Transactional Analysis & A.B.I. (Part One)

Hello all. I hope last month’s post help answer concerns you may have had about panicking. Feel free to give me your feedback. It’s always welcomed.

I thought this month I’d invite you to look with me at another type of talking therapy. Tranactional Analysis  (T.A.) created by Eric Berne, came to mind.

Why? Because after a traumatic brain injury, it can be even harder to see where a client’s thouughts are coming from as they talk to me. Also, to understand sudden changes in mood, in their whole being.

A person has a fair recall of the moments before their trauma. They’ve no memory at all of the time during the actual injury. Afterwards, there’s what I call “iffy” memory – recall of real-life sights, sounds, smells, tastes – but ones that seem to float around with no time pinned to them.

It seems to me that if this disorder is true of memory, it could be true of personality too. And if that’s true, Tranactional Analysis might help a client make better sense of the people around them.

First, if you’d like to, click here for a quick cartoon presentation I’ve found. It gives a brief explanation of the basics.Transaction01

To clarify, Eric Berne speeks of “ego states”. He names them “Parent”, “Adult” and “Child” to make his model more easily understood. It’s where the phrase: “Inner-child” comes from.

All well and good. But what does he mean by them? What do they describe? What’s the point of them? How can knowing the answers to these questions help someone with or supporting someone else with an A.B.I?

Berne’s “Structure of Personality”

Berne means the ways we draw on internal and external resources and information to give ourselves a sense of our own presence. The idea is that we all see ourselves in the context of our own continuing story. The older we get, the more our memories make us who we are.

Imagine an injured brain, and consequently all of a person coming out of a coma. Let’s call this person Liz. Liz might remember her old job, where she lived five years before. Let’s say Liz doesn’t remember what happened before their ambulance came, nor of arriving at hospital. She doesn’t know which hospital she’s woken up in, nor what day it is.

What’s going on?


The Child is the state of our ego when organising itself  out of stuff from long ago. The personality regresses to a pre-logical pattern of feelings and behaviours. Whatever thinking takes place does not matter to the Child as much as comfort and discomfort.

So, there in our above example, is Liz –  confused, with a missing month’s worth of empty spaces her waking self expects to be filled with experiences. She cannot form a “here-and-now” for herself. All she has for certain is her emotions and the need to take flight, to fight, or freeze – the need to be comforted.


Our ego state when taking in and processing information from all around. That bit of the personality which weighs the evidence – rationalises.

Let’s say the nurses who come in to check on Liz manage to reassure her that she is safe. Comforted, and after a bit more rest, she might be ready to learn why she’s in a hospital bed.

N.B: The fact that she’ll most likely forget details of what she’s told by nurses and doctors is not important to her Adult state; Liz is aware of being treated with respect NOW.


The Parent ego state is the boundary setter, the rule-maker. It’s made from long remembered stuff – “shoulds”, examples of wrongs and rights, goods and bads as learnt from authority figures and experiences from yester-year.

As Liz begins her rehabilitation, her growing realisation of lost skills, know-how, of her inability to recall conversations, she begins to get more and more critical of herself.

(All Together)

N.B: At any one time, even after brain injury, all ego states co-exist together. All three of them. It is just that, depending on the situation of the moment, the personality is most influenced by one, a little less influenced by one of the other two, and least influenced by whichever comes third at the time.


That’s it for now. Sorry I’ve gone on a bit longer this month. I hope Part One was as interesting to read as it was to research. In Part Two I’ll be giving my perspective on the insights Transactional Analysis offers in regard to brain injuries and relationships with others.

Take care for now.

Source: Berne, E: “Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy”

Grove Press; NEW YORK; 1961