04 May, 2009
Youth Coaching And Eric Berne
As coaches, it is important to be aware of the challenges that may arise in relationship coaching. To define this further, let’s examine Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis model. Transactional Analysis (TA) started as, and has remained, a social psychology. Berne designed TA as a system that seeks to understand the interactions of people and to improve the human social environment.
Berne made complex interpersonal transactions understandable when he recognised that people can interact from one of three ‘Ego States’ – Parent, Adult, Child – and that these interactions can occur at overt and covert levels. Each one of the Ego States is an effect system of communication with its own language and function.
The Parent’s is a language of values, the Adult’s is a language of logic and rationality and the Child’s is a language of emotions. Effective functioning in the world depends on the availability of all three intact Ego States.
Berne codified socially dysfunctional behaviour patterns in terms of the ‘games’ that people play. People build their lives around certain favourite games that, with their repetitive toxic outcomes, promote dysfunctional, life-long scripts. Scripts are based on early life decisions, made by the original OK child. These decisions, which dictate people’s actions throughout life, always represent the giving up of the OK part of the Child.
How might this impact on the coach-client relationship when coaching young people?
TA looks at the thoughts and feelings that a client has about previous relationships and how these play out subconsciously in the present. This inevitably involves the client-coach relationship as well. This particular aspect can result in transference. Transference is an interaction that coaches need to be aware of.
Transactional Analysis illuminates the interactions that take place in communication. Relationships are how we RELATE to others. Let us explore the Ego States a little more:
- Parent Ego State – This is a huge collection of recordings in the brain of unquestioned or imposed external events perceived by a person in their early years. The data in the Parent was taken in and recorded ‘straight’ without editing. The situation of children, their dependency and inability to construct meanings with words made it impossible for them to modify, correct or explain. Here you are resembling your parents or your perception of your parents, thus are communicating as your parent would, using the same, gestures, vocabulary and feelings.
- The Child Ego State – this is the internal recording being made simultaneously with the external Parent recording. This is the seeing, hearing feeling and understanding body of data that is defined as the Child. Since young children have no vocabulary during the most critical of their early years, most of their reactions are feelings. A child has not made any certain connection between cause and effect. Parental approval, which can disappear as fast as it appears, is an unfathomable mystery. Your communication, the manner and intent is that of when you were a child.
- The Adult Ego State – when a child is able to do something from its own awareness and original thought, this self-actualisation is the beginning of the Adult. This can occur around 10 months with the ability to move around. In the Adult, you are independently making an objective appraisal of a situation in a non-prejudicial manner. The Adult during its early years is fragile and tentative. It is easily ‘knocked out’ by commands from the Parent or fear in the Child.
It is important to note that all people have these Ego States within them. It is important to note that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ exists within the Parent and Child States. What do we mean by this? The ‘good’ Parent is caring, protective, supportive, positive, loving, gives praises and encouragement. The ‘bad’ Parent is critical, negative, punitive and discouraging, or cross. The ‘good’ Child is creative, fun loving, enthusiastic, happy, and loving. The ‘bad’ Child has tantrums, is horrid, whiny, spiteful, frustrated, or angry. The Adult is neutral as it is a balanced state.
At any given moment, any individual in a social group will exhibit an Adult, Parent or Child Ego State to another within the group. All have high and equal values in a full and productive life. It is when one dominates the others and creates an in-balance that challenges can arise for an individual, particularly if it is the negative side of the Child or Parent.
The Adult Ego State is necessary for survival. It also has the function to regulate the activities of the Parent and Child Ego States and to mediate objectively between them.
The Parent Ego State has two main functions
- To enable you to be an effective parent of actual children.
- To enable you to make automatic responses, saving time and energy
In simple TA, we look at which Ego State implemented the stimulus and which one executed the response in a transaction (communication).
How can this understanding be used to enhance a coaching intervention? Coaching is all about encouraging a client to raise their awareness and take ownership of whom they are choosing to be at any single moment in their lives.
As coaches, an appreciation of TA can help us in two ways:
- To understand the coaching relationship in order to keep it clear of transference
- To support our clients to make sense of how they react/respond in their own relationships.
When people come to coaching, they may be looking to change the way they respond in certain circumstances. This insight gives them the opportunity to choose who they are being or want to be in any interaction because they can view themselves more objectively. As a coach you may use this process to assess what Ego State your client is communicating in with those they may have challenges with.
Alternatively, they can raise their awareness of their communication options with those they wish to enhance their relationship with.