Transactional Analysis (TA)

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What is Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis (TA) is a personality and psychotherapy for personal growth. It has wide applications in Clinical Psychology, organizations and education also.

Dr.Eric Berne, the originator of TA, considers a transaction as the unit of social intercourse. A transaction consists of a transactional stimulus (TS) and a transactional response (TR). TS is the behavior (verbal or nonverbal) produced by one person in acknowledgement of the presence of others when two or more people encounter each other. TR is the response to TS by another person.

Ego States

In his encounters with his clients, Dr. Berne understood that there exist three distinct states in all people. People change from one state to another in the course of their transactions. This change can be easily noticed by the manners, appearances, words, gestures, and tones.

The three distinct states called the ego states are the Parent ego state, the Adult ego state, and the Child ego state. The Parent ego state is produced by the play-back of recordings in the brain of unquestioned or imposed external events perceived by the person before his social birth i.e., before the age of 5 years. This ego state consists of NO's, DON’T's, HOW -TO's and the facial expressions, tone of voice, manners etc. of the person's parents. In other words, this ego state consists of the "taught - concepts" of life.

The Child ego state is the response the little person produced to what he saw, heard, felt and understood. Most of these are feelings because the child has not developed verbal responses at that time. In other words, this ego state may be considered the collection of "felt-concepts" of life.


 The Parent ego state begins with the biological birth of the individual and extends up to and age of five years. The Child ego state also starts with the physical birth and continues to develop until the social birth (around the age of five).

The Adult ego state develops after both the Parent and the Child ego states have began to develop. This state begins to develop from about ten months of age. The function of this state is to update both Parent data and Child data by continuous examination of these data with respect to actual reality. Thus only those taught concepts and felt-concepts applicable and appropriate to the present are accepted. Thus the Adult state is said to be the "thought-concepts" of life.


Fig -1 PAC System


 Berne opines that the recordings in the brain that causes the ego states cannot be erased at all, but "we can choose to turn these recordings off".

Berne represents the ego states as circles and represents TS and TR by arrows drawn from the respective ego state of the first person to that of the second person.


Types of Transactions

Berne identifies two types of transactions:

1. Complementary Transactions

Complementary transactions

Examples of Complementary Transactions

Parent-Parent, Adult-Adult, Child-Child, Child-Parent, Parent-Child, Child-Adult, Adult-Child, Adult-Parent, Parent-Adult

First Rule of Communication

We have the first rule of communication in TA :
"When TS and TR on the P-A-C diagram make parallel lines, the transaction can go on indefinitely."

Fig 2. Parent-Parent Transaction

(Complementary Transaction)

2. Crossed Transactions

Examples of Crossed Transactions

Adult-Adult and Parent-Child; Adult-Adult and Child-Parent; Parent-Child and Parent-Child; Child-Parent and Child-Parent

Second Rule of Communication

Here we have the second rule of communication in TA:

"When TS and TR in the P-A-C diagram cross each other, communication stops."

Fig.3 Parent-Child and Child-Parent

(Crossed Transaction)


Duplex Transaction

There can be implied communications along with the primary communications. Eg., "Where did you hide the can-opener?" Here the main stimulus is Adult-Adult. But the word hide has an implied stimulus elicited from the Parent of the communicator to the Child of the receiver. This type of communication is called duplex transaction. The duplex transaction (the implied TS or TR) in the transactional diagram is represented by broken arrows.

Fig.4 Adult-Adult with Parent-Child and Child-Parent

(Duplex Transaction)


Personality and Psychopathology According to P-A-C system

There are two ways in which people differ according to TA. This is either due to contamination or exclusion.

In contamination, the P-A-C system overlaps. For example, when Parent and Adult overlap, we have a Parent contaminated Adult. This results in Prejudice. When Adult and Child overlap, we have a Child contaminated Adult. This condition causes delusion.

Fig.5 Contaminated Adult

(Prejudice and Delusion)


In exclusion, the communication from one of the P, A, or C is cut off. For example, when Child is cut off, the person cannot play at all and is very rigid and serious, causing neurotic behavior. When the Parent is cut off, the person does not have any conscience at all. If his Adult is also contaminated with Child, the person will be psychopathic.

Fig.6. PAC system with Child cut-off


 According to this system, psychosis results when the Adult is completely blocked from Parent and Child. This is called decommissioned Adult. If the blocking out of Adult is periodic, the result is Manic-Depressive personality.

Fig.7. The Decommissioned Adult

( Psychosis)