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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why did he do that? Why did I behave like that?

If you have ever been in a situation where questions like the above ones kept you occupied, read on. I cannot really answer the why he did that or why I did this, but maybe I can help in explaining why we might do these things in general.
According to transactional analysis we have three (simplified) major ego states: parent, adult and child. In the parent state you are usually either critical, feel and act as your parents did when they were disciplining or controlling you. As nurturing parent you think and act as your parents did when they showed that they cared for you. In your adult state you choose and decide in a more objective way, your decisions are based on facts and reason. In your child ego state you show either the natural child (creative, playful, reckless, irresponsible, not thinking about rules and consequences). In your adapted child state, you think and act in a way that you have learned as a child, it is the way of behaving so that you get all the attention and affection that you want.

Don't worry, everybody has all three of these states, they are all part of our mental structure and we use them all in communicating with each other. E.g. when hubby asks me "Do you know where my watch is?" As his obedient wife I would answer -in adult ego state- "It is on the desk, luv". This would be an appropriate adult ego state answer. Now, lets assume that I have one of my child ego states, then the answer could be more like "I don't have them, it wasn't me!" or maybe I would answer "Guess where it is, you'll never find it, I hid it from you". Of course, I could also go into parental ego state: "You are not a child anymore, you should know where your things are."

My adapted inner child wants to tell the audience that I would never behave in such a way, I am always in adult ego state, of course. ... Well, most of the time, sometimes.

As far as I understood, the most important reasons for us to slip into these three different ego-states are, to keep the flow of communication going and to receive attention and recognition. Most of the time these processes are not done on a conscious level and if they are an ongoing series of transactions with some ulterior motive behind them, they are called games. Games are considered dishonest in transactional analysis and at the ending of a game (if there is one), the outcome usually has some kind of dramatic quality, e.g. divorce, one of those participating might become an alcoholic, etc. .

One of the most famous examples of this kind of games is called "See What you Made Me Do". I read about it in E.Berne's book Games people play. The abridged version is: Mr. White wants to be left alone. Mrs White comes in and asks "Where are my long-nosed pliers?" Mr White let his typewriter fall when she came in. He is enraged and cries "See what you made me do". This game is played again and again year after year, so that his family does all to leave him alone and his children learn from this example, so that this game is passed on to them and probably again to their children.
In another version of this game, he would let his wife decide most (ugh, not what I'd like to do), e.g. what to do, what film to watch. If the evening turns out nice and he could enjoy it, fine, if not,  he could blame her for that.

Ego-states and domestic discipline
There are lots of other examples and hopefully we do not play these kinds of games. Nevertheless, we surely use the different ego-states all the time. If Master tells me "You better behave, young lady, or else, ...", he is in parent state, giving a warning which is not neutral any longer, as it would be in adult state. My reaction could be rational (I said c o u l d be) "Yes, Sir, you are right, my behaviour was irrational and I apologize for the trouble I have caused". The apology could have been adult, because it is a social norm, or it could have been my adapted child state, because I know that apologizing helps to appease Master. I could also behave irrational instead "I don't want to listen, lalalala, you big old meany, you are always so unfair".
The outcome of the free child-state would be a good spanking, for sure, if I ever did that. If Master and I were in a kind of game, we would probably be something like parent (he) and child (I) when we communicated. I freely admit that there are these situations, which I think is quite natural. But we do not communicate on this level continuously. I think what we do most of the time, is adult-adult state communication, which is a good way of communicating, because we are not focusing on fault, but instead are always looking for ways out of problems, so that everybody might benefit. Still, I know that there are situations, where I fall into such patterns, where I am in child ego state whereas Master is in adult state.
In such moments, I think we have found a shortcut to get me out this state. This is when I get spanked and lectured and have to answer what I did and why and how to be better again. In my experience, spanking has always been a very positive way of dealing with problems in communication. One reason  being that the decision to be spanked was one between two adults. We know why we have rules and to what end we wanted them and spanking is a safe way of bringing me back to my senses,  if necessary, i.e. better attitude, focus, willingness to do the right things.

It is already late at night here (1.15am). My free/natural child says 'I don't wanna sleep'. My adapted inner child says 'Master wants me to go to bed, maybe I get a reward?' My nurturing parent says 'yes, it is late, but if you like being up late so much!?' My critical parent says 'This is far too late, young lady, up to bed!' My adult state says 'I am tired and up early again, I need to get some sleep, good night, everybody and I feel better again because I am back to writing here.'

(google+ will probably add something like split personality to my list of keywords soon, just because of this text)

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