The game is up

The theory of transactional analysis could be life changing for me. I don’t have the time or the space to go into every detail of the theory now, but since I’ve now read two famous books on the subject (Games People Play and I’m OK – You’re OK – both excellent and highly recommended) I believe it’s important enough to warrant a discussion. The theory says we all have three people in us: a parent, an adult, and a child. Moral values, self criticism, ‘beating yourself up’, all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ come from the parent. Feelings and emotions come from the child, statements like ‘I want’ and ‘it’s not fair’. Logic and reason reside in the adult, always the path to the middle ground. The adult mitigates the conflict between parent and child, analyses the data from each and hopefully makes wise decisions for us. The data in the parent and the child comes from the past, what we learnt in childhood; the adult exists in the now, in this moment.

I say it could be life changing because I don’t want to get over excited, but it provides a specific language and structure for vague psychological concepts that I always suspected to be true. It seems to be an accurate description of the problems I face in life. Maybe I struggle because I pay too much attention to the fear in my child and the criticism in my parent; my adult is thus ‘contaminated’ with tapes that were recorded a long time ago in the past. The mentioned books go into many examples of how these problems play out – all ring very true with me. Suddenly the mood swings I experience have an explanation: I’m replaying moods that I first experienced in early childhood when I learnt I wasn’t ok. That sort of sounds obvious on paper, but I’ve never had a proper framework for my personal psychology before. This ties in with the old recurring dream I keep having about school, why the flashbacks and the feelings of dread associated with them remain so vivid. Everyone has a part of their personality that is a child; mine was traumatised and replays scenes from the past when reminded of it. Until now I always knew that it was trauma, and that I was stuck in there somehow, but I didn’t know I could change. The writing says it’s in the nature of ‘the child’ to replay the past. People who are happy are either people who as children were free and safe and loved unconditionally, or people who’ve overcome a troubled past by practising at being their adult. I used to scoff at the idea of aspiring to being logical and emotion free, because I thought I could never change, I’d always be dominated by an over sensitive and emotional child. The book I’m OK – You’re OK describes in detail the painstaking but nevertheless possible path to emancipation from those chains.

All the theory I’ve learnt about in the course prior to this still holds true, as does the psychological work I’ve done in AA over the years. All of it seems to fit together nicely. It’s like being given a key to another door deeper inside, one I never approached before. In Games People Play, Eric Berne says that the solution to this contamination is complete awareness, a focusing on the present moment where we can appreciate life as it is. We need to strengthen the adult part of our personality so that we can get out of the past. This seems to chime so strongly with what AA believes it can’t be a coincidence (even though in his book Berne sort of criticises AA for being another kind of ‘game’ – I don’t believe he knew much about it in the course of writing).

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