Early in his work in the development of Transactional Analysis, Dr Eric Berne observed that as he watched and listened to people he saw them change. There were simultaneous changes in facial expression, vocabulary, gestures, posture and bodily functions which cause the face to flush, the heart to pound, the breathing to become rapid, or the voice and demeanour to become that of a child. The individual was the same person in terms of bone structure, skin texture, hair colour and clothing as before. So what had changed? What had happened to the person sitting opposite him? From these early observations, Berne developed the building blocks of TA called ego states which are the basis of TA theory.
What Are Ego States?
In order to understand changes in behaviour, we must be aware of what is happening inside a person. The personality can be divided into three parts, each part consisting of a set of related thoughts, feelings and behaviours. These parts are called ego states. Each person has three ego states called the Parent, Adult and Child, which are diagrammed as a set of three stacked circles. In TA, the ego states are always capitalised to distinguish them from actual parents, adults or children.