Functional Ego States (01 Feb 2016)

The ego state model is often called the "trademark" of TA. Ego states are a set of related behaviours, thoughts and feelings that make up our personality at a given time. When I am thinking, feeling and behaving in a way copied from my parents, or parental figures, I am said to be in my Parent ego state. When I am thinking, feeling and behaving as I did during my childhood, I am said to be in my Child ego state. Behaviour, thoughts and feelings which are here and now responses are said to those of the Adult ego state. This is called the structural ego state model. It basically shows what there is in each ego-state. In this post I would like to write a little bit more about the functional model, which divides the ego-states to show us how we use them. One way of dividing the Parent and Child ego states can be seen in the picture below. (Note: the Adult ego state is not divided.)

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When you are looking at how I use and express my ego-states, that means that you need to focus on my observable behaviour. In TA we call it "behavioural descriptions". What helps you identify what ego state I am in? My words, tone of voice, gestures, body posture and facial expressions can all help you. Have a look at the following picture (Source: http://www.colorlines.com/articles/illustrated-guide-all-finger-pointing-last-nights-debate). What ego states do you think Romney and Obama are in?

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The Adult in the functional model is usually not subdivided. Any behaviour, thoughts and feelings that are a response to the here-and-now situation, using all my grown-up resources, is classed as that of the Adult ego state. The Parent ego-state is divided Controlling Parent and Nurturing Parent, as shown above. When I replay the behaviours my parents showed when they were looking after me, I am said to be in Nurturing Parent (NP). Example: "Aren't you cold, darling?" This can be called "positive" NP as I am concerned about your needs, skills, resources and capabilities and behave accordingly. I am in my "negative" NP ego state (that is sometimes called Rescuing Parent) when I take care of you without considering what your needs really are. Example: "I'm cold. Go and put on your coat." Sometimes when I was a child, my parents were telling me what to do, controlling me or criticizing me. When I behave, think and feel in ways I have copied from my parents, I am said to be in Controlling Parent (CP). Its "positive" side is when what I tell you to do is helping you to adapt, learn or avoid danger. Example: "Stop! Look both ways before you cross the street." Its "negative" side (called Critical Parent) is when what I tell you discounts you. Example: "You are an unreliable person." Look at the picture below. What do the gestures and postures tell you?

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Many times when I was a child, I was adapting to the demands of parents or parent-figures. When I behave, think and feel in ways that I decided on as a child, I am said to be in Adapted Child. This ego state is subdivided Conforming Child (CC) and Rebellious Child (RC). The "positive" side of CC can be clearly seen in a negotiation situation when the other person has more power and resources and you say: "Alright. You can use this meeting room. I'll find another one." The "negative" side of CC is when you accept that others put you down. You ignore your own needs or rights. Example: "You stepped on my foot. It hurts but it's okay." You should use your "positive" RC and say: "Stop hurting me. I don't like what you do. Enough!" RC has its "negative" side too. It's when you rebel because you don't like what others want (based on their needs) and you concentrate only on your own needs (egocentrism). Example: "I won't pick up the litter. I'm not a cleaner." Other times in my childhood I behaved in ways that were independent of parental pressures. At these times, I was simply acting as I myself wanted to. When I am behaving in these uncensored childhood ways, I am said to be in Free Child (FC). Its "positive" side is when what I do does not hurt or offend others. Their needs are considered by me. I don't disturb anyone. Example: when after getting my promotion, I skip through the office and start dancing at my desk. Its "negative" side is when I don't care the needs of others. Example: when I do the same but I sing, scream and throw sheets of paper all over the place in the office. See another typical attitude below (Source: http://quotesgram.com/careless-quotes/).

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