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August 12, 2022


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Well, I experienced a bit of ‘Déjà vu’ reading this. In 1964 Eric Berne wrote about a psychological approach he called Transactional Analysis in which he postulated three basic ego states called the Adult, Parent and Child – very similar to Puchalska-Wasyl with her four basic characters: the Faithful Friend, the Proud Rival, the Ambivalent Parent and the Helpless Child.

Briefly, in his book ‘The Games People Play’, Berne describes each person as having one (or more) of three ego states – Adult, Parent and Child. The adult responds to the world in a factual and objective way; the parent reaction is to approach a situation in a judgemental way, whereas the child veers more toward an emotional response. Not quite as ‘cut-and-dried’ as that, as each ego state can be split into various facets such as a nurturing parent or a critical parent; an adaptive child or a studious child (called ‘the little professor). The ‘games’ he refers to are, for instance, where a man asks his wife if she’s seen his blue tie (an adult question) and she responds in the critical parent “How would I know, I’m not your mother!” he may get drawn into the ‘game’ by responding back in his affronted parent ego with “No, thank God”, or sulk in his child ego resulting in a ‘crossed transaction’ (hence ‘Transactional Analysis’) Alternatively, he may stay in the adult and perhaps say “I’ll check upstairs” – avoiding the ‘game’.

An interesting psychological approach that with a little study any ‘layman’ can understand and see when he/she is getting caught up in a crossed transaction.

With transactional analysis and the similar ‘the inner voice and various selves’, I would be more inclined to say that the various ego states or inner voices are merely thoughts, thoughts that arise from the conditioned mind, the information we absorbed as infants imprinting the pathways of the brain with various patterns of thinking and behaviour. Such thoughts arise as images, as words which we feel are spoken words. Perhaps some people see pictures instead of words, interpreting them as feelings instead of mentally sensing them as words.

There are many avenues for understanding and getting to know our parts (inner voices). Voice Dialogue is an easy approach first popular in the 1970s, but the original model is Psychosynethesis, which postulated subpersonalities at the beginning of the 20th century. Contemporary Psychosynthesis books offer a variety of ways to get to know our parts. There are also the Ego States model and Internal Family Systems, as well as a more abstract model called Dialogical Self Theory (which suggests we have various "I-positions" from which we interact with the world). The later is the only model here that does not place a Self of some kind in the center of everything, making it the one model that matches what neuroscience tells us to be true in that there is no self (see Thomas Metzinger for some excellent work on this).

Fascinating, this possibility of many selves. (Possibility is all it seems to be, so far. But completely, utterly fascinating, nevertheless.)

Reminds me of the two-birds analogy, the two-selves idea, in the Mandukya Upanishad. Or, since after all this is about many selves not just two, the many-souls theology of ancient Egypt. Coincidence, no doubt? If you jabber out a hundred and ten random nonsensical things as the fancy takes you, I guess a few those will kinda sorta hit home, a matter of sheer chance.

Don't think TA has anything to do with any of this, though!

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