Understand Relationships Better Using Transactional Analysis Theory

Understand Relationships Better Using Transactional Analysis Theory


Transactional analysis can be referred to as any interaction or communication between two people of different ego states. Eric Berne gave the theory of transactional analysis in the late 1950s. This can be taken as the post Freud in psychoanalysis theory. According to Freud Ego means the psychological component of personality that is represented by the conscious decision making process. Dr.R.K.Suri, best psychologist in west delhi describes EGO as the way you look at yourself.  Berne involves two or more egos in communication or behavior to analyze the relationship. He used the word transaction as a substitute to relationship.

 According to him, ego states can be characterised into three parts.

1.Parenting: Parenting can be seen as a most influenced state, as it is a taught state. This can be differentiated in two parts. (a) critical. (b) nurturing

2. Adult: A person behaves maturely. Communication can be really respectful in this state. 

3. Child: This state  child can be differentiated into two parts. 

  (a) Adaptive: The adaptive child can behave like an obedient, disciplined and highly influenced person by the parents.

(b) Free: a child can be spontaneous, energetic, and adventurous, that is opposite to the adaptive child. 

In this theory, Berne established an experiment.

Person A and Person B, both the person can be in all the three states that is child, adult and parenting. 

When Person A asks Person B in child state that he needs him to go with him, as he needs some help at the family function. The responses of B can be different in different states, such as :

Child: Yes, I will.

Adult: I have work, but I will think about it. 

Parenting: No, I have work at the office. 

From here, we can conclude that the reply can shift from one state to another like-"I have work at my office, but you need me more. I will come with you". This is shifting from adult state to child state. 

He also added that parent-child relationships are not always the same. Sometimes it becomes one sided from either side. When it becomes so, it cannot stay longer. He also claims that one sided giving relationship cannot last longer. And this can be taken for all the types of relationships. 

Further he included an exceptional case of cross shifting in which, when person A demands something in child state to person B, who replies in adult state, which also makes shifting in state of Person A. This can perform as a catalyst to behavior of another person. This also gives an increment to the role, and performance of the person for future situations.

This theory can be used to:

(A) Analyze the relationship among people.

(B) Improving the relationship.

(C) Knowing our feelings for people.

(D) Change someone's behavior. 

Berne believes that our behavior with others, does not depend upon their action but on our state of mind or ego. According to this theory, we should prefer to always communicate in an adult state. As it is the most stable state and the rational one too.

But we can change the state according to the circumstances. 

For example: Sometimes in old age, we have to play the role of a parent to our parents itself.


Berne's theory actually made psychologists and other people analyze the relationship of people on the basis of communication. This can help people in analyzing the personality, reaction and mood of people in different circumstances in different states of ego. This theory is eligible for all kinds of relationships whether it is with colleagues, parents, partners, friends, spouse etc.