Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis is a theory that aims to explain many areas of psychology such as communication, social environment, childhood experiences and personality on a single plane. It was developed by Canadian psychologist Eric Berne to facilitate the analysis or improvement of our emotions, thoughts and behaviors, relationships and communication skills in order to ensure personal development and change.

Nov 1, 2023 - 09:28
Nov 1, 2023 - 18:39
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Transactional Analysis
Transactional Analysis

Eric Berne developed the theory of transactional analysis based on 3 basic assumptions. These are listed as follows:

1) Every human being is OKEY 

2) Everyone has the capacity to think.

3) Everyone can decide and choose for themselves what will happen in their lives.

In order to make the inter-experiential context more understandable, Berne analyzed the human self under three main headings as child, parent and adult and called them "Ego States". All our observable behaviors in our daily lives are a reflection of our childhood and can be explained by these three ego states. In our childhood, we produce some strategies to survive, to be accepted and to adapt. These strategies also manifest themselves in our adult lives, influencing the decisions we make and our personality. Although at first glance these ego states are similar to Freud's id, ego and super ego, there are many points where they differ. 

Child Ego State

Early childhood is shaped by our experiences. The child establishes a connection between a certain event and the behavior he/she should exhibit in response to it, and records these two phenomena. In similar situations, they may exhibit similar behaviors or reactions. These records are often influential in a person's life in adulthood. The child ego differs from the id in that it is conscious, learning-based and observable. Although a person may exhibit irrational and inconsistent behaviors under the influence of child ego, in fact, every human being is a child, so childishness, acting like a child does not always indicate a negative or problematic personality structure. The child ego is divided into two in terms of functional analysis:

1) Natural (free) child has unpredictable transitions of emotion and behavior, attends to physical needs, and behaves as he or she feels, without concern for what the outside world has to say. He is independent, charming and charming.

2) Adaptive (Adapted) Child represents the harmonious, well-behaved child model that a person develops in childhood in order not to lose the approval of his/her parents. On the other hand, he/she may sometimes exhibit rebellious attitudes in the face of restrictive parents. For this reason, the distinctive feature of the adapted child is that he/she develops attitudes that are compatible with manipulations rather than what comes from within.

Adult Ego State

It has more autonomous characteristics than other ego states. The person evaluates and interprets the information received from the outside world in his/her own way. The adult ego state cannot be completely associated with chronological age; reason, logic, common sense and awareness are its primary characteristics.

Parent Ego State

This ego state, like the child's ego state, completes its development in early childhood. The child internalizes the reactions of his/her parents in the face of their attitudes and turns them into behaviors. In adulthood, these behaviors are recalled and applied in the face of similar events. The parental ego state gives messages about what and how to do things. It is personal as everyone perceives the ego state of the parent in their own way. It is divided into two in terms of functional analysis:

1) Critical Parents act as teachers. They show a directive, judgmental attitude towards others. People who frequently use this ego state are quick-tempered, dissatisfied and have a punitive attitude. They act within social rules and subjective interests.

2) Protective Parents are expected to give compassionate messages to others, to be kind, polite and helpful

Transactional analysis claims that we determine our own level of worthiness in the light of all these childhood experiences and selected ego states. In this context, Thomas A. Harris states that there are 4 basic life states and that a person can have all of these states but one of them will be more dominant.

1) I am not OKEY, you are OKEY

2) I'm not OKEY, you're not OKEY

3) I'm OKEY, you're not OKEY

4) I'm OKEY, you're OKEY

The current life situation has a direct impact on the individual's communication with himself/herself and with other people. It determines whether the person perceives his/her experiences as positive or negative. At the same time, the chosen life situation will also form the basis for the person's decision on the "life scenario".

Life scripts are shaped by the basic life stages as well as the positive and negative messages received and internalized from parents in childhood. As a result of early childhood experiences, a person produces life scenarios that will be used as a guide throughout his/her life. If we think of this as a scenario of a theater play, even if the other actors or the theater stage changes, the person's life scenario will be shaped.

  • Zümbül, S. (2021). Comprehensive Overview of Transactional Analysis Therapy: A Review Study. Anadolu University Journal of Education Faculty, 5 (1), 51-80. DOI: 10.34056/aujef.769576
  • Zengin, E. (2019). Transactional Analysis Analysis of the Movie "Inside Out" in the Context of the Effect of Ego States on Communication. Adnan Menderes University Social Sciences Institute Journal, 6 (1), 30-51. Retrieved from

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