In this episode, we discuss transactional analysis. Taimur talks us through the ideas behind the theory, and how your internal mind can be split up into three parts - the Parent, Adult, and Child. We also talk about some examples from the book I'm Ok, You're Ok by Thomas Harris. Enjoy.

Some of the highlights from our discussion:

Transactional analysis is a psychoanalytic theory whereby social transactions are examined to determine the ego state of an individual as a basis for understanding behaviour. Taimur’s take is that it’s a useful framework to make sense of social interaction and make sense of why we think in certain ways and react to certain events or interactions in different ways.

One of the key concepts of transactional analysis is the idea of ego-states. Within each of us we have three identities – we have the Parent, the Adult and the Child. These states determine how we express ourselves as individuals as well as interact with each other and form relationships.

  • Parent – The Parent represents a collection of recordings that we experience in our early year; a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviours learnt from our parents and other authority figures that we were exposed to when growing up. Crucially as a young child we don’t have the ability to think critically about what we are being told and hence we take it at face value. This part of our personality can be supportive or critical.
  • Adult - Recordings that we accumulate as a result of our own experiences and reasonings about the world ourselves. It’s our conscious thinking selves and relates to direct responses in the 'here and now' that are not influenced by our past. This tends to be the most rational part of our personality and the goal of transactional analysis is to emancipate the Adult in all of us – to enable each of us to have the freedom of choice and to be able to change at will how we respond to things.
  • Child - Like the Parent, the Child is rooted in the past but whilst the Parent is the external events that happen to us in our childhood, the Child stores the internal events, how we felt and how we responded internally. When you replay the recordings in the Child you are actually reliving those experiences and the feelings associated with them.

The goal of transactional analysis is to emancipate the Adult so that we can change how we respond to new and recurring stimuli. If we didn’t have the PAC framework, we wouldn’t be able to distinguish between different interactions as easily nor analyse where the feelings and emotions expressed in those interactions have come from.

In any transaction, one of the three identities inside us interacts with one of the three identities inside the other person. In other words, there are 9 different interactions that could occur:

  • Parent – Parent / Parent – Adult / Parent – Child / Adult – Parent / Adult – Adult / Adult – Child / Child – Parent / Child – Adult / Child – Child.

Transactions can be categorised into ‘games’ that we 'play' in all our interactions and conversations. (We’ll talk about this more in the next episode).

LinksI'm Ok, You're Ok by Thomas Harris

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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.

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Who are we?

Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, InstagramTaimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram