is sometimes spelt, is derived from the ancient Greek, meaning “to grow... to be...what things really are” (Edwards, 1967). Clarkson (1992) cites a more helpful meaning as “... change or growth which comes from the spirit within the person”.
Berne (1968) adds “the growth force of nature which makes organisms evolve into higher forms, embryos... into adults, sick people get better and healthy people strive to attain their ideals”. Summarising the literature; physis is a physical, emotional, spiritual, creative and evolving growth towards self actualisation and self realisation- being the best we can be. Implicit in this growth, change or evolution is the amount of energy the individual expends. Growth and change of any kind uses a high level of energy. If we put this into a TA context, pathology has its positive and negative sides, such as script, games, rackets, or life positions, to name a few. As for advantages, Berne (1968) puts it “...a neurosis has many advantages for the individual...  what is the force which makes him want to get better?”. What advantage is there for a person to get better if their neurosis serves them well? There must be a point for some individuals when a level of consciousness starts to recognise these thoughts, feelings and behaviours as unhelpful or along a continuum to harmful. 
This stance is diametrically opposed to the Freudian and psychoanalytical belief which emphasises the death and sex energies or drives (Mortido and Libido) and the Bernian/ Jungian belief in physis as Clarkson (1992) explains “... the drive toward health, wholeness and creative evolution.” Berne uses metaphor to personify the death and sex instincts as Thanatos and Eros respectively.  
Thanatos or Thanatus is the Greek god or daimon of non-violent death. His touch was gentle, likened to that of his twin brother Hypnos or sleep (Theoi 2010).

Eros was the Greek primordial deity of procreation who emerged self-formed and was equivalent to Thesis (Creation) and Physis (Nature)

The Greek goddess Physis is used as a metaphor for life energy as it manifests in nature, in growth and healing as well as in all dimensions of creativity. Physician or physic (as in medicine) and Physics (as in Quantum and Chaos understandings of the world) are both derived from it (Clarkson, 1992). 

 Thanatos and Eros would seem to be intrapersonal, or inside the individual, opposite to one another, instinctive and appear to be basic human drives. Whereas Physis, which does function at a basic instinctive level, has yet another dimension and incorporates the transpersonal and at a higher level of being. Physis is creative, transformational, evolving and aspirational (Clarkson, 1992).
Berne (1968) explains physis as being “...some force which drives people to grow progress and do better... religious people might say it was the soul... which normally pushes living things continually in the direction of progress”.  This life force energy fits well with the three guiding TA principles:
I’m OK- You’re OK 
Everyone can think 
Anyone can change

Steiner’s (1974) definition of script is clear and unequivocal:
“The script is based on a decision made by the Adult in the young person who... decides that a certain position, expectations, and life course are a reasonable solution to the existential predicament in which she finds herself ... between her own autonomous tendencies and the injunction received from her own family group. The most important influence... originates from the parental Child... the Child ego states of the parents... are the main determining factors in the formation of scripts”. 
The script paradigm is not wholly negative as English (1977) explains:
“We all need a script... an inborn need for structuring the time, space and relationships... conceptualise boundaries... to test... ongoing experience of reality... by constructing the outline of a script..., hold together... hopes, ...  fantasies, and...  experiences.”
Physis, the creative force of nature that makes things grow and strive for perfection, is the aspirational drive for autonomy, which arises deep in the individuals Somatic Child ego state. MacDonald (1972) defines aspiration thus:
“... to desire eagerly; to aim at or strive for high things”
 The script matrix comprises of five Counterinjunctions of “Be Perfect”, “Try Hard”, “Hurry Up”, “Please Me” and “Be Strong”, Petruska Clarkson (1992). The Counterinjunctions are from the individuals Parent ego state (Figure 4). Clarkson (1992) adds:
“... the values of being fast, energetic, pleasing, strong and excellent- as prized qualities of the autonomous individual under the influence of Physis... are differentiated from the counterscript drivers”.
 The second part of the script matrix is the Program messages from the parent’s Adult ego states and instruct the individual “How to”. The parental Child to the individual’s Child ego state messages are known as Injunctions, for example “Don’t Be” and Don’t Feel”, as well as the positive Permissions “Be Close”, “Think” and “Feel”. The individual’s script is not fixed or rigid as 
Cornell (1988) explains:
“Major script decisions can be made at any point in life. Times of crisis... will likely foster more rigid and therefore more dysfunctional elements in and individual’s script”.
 Therefore, a tension must exist between the aspirational drive (Aspiration Arrow), arising in the Child ego state, towards individual perfection, self actualisation and autonomy (Physis), and the constraining force of script to keep the status quo and the individual in possession of their neurotic thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Steiner (1987) illustrates this elegantly with the script-matrix diagram.
The Aspiration arrow may be seen as a metaphor for the flow of Physis energy within all individuals which runs as a golden thread or pure water spring through their ego states. The role of the practitioner must be to enable the individual to access their Physis, together, peeling away the layers of script and associated pathological thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This can then release the energy flow to course through the Child, Adult and Parent ego states and free the individual to reach their potential. Clarkson (1992) adds:
“… these creative urges- our needs to aspire toward fuller selfhood as persons and professionals”
Barrow (2008) utilizes metamorphosis, caterpillar to butterfly as a metaphor for Physis. Unique to those creatures who undergo metamorphosis are “imaginal cells”. These cells carry the genetic blueprint throughout the process. The complete and perfect butterfly emerges from the chrysalis. Barrow (2008) relates this process to Physis as follows:
“… I am interested in the idea of an imaginal cell working at a psychological level… that there is an inherent psychological mechanism that despite adversity maintains a vision for the individual of a new way of being... it captures the possibility for thriving- the essence of physis”.
Self-actualisation Models
In considering Physis as a psychological metaphor for the individual to reach autonomy does imply that other factors are significant, influential and be established prior to achieving this status. Maslow (1962) presented his “Hierarchy of Human Needs” which supports the premise that our physical or extrinsic needs must be satisfied before we can aspire to meet our emotional and intrinsic needs. Each element of the “Hierarchy” is dependant and builds upon the last and starts from the human being’s basic survival needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is a structured, hierarchical and sequential model, again, we can visualise this paradigm as a metaphor for human needs. The model, on first sight, does lack dynamism or drive; I have added the Aspiration Arrow to illustrate the energy Physis flows from the basic Biological and Physiological needs to Transcendence. The practitioner supports the individual towards autonomy and Self-actualisation (penultimate tier); the practitioner aspires to reach Transcendence, the final tier in the “Hierarchy of Human Needs”. 
In contrast, Educational TA practitioners have taken the familiar P-A-C ego state model and reversed this to C-A-P to articulate the Developmental TA (DTA) process and purpose (Barrow, 2003).

 Barrow (2003) expounds this theory further:
“Instead of existing under the implicit repression of the Parent ego state, the Child is regarded at the “growing edge”, the arena through which individuals… will reach further potential… underpinned by Adult reality checking and the security of healthy Parent beliefs and values… physis is explicitly identified and its line runs through all three ego states… realised by the Child through aspirations… framed through Adult thinking… supported by the security of the Parent”.
Criticism of this model is mainly around seeing the individual being relatively script free in achieving autonomy through aspiration. The author does describe the model as being “hopeful” as the individual would have a “winning script”, be motivated and able to articulate what they want to become. Nonetheless, there is a close connection with the three guiding principles of TA; I’m OK- You’re OK, Everyone Can Think, and Anyone Can Change (Barrow, 2003: Berne, 1968) encapsulated within the physis life force. 
Self-awareness and Growth
The concept of Physis appealed to me on a number of levels when I first heard it mentioned within the context of the script matrix diagram. I then looked at Clarkson’s article (Physis in TA, Vol.22, No. 4, Oct 1992) in the Transactional Analysis Journal (TAJ) and some of her associated writing on the subject. There’s seems to be a paucity of recently published work around what appears to be such a key factor in TA clinical practice. Although the term Physis is an ancient one going back thousands of years it is Berne (1968) who first named this concept for TA and Clarkson who developed the paradigm (Clarkson, 1992). Physis energy runs through nature and this includes the human life force.
Clarkson (1992) suggests:
“For people to change they first need to feel well and OK, that is, in touch with their life force”.
Hence, illness disrupts the individual accessing and experiencing their life force. It appears that the life force or Physis does not disappear or snuffed out; it is only death that extinguishes Physis. A metaphor may be likened to a candle barely alight, a tiny flickering flame, not enough to see or read with, in the room next door, but there nonetheless. The challenge for the individual is how they might, open the door to Physis and enable fresh air to rush in and rekindle the guttering candle flame.
Clarkson (1992) posits:
To kindle this is perhaps the most central and important of the therapist’s tasks”.
Clarkson and Fish (1988) add:
Some ego states from earlier periods in a person’s life may be fixated in response to early unmet needs or psychological trauma...the person will be unable to remain stable under stress and may revert to script”.
Diversity, Cultural and Social Factors
The concept of Physis, though not named as such, is a common thread throughout the major religions. Berne (1969) suggests:
“Religious people might say it was the soul”.
Clarkson (1992) adds:
“… striving towards connectedness with spiritual, religious or transcendental values. The core self can be conceptualised as the organising principle of Physis”.
 The major authors within TA texts do emphasise the importance of spirituality as a step towards autonomy.  
Kandathil and Kandathil (1997) describe individual autonomy:
“… when they make consistent efforts to be free in the sense that most of their actions-especially decisive ones- are self-determined and not socially programmed”.
In other words, freedom from the constraints and confines of script, this is a social form of programming. For the therapist the diversity, social and cultural beliefs of the individual must be discovered during early work in the assessment phase and be ongoing. These beliefs may be clear during initial work with the person, but as they move through therapy, issues around spirituality may come more to the fore as they access their power for self actualisation.
Physis and Clinical Practice
Application of Physis theory to clinical practice is a fundamental prerequisite if we are to believe Berne and Clarkson’s paradigm. They describe Physis and Physis theory as a driving force, aspiration to grow progress and do better. In TA terms, they warn against the deterministic constraints of script theory and empower the therapist and individual to aspire for change. Over-reliance on the script as hamartic, banal or losing in nature fails to understand the concept of transcendence (Clarkson, 1992). Cornell suggests:
“… a second parallel term-such as psychological life plan- to describe healthy functional aspects of meaning making in the ongoing psychological construction of reality”.
The therapist can assist the individual to re-experience Physis. Clarkson (1992) advises:
… in order to facilitate healing and self-realisation… they first need to feel well and OK, that is, in touch with their life force.”
In the application of Physis within the therapeutic relationship, the therapist first needs to have an awareness and understanding of the phenomena, and be prepared to share this with their client as a powerful tool for change.
Researching this piece of TA theory has been fulfilling yet challenging, although Berne wrote extensively on the topic almost five decades ago and Clarkson reprised his work 30 years ago, there’s very little current TA literature on Physis theory. This is surprising given Clarkson’s (1992) observation:
“… as a major concept in transactional analysis… it provides a drive-oriented theoretical base for Bernian belief and TA practice”.
The script matrix diagram with the added Aspiration arrow acknowledges that whereas script analysis is a key concept in TA and shows us where we are and where we have been, it is the striving for autonomy and self actualisation that drives us forward.
This article has brought into focus, for me, the three TA guiding principles and how Physis underpins this important piece of theory and the whole of TA clinical practice. 
Finally, Clarkson (1992) expounds:
“Without the experience of physis there is not the energy, the belief, or the capacity to even use help. Thus it may be both the first requirement in psychotherapy and the last”.

Agnew, L.R.C. (1963) Notes and Events: Pare’s Apophthegm. Journal of the History of Medicine, 18: pp 75-77.
Barrow, G. (2003) Introducing a Meta-Metaphor for Developmental TA.
Barrow, G. (2008) Learning Process, Physis and Imaginal Cells.
Berne, E. (1963) The structure and dynamics of organizations and groups. New York: Grove Press
Berne, E. (1968) A laymans guide to psychiatry and psychoanalysis (3rd Edition). New York: Simon and Schuster.
Berne, E. (1969) Games people play: The psychology of human relationships.Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin.
Berne, E. (1972) What do you say after you say hello? The psychology of human destiny. New York: Bantam Books.
Clarkson, P. (1989) In praise of speed, experimentation, agreeableness, endurance and excellence. Institute of Transactional Analysis News, 25, pp6-11.
Clarkson, P. (1992) Physis in Transactional Analysis. Transactional Analysis Journal. Vol.22, No. 4, pp202-209.
Clarkson, P and Fish, S. (1988) Rechilding: Creating a new past in the present as a support for the future. Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp 51-59.
Cornell, W. F. (1988) Life script theory: a critical review from a developmental perspective. Transactional Analysis Journal. Vol. 18, No. 4, pp 270-282.
Edwards, P. (1967) Encyclopedia of philosophy. New York: Macmillan
English, F. (1977) What shall I do tomorrow? In G. Barnes (Ed), Transactional analysis after Eric Berne (pp 287- 50). New York: Harper’s College Press.
Erskine, R. G. (1980) Script cure: Behavioral, Intrapsychic and physiological. Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp 102- 106.
Kandathil, G. and Kandathil, C. (1997) Autonomy: Open door to spirituality. Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1, pp 24-29.
MacDonald, A.M. (1972) Chambers 20th century dictionary. Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers.
Maslow, A. (1962) Towards a psychology of being. New York: D Van Norstrand.  
Steiner, C. M. (1987) The seven sources of power: An alternative to authority. Transactional Analysis Journal. Vol. 17, No 3, pp 152-167.
Steiner, C. M. (1974) Scripts people live: Transactional analysis of life scripts New York: Grove Press.
Theoi website (2010).
Temple, S. (1999) Functional Fluency for educational transactional analysts, Transactional Analysis Journal, Vol. 29, No.3, pp 134-145.
University of Ottawa Canada (2010) 

New Year Resolutions why do they fail?

Posted on 1 January, 2015 at 12:07 Comments comments (9)
We have all resolved on the 1st of January to change some aspect of our behaviour that we want maybe to stop smoking, lose weight etc etc.
Gyms see an exponential increase in membership as people resolve to lose weight and get fitter after an indulgent calorie rich Christmas. The gyms are crowded for 3 or 4 weeks and we continue to pay membership fees long after we stop going because our priorities change and we find less energetic ways to pass time.
So we know why we do it, the new year is a fresh start, turning over a new leaf. So why doesnt this resolution last? Why dont resolutions last?
If we look at the ego states involved the impulse to change or stop is likely to originate in the Parent ego state which tells you " You are too fat" "Stop smoking or you will die', "You drink too much' any of this sound familiar?
The Child ego state resents the deprivation of food, drink and relaxation and undermines the Parent decision or contract to change and ones determination begins to wobble. "I,ll miss today at the gym because..... or I can have one cigarette or drink it wont hurt, I can stop anytime I want to."
The energetic dialogue takes place between the Parent and Child without the Adult ego state involvement. The Adult here and now rational ego state problem solving part of us can look at how we might sabotage ourselves and involve the Parent and Child in self care decisions. The Adult  can look rationally  at our drive to lose weight " How much weight do we need to lose,  what is the realistic target?" and look at information such as a 2 lb weight loss per week is less depriving of the Child, whilst satisfying the Parent ego state. Getting all the ego states on board is likely to succeed. Rewarding and giving ourselves strokes for how we are doing keeps motivation going.
So consider a New Year resolution as a statement of intent and then plan how to make the change you want, think about how you might sabotage your plan, be kind to yourself and accept when you take a step backwards that you are ok and this doesnt mean you have failed. 
I hope 2015 brings you health, happiness and contentment.

More on Perfectionism: The Be Perfect Balloon

Posted on 23 August, 2014 at 11:38 Comments comments (11)
Perfectionism is a hard task master, so where does this personality trait come from?

Why do some have this trait and others don't?
What can I do about my perfectionism?

As with all personality traits there is a dark and bright side perfectionists well know.

We develop perfectionism early in life, the Be Perfect Driver is one of a few others. Be Strong, Hurry Up, Please Others and Try Hard (Kahler, 1975) are the other 4 drivers.
The 5 Drivers may be described as antidotes to injunctions, or decisions we make in childhood. This illustration (below) shows how the drivers, as balloons, hold us above the water, whilst the injunctions (shown as weights tied to our legs) pull us down.

The "Be Perfect" Driver Characteristics
  • I must be perfect, wonderful, correct in every way.
  • I must succeed in everything I do.
  • I must get top marks and win.

  • Exact language, including qualification when they are not sure, such as 'probably', and absolutes when they are, such as 'absolutely'.
  • Always neat and well-groomed.
  • Never completely satisfied with what they do.

  • Hard-working, with excellent quality output. Attention to detail. High standards.
  • May achieve great things.

  • Fears of failure and losing control, and subsequent over-compensation.
  • Over-work. Not finishing things for fear of criticism. Prevarication
  • Expecting others to be perfect too.

  • Laughter.
  • Praise, including for less-than-perfect work.
  • Reframing of what 'perfect' really means to 'good enough'.
  • Be very specific with criticism (and praise).
Recognize these drivers in yourself and others and treat them accordingly.
See also
Kahler, T. (1975). Drivers—The Key to the Process Script.  Transactional Analysis Journal,5:3

Kahler, T. (1975) Drivers-The Key to the Process Script.  Transactional Analysis Journal,5:3

Transactional Analysis: The Ego State Model

Posted on 3 December, 2013 at 12:19 Comments comments (6)
The Ego State: Structural Model
This diagram is a metaphor which represents our personality structure. The Parent ego state is "borrowed" or learnt from our parents, teachers and other significant adults when we were young. Some of the messages we absorbed are useful to us and others not depending on whom we borrowed the thoughts, feelings and behaviours from.
The Adult ego state is the rational, objective data processing centre of our personalities. This sees, hears, thinks and finds solutions to problems in the "here-and-now". The solutions are factual and neither judgemental (Parent) or based on emotions (Child).
The Child ego state is the seat of our emotional thoughts, feelings and behaviours. When In Child ego state we connect with our feeling memories from the past.
In my next blog I will look at the Functional model, how we communicate with the world and the positive and negative aspects of our personalities expressed through the 3 ego states. 

Transactional Analysis: The Basics

Posted on 3 December, 2013 at 9:09 Comments comments (0)
St Andrews Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice
What is Transactional Analysis (TA)?
Transactional Analysis(TA) is both a theory of personality and a system for the improvement of personal and social functioning.
TA is based on a contract between the client and therapist in which they take equal responsibility towards common goals.
TA is a system of analysis which can be applied to the structure of the personality,interpersonal communication, life plans
 or scripts and the “games people play”.
TA therapists believe that decisions we make about ourselves, others and the world, are made early in childhood and
continue to have a significant influence on how we live our lives in the present. By analysing the transactions, games and
unique life scripts, boththerapist and client gain an understanding of the client’s unconscious life plan.
Together the therapist and client work to bring the script decisions into awareness where they can then be changed
and new decisions made improving life,love and happiness.
Structural Analysis identifies 3 ego states: the Parent, Adult and Child. This model helps us to clarify our
life experiences, thoughts,feelings and behaviours as well as beliefs and values and how being indifferent ego states can
influence how we are in relationship with ourselves and others.
Analysis of Transactions looks at how we communicate with other people at a social and psychological level and
understand our need for“strokes” (attention and acknowledgement) which may be positive, good strokes or negative, bad strokes.
Script Analysis “How do we get to be the person we are?” A lifescript develops without being aware of it, to survive and live
within our families and culture, but becomes outdated as we live and grow. By analysing our scripts we can change the decisions
 we made as children, when we were too little, to realise all the options we might have had. We can then make new decisions from
 our Adult ego state.
Analysis of Games People learn to play psychological games in childhood to fit into their family dynamics and continue these
games into adulthood to provide security, structure, strokes and stimulation. These games are in our subconscious, out of our
conscious awareness. The games follow predictable patterns and leave us feeling bad and reinforce the negative view we have 
of ourselves and others. The client and therapist can identify together the games people play, bring them into Adult awareness
 and learn how to recognise and avoid the games.
TA Therapists have completed 4 years training and go on to do advanced work under clinical supervision, personal therapy
 and examination preparation to qualify as a Certified Transactional Analyst. TATherapists training prepare them to work with
individuals, groups and couples.