| Eric Berne defined three ego states as: Parent, Adult, and Child. It should be carefully noted that the descriptions of these ego states do NOT necessarily correspond to their common definitions as used in the English language.
The following are detailed descriptions of the three ego states:
Parent – The parent represents a massive collection of recordings in the brain of external events experienced or perceived in approximately the first five years of life. Since the majority of the external events experienced by a child are actions of the parent, the ego state was appropriately called Parent. Note that events perceived by the child from individuals that are NOT parents (but who are often in parent-like roles) are also recorded in the Parent.
Child – In contrast to the Parent, the Child represents the recordings in the brain of internal events associated with external events the child perceives. Stated another way, stored in the Child are the emotions or feelings which accompanied external events. Like the Parent, recordings in the Child occur from childbirth all the way up to the age of approximately 5 years old.
Adult – The Adult is the last ego state. Close to one year of age, a child begins to exhibit gross motor activity. The child learns that he or she can control a cup from which to drink, that he or she can grab a toy. This is the beginning of the Adult in the small child. The Adult allows the young person to evaluate and validate Child and Parental experience.
Psychoanalysis before Eric Berne
While there were many theories purporting to explain human behaviour before Eric Berne, the most frequently cited and known is the work of Sigmund Freud. Freud emerged in the early 20th century with his theories about personality. Freud believed that personality had three components, all of which must work together to produce our complex behaviours. These three components or aspects were the Id, Ego, and the Superego. It was Freud’s belief that these three components needed to be well-balanced to produce reasonable mental health and stability in an individual. According to Freud, the Id functions in the irrational and emotional part of the mind, the Ego functions as the rational part of the mind, and the Superego can be thought of as the moral part of the mind, a manifestation of societal or parental values. Dr. Berne felt that Freud’s proposed structures are “concepts… [and not] phenomenological realities”
What Do You Say After You Say Hello?
Berne presents a summary of Transactional Analysis, introducing structural analysis, ego states, rituals, pastimes, games and the concept of Scripts.