This  is the  text, without figures, of a 24 page pamphlet by the same name
by Claude Steiner Ph.D.


“Each of us is really three people.” What transactional analysts mean when they  say this is that people are able to act in three different ways – as their Parent, as their Adult, and as their Child. These three behavior modes, each important in its own right are called ego states and are diagrammed in Figure 1, above.


Everyone knows that we sometimes act like
children. When we are in the Child ego state we aren’t just
putting on an act, we are really being children. We think,
feel, see and react as a child. We are three or five or
eight years old and only our muscles and bones are those
of a grown-up. The same is true for the Parent and the
Adult which are truly felt states of being, not just roles.
When the Child is hateful or loving, impulsive, spontaneous
or playful it is called the Natural Child or the princess or
prince. When it is thoughtful, creative or imaginative it is
called the Intuitive Child – or little professor. When it is
fearful, guilty or ashamed it is called the Adapted Child–or
frog. The Child has all the feelings; fear, love, anger, joy,
sadness, shame and so on. The Child is often blamed for
being the source of people’s troubles because it is self-
centered, emotional, powerful and resists the supp-
ression that comes with growing up.
In TA, however, the Child is seen as the source from which
the best in human beings comes – the only possible source
for creativity, recreation and procreation; the only source
of renewal in life. The Child can be observed in children for
extended periods of time, but also in grownups in situ-
ations where people have permission to let the Child out,
like at football games or parties. The Child will appear for
short periods of time in other situations, such as board
meetings, classrooms or serious discussions where it may
not be desired at all. In its most undesirable form it
completely dominates a person’s life, as in the cases of
persons who are severely emotionally disturbed whose
depressed crazy or addicted Child will drive them to
virtual self-destruction with out-of-control behavior. The
Child may also appear for long periods of time in the form
of depression, as in the case of people who have incurred
a great loss.
At Joe’s Inn, Bill Winnerton, “is in his Child” after a couple
of drinks and steps onto the dance floor with Sunny Kutlo.
His gestures and bodily language are those of a boy of
eight: he moves expansively, his arms and legs swing
wildly while he sings out loud. He uses words like: “Wow!
Cool! Faster!” His experiences are those of an eight year
old as well. He not only talks and acts like a little boy, but
he feels like one too, which is quite different from the way
a person feels when they’re in their Adult or Parent ego


The Parent is like a tape recorder. It is a collection of pre-recorded, pre-judged, prejudiced codes for living. When a person is in the Parent ego state he thinks, feels and behaves like one of his parents or someone who
took their place. The Parent decides, without reasoning,
how to react to situations, what is good or bad, and how
people should live. The Parent can be over-controlling and
oppressive or life giving, supportive and tender. When the
Parent is overly critical it is called the Critical Parent. The
Nurturing Parent is the defender of the Natural Child
against its enemy, The Critical Parent.
One ego state can dominate a person to the exclusion of
the other two. An example of this is the excluding Parent,
which happens when a person is unable to use their Child
or Adult. This person is at a great disadvantage because
in order to be a well-functioning human being, all the ego
states must be available when needed. An excluding or
fixated Parent might be Mr. Peake, a history teacher:
“I am a good history teacher. I enjoy telling my students
how the world has become what it is now and what to
anticipate in the future. I keep an orderly, well-organized
class and the children respect me for it. I really like the
kids in my classes, but I don’t think they like me-and I
don’t know what to do about it. People don’t seem to
appreciate quality anymore.”
Mr. Peake has to live without the benefit of his Child or
Adult and is therefore cut off from two thirds of his
human potential.
Mr. Peake has a Nurturing Parent, but he only feels safe to
express it with his five year old nephew and his cats. In
his classroom his Critical Parent excludes all other
The Parent uses old “tapes” to solve problems, and is
therefore at least 25 years behind the times (though it may
be 250 or as much as 2,500 years behind the times.) The
Parent is useful when there is no information to be
computed by the Adult, or no time to use the Adult to
think. The Child, on the other hand, will create novel
solutions based on intuition but these solutions may not be
as reliable as the fact-based Adult decisions.


The Adult is a human computer. It operates
on data fed into it which it stores or uses to make
computations according to a logic-based program. For
instance, back at Joe’s Inn, Bill Winnerton’s switches from
his Child to his Adult and figures out how many drinks he
can buy and still have money for gas to get home.
The Adult has no emotions. People who hear this and who
think that the Adult is supposed to be the best ego state
may conclude that emotions are not good. But it only
means that in order to be logical we need to be able to
separate ourselves from our emotions. It doesn’t mean
that to be logical is the best way to be at all times. In
fact, just as Mr. Peake’s excluding Parent makes him an
incomplete human being, so does an excluding Adult have
the same deadening effect on people. People will also
object: “I am an adult and I have emotions!” and they are
right. Being a mature human being or grownup is not the
same as being in the Adult ego state. Little children can be
in their Adults and happy grown-ups use their Parent and
Child all the time. The Adult computes all the facts fed
into it. If the facts are up-to-date, then the Adult’s
answers will be timely and superior to the Parent’s
solution. If the facts are incorrect, the Adult computer will
produce incorrect answers.
Sometimes the Adult uses information which has its source
in the Child or in the Parent and which may be incorrect.
This is known as contamination. When a contamination
comes from the Parent it is called a prejudice. For
instance, Dr. Needlepoint is a nuclear physicist who is
looking for a lab assistant who can do very exacting,
painstaking work with valuable equipment. In reviewing
his applicants, he automatically disqualifies a black person
because he believes black people are innately emotional
and slow-moving, skillful with their whole bodies, rather
than with their hands. This data which comes to Dr.
Needlepoint’s Adult from his Parent, is a contamination
because he has accepted it as a fact without checking it
against reality. (Figure 2)
The same unchecked acceptance of information can occur
with information fed by the Child in which case it is called
delusion. A delusion is usually based on a Child fear or
hope. For instance, Sunny Kutlo was afraid of men and
often sure they called her cheap behind her back. She
decontaminated her Adult by checking why men looked at
her and found that men looked at her because she was
very beautiful rather than cheap looking. {Figure 2)


As you will recall, the Parent ego state is like a tape
recorder full of pre-judged, prejudiced, pre-programmed
statements. These “taped” statements can get activated
while we are in our Adult or Child and then we actually
hear them as “voices in our heads.” The Parental tapes
can feel good or bad depending on which Parent makes
them. The Nurturing Parent is on the Child’s side and the
Critical Parent is on the Child’s case. In other personality
theories, the Critical Parent voices are known as the
harsh super-ego, negative self-talk, cognitive traps, low
self-esteem or catastrophic expectations. In TA the Cri-
tical Parent is also known as the Oppressive Parent, the
witch, the ogre, the electrode, or the Pig Parent
The Critical Parent makes put-down statements like:
“You’re bad, stupid, ugly, crazy and sick; in short you’re
doomed, not OK.” The Nurturing Parent loves the Child
unconditionally and says things like: “I love you,” “You’re a
winner,” “You’re smart,” “You’re a princess” or “You’re
The Pig Parent’s main objective is to control the Child by
preventing it from feeling good about itself. It is opposed
to what the Natural Child wants. If the Child wants to be
loved the Pig Parent says, “You don’t deserve it.” If the
Child wants to give love the Pig Parent says, “It isn’t
wanted.” If the Child is angry at an unrewarding job, the
Pig Parent says, “This is the best you can do because you
are lazy.” If the Child comes up with a new idea that goes
against old points of view, the Pig Parent says, “You must
be crazy to think like that.” The Pig Parent activates the
Adapted Child which feels guilty, fearful and ashamed.
The thing the Pig Parent does best is to make people feel
not OK and to force them to do things they don’t want t
do. It is only useful in situations in which people oppress
or take things away from each other. People can learn to
cultivate and develop their Nurturing Parent, Adult or
Natural Child to fight their Pig Parent.
For example, in group therapy Sunny Kutlo learned about
and put together Nurturing Parent tape recordings which
she listened to whenever her Pig Parent tried to make her
feel not OK. She also developed logical arguments against
her Pig’s accusations and all of this helped free her Child
from the voices in her head.
By means of an egogram we can show the relative
strength of her ego states at any one time. When she
started therapy she had a lot of Pig Parent (PP), and very
little Adult (A) or Natural Child (NC). Below, you can see
the changes she went through in about one year of


One very useful application of ego states is in evaluating
relationships. For instance, when Bill Winnerton and his
wife Natalie visited Dr. Feelgood she drew their
personalities on the board and evaluated each of the five
major vectors in their relationship. (Figure 3). After
seven years of marriage their sex life has ceased and has
been replaced with a great deal of fighting. This means
that the Child to Child part of the relationship is poor (
………..) They also are unable to discuss matters of fact
like their problems and financial matters. That is, their
Adult to Adult vector is bad as well. She takes care of
him when he needs it, so the PN to CB vector is good (–)
However, his Parent (PB) fails to take care of her Child
(CN ), specially when she is scared. In addition, they agree
on matters of politics and raising children, which indicates
that the Parent to Parent vector is good. This relation-
ship is therefore lacking three extremely important
aspects: Child to Child, Adult to Adult, and Parent (Bill) to
Child (Natalie). In order for it to become satisfactory the
Winnertons will have to develop and strengthen these
three very important vectors. Like many other relation-
ships the Winnertons’ started by falling in love, which
means a very strong Child-to-Child vector. As their
relationship grew and they got to know each other better,
the other possible vectors of the relationship proved to be
deficient. The trouble was that over a period of time she
gave more Child-to-Child loving and Parent-to-Child nurtu-
ring than he returned. Through therapy Natalie learned to
use her Adult to ask for what she wanted, and Bill learned
to give her Nurturing Parent strokes, and more Child-to-
Child strokes when she needed them. This helped restoring
their original, loving, Child-to-Child vector.


Stroking is the word used for the
recognition that one person gives to another. Strokes are
essential to a person’s life. Without them, Berne said,
the “spinal cord will shrivel up.” Therefore, the exchange
of strokes is one of the most important thing that people
do. Strokes can vary from actual physical touch to praise
or just recognition. For example, it has been shown that a
very young child needs actual physical strokes in order to
remain alive. Adults can get by on fewer physical strokes
as they learn to exchange verbal strokes, like praise or
expressions of appreciation.
Because of the Critical Parent rules that govern the giving
and taking of strokes (Don’t give, ask for, accept or give
yourself strokes) people are prevented from freely
stroking each other. As a consequence, most human be-
ings live in a state of stroke hunger in which they survive
on a deficient diet of strokes, in a manner similar to per-
sons who are starved for food. Human beings, therefore,
spend a great deal of time and effort in obtaining strokes.
Positive strokes, such as smiling, really listening, holding
hands or saying “I love you,” give the person receiving
them a feeling of being OK. They are sometimes called
“warm fuzzies.” There are also negative strokes, which
are painful forms of recognition such as sarcasm,
putdowns, a slap, an insult or saying “I hate you.”
Negative strokes are sometimes called “cold pricklies”
and make the person receiving them feel not OK. Even
though unpleasant, these strokes prevent “the spinal cord
from shriveling up.” For this reason, people prefer a
situation of negative strokes to a situation without strokes
at all. This explains why some people seem to intentionally
hurt themselves in their relationships with others. It is not
because “they enjoy hurting themselves” but because
they can’t get positive recognition, and choose painful
negative strokes to having no strokes.
Positive strokes should be exchanged freely and people
can learn to open the hearts and give and ask for strokes
without shame or embarrassment. Different strokes ap-
peal to different folks and everyone has their special
secret wishes. There are many kinds of positive strokes –
there are physical strokes and verbal strokes. Physical
strokes can be hugs, kisses, holding, squeezing, caresses,
strong or light, sexy, sensual or just friendly, nurturing or
slightly teasing and so on. Verbal strokes can be about a
person’s looks – their face, body, posture or movements or
about a person’s personality – their intelligence, loving
nature sensitivity or courage. In any case, people deserve
any strokes they want and if they ask for them they will
usually find someone who has just those special strokes
for them and is willing to give them.


There are five ways people can structure their time to get
1. A ritual is a pre-set exchange of recognition strokes.
The following is a four-stroke ritual:
(1) “Hi!”
(2) “How are your”
(3) “Fine, thanks.”
(4) “Well, see you around. Bye!”
2. A pastime is a pre-set conversation around a certain
subject. Pastimes are most evident at cocktail parties and
family get-togethers. Some common pastimes are: PTA
(pot luck or catered?), General Motors (I like Ford, Chevy,
Dodge [check one], because they have a better engine,
body, chassis [check one] ), Drugs (Should Marijuana Be
Legalized?), or Who’s Divorcing Who? (Musical Beds).
3. Games are repetitive, devious series of transactions
intended to get strokes. Unfortunately, the strokes
obtained in games are mostly negative. Therefore a game
is a failed method of getting strokes.
4. Intimacy is a direct and powerful exchange of strokes
which people crave but seldom attained because the Child
is frightened away from it by hurtful experiences.
Intimacy is not the same as sex, although it often occurs
in sex. Sex, however, can also be a ritual, a pastime, a
game, or work.
5. Work is an activity which has a product as its result.
Good work results in the exchange of strokes as a side
Intimacy and work are the most satisfying ways of
obtaining strokes. Unfortunately, intimacy is not available
to most people and work is often unsatisfying when people
are made to work in isolation from each other and receive
no personal recognition for what they produce. Therefore,
people must resort to rituals, games, and pastimes which
are safer, though far less satisfying ways of obtaining
strokes. For example, many marriages are an endless
and boring series of rituals, pastimes and games.
Frequently this is because both partners live on the basis
of life scripts which prevent many men from being
emotional and intimate and many women from being able
to use their Adult to ask for and get the love they want. It
was this type of scripting that seriously undermines the
Winnertons’ marriage.


Transactions occur when any person relates to any other
person. In order to understand how people relate-transact-
it is important to remember that there are 3 ego states.
Transactions can proceed from the Parent, Adult or Child
of one person to the Parent, Adult or Child of another
person. The transactions in the following examples are
called complementary and each involves two ego states.
Figure 4: Here we see a complementary transaction
between Adult and Adult. Every transaction is made up of
a stimulus and response. In Figure 4 the stimulus is the
Should I buy toothpaste at the store ?”
And the response is:
“Yes, we’re out.”
The stimulus in a complementary Parent to Child
transaction might be:
“Did you brush your teeth after breakfast like I told you
And the response might:
“No – and I’m not going to!”
The following is another complementary transaction – this
time Parent to Parent:
Mrs. Winnerton: “I told Billy to brush his teeth this
morning and he wouldn’t.”
Mr. Kutlo: “If my kid tried that he wouldn’t have any teeth
left to brush.”
Sometimes transactions will involve three or four ego
states, in which case they are crossed.
In a crossed transaction the transactional response is
addressed to an ego state different from the one which
started the stimulus. For example, Figure 5:
Mrs. Winnerton: “Are you out of tooth paste?”
Billy: Why do you always bug me about my teeth?”
As you can see, the question was from Mrs. Winnerton’s
Adult to Billy’s Adult and the answer from Billy’s Child to
mother’s Parent. This is a crossed transaction; crossed
transactions are important because they disrupt
communication. Communication can continue between ego
states as long as trans-actions are parallel. This is true of
all parallel transactions: Adult to Adult, Parent to Parent,
Child to Parent, and so forth. This is useful to know
because it helps transactional analysts discover where
communication is disrupted. The rule is: Whenever a
disruption of communication occurs, a crossed
transaction caused it. One very important kind of
crossed transaction is the discount transaction. Here one
person completely disregards what the other one is
saying. Discounts are not always obvious but are always
unpleasant to the person receiving them and if repeated
can make people quite upset and eventually make them
feel crazy. For example:
Sunny: “My teeth are hurting.”
Mr. Kutlo: “No they are not. You just went to the dentist
a month ago; there can’t be anything wrong with your
teeth.” Mr. Kutlo often answered Sunny in this discount
way, and this made her very upset even though she didn’t
quite know why.

Covert Transactions.

A covert transaction is when people say one thing and
mean another. Covert transactions are the basis of games
and are especially interesting because they are crooked.
They have a social (overt) and a psychological (covert)
level. Example (Figure 6):
Social Level:
Boss: “Let’s work late, Miss Phistie, and I’ll buy you
Secretary: “That’s a good idea; there is a lot of work to
Covert Level:
Bill: “I love your smile, Natalie. Let’s have dinner and
drinks and really get to know each other.”
Natalie: “I thought you would never ask, Bill. I’ve wanted
to go out with you for quite a while.”
It is important to know the difference be- tween the
social and covert levels because in order to understand
and predict what people are going to do the social level is
generally useless. Based on the social level of this
transaction, Mother Winnerton would expect to reach Bill
Winnerton at the office in the evenings. If Mrs. Winnerton
was aware of the psychological level of the relationship
she’d know to call Joe’s Inn.
The reason we say one thing and mean another is because
we are generally ashamed of our Child’s wishes and
desires. Nevertheless, we act on these desires while we
pretend to be doing otherwise. For instance, we may use
smiling sarcasm instead of a direct expression of our
anger, or when scared we may counter-attack instead of
admitting our fears.
When we want strokes we often feign indifference, and we
have trouble giving strokes to people when we want to. In
fact, because lying is so prevalent between people and by
politicians and advertisers, our lives are so immersed in
half truth and deception that we no longer know what it is
our Childs really want. We also don’t expect people to be
completely honest so that we never really know whether
we can trust them or not.
Transactional Analysts encourage people to be “straight”
with one another and with themselves about their wants
and feelings, rather than “crooked” and covert. In this
manner people can find out what they want and, if
possible, how to get it.


Now that we know what a covert transaction is, we can
talk about games because the basic part of games is that
they are crooked or covert. In fact, the complete definition
of a game is: A game is a recurring series of ulterior
transactions with a beginning, middle and end, and a pay-
Let’s look at a very common game people play: WHY DON’T
YOU, YES BUT (YDYB). Why Don’t You, Yes But, is a good
example of how a game has a definite begin- ning and end,
and how it has two levels. (Figure 7).
Seven years after Natalie Phistie and Bill Winnerton got
married, she and some friends are having a discussion
over coffee while her husband is out bowling:
Natalie: “I’m so upset- I just don’t know what to do about
Bill. He doesn’t seem to be listening to me anymore and
he is always running out on me.”
Friend 1: “Why don’t you sit him down and have a serious
Natalie: “Yes, I’ve tried that but he won’t sit still.”
Friend 2: “You probably have cabin fever. Why don’t you
take a vacation from each other?” Natalie: “Yes, but we
can’t afford it.”
Friend 3: “Well, why don’t you just get a divorce?”
Natalie: “Yes, but what about the kids?”
Friends (thinking): “1 give up, this situation is hopeless.. .”
Natalie (thinking): “Nobody can help me.”
As you can see, this conversation is recurring. Natalie has
been through it many times; her friends have been through
it many times. As a matter of fact, much of their time has
been spent playing Why Don’t You, Yes But, and it is the
type of conversation which occurs over and over again,
especially in therapy groups. It is devious and covert: on
the social level, it appears to be a conversation between a
person in their Adult ego state asking a question from a
group of others who are also in their Adult ego states.
However, you will notice that Natalie does not accept any
of the group’s suggestions. The reason for that is that, at
the psychological and much more meaningful level, what is
really going on is that Natalie is asking for strokes in a
devious manner. But she needs a great deal of strokes and
therefore must continue to ask for them. Further, be-
cause these strokes are being given in a roundabout way
they are not as satisfying to either Natalie or her friends
as would direct strokes be. This is why the game ends on a note of frustration.
The pay-off of this game is that it proves to Natalie is
doomed just as her father said; and it proves to her
friends that there is no use trying to help people because
they never accept advice anyway. A better understanding
of the pay-off of a game can be gained from examining
another common game, RAPO: While Natalie is talking to
her friends, Bill is not at the bowling alley – but at Joe’s
Inn. He is sitting next to Sunny Kutlo. They are flirting. He
buys her a drink and she lights his cigarette. He touches
her arm and she touches his knee. Meanwhile, they are
holding a deep conversation about history. They decide to
visit the Old Oak tree where General Custer rested on the
way to his last stand. Sitting in Bill’s convertible under
the moonlight while listening to “Come On Baby Light My
Fire,” Bill makes a sexual advance. Sunny rebuffs him
coldly leaving Bill humiliated and dumbfounded. Bill is the
Victim in this game with Sunny as the Persecutor. They
have both played this game before and in every case what
appeared to be a Child to Child flirtation at the social level
was at the covert level first a come-on and then a put-
down. In this case, Bill was the Victim; but he also plays
the game as Persecutor. He is a philanderer who invites
women to love him and when they do, accuses them of
clinging. He then abruptly gets fed up and terminates the
relationship. With his wife, he plays the game as the
Persecutor when she asks “Do you love me?” and he
answers, “Sure I love you, quit bugging me.”


Every game pays off for the players at three different
1. The biological pay-off of a game is strokes. Even
though the game ended badly, both Bill and Sunny got a
considerable number of strokes- both positive and
negative-out of it.
2. The social pay-off of a game is time-structuring. Both
Bill and Sunny filled a whole evening which otherwise
might have been dull and depressing with an exciting
3. The existential pay-off of a game is the way in which
the game confirms the existential position of each player.
Let me explain what a person’s existential position is all
about. People define for themselves, early in life, what the
meaning of their life or existence is. Some people decide
they are OK and are going to have a good life; but many
others decide they are not OK and will fail. That is their
existential position. For instance, Sunny was told by her
father that men are no good. He implied that she would
never meet a man who could love her. Because Sunny
believed her father, the game she plays with Bill confirms
his prediction about her life. When she walks away from
Bill she affirms in her own mind that just like daddy said,
men are “creeps” and no one will truly love her. This is her
existential position. Games are always played with equal
responsibility and interest by everyone involved in them.
Bill’s part in the game with Sunny is just as important as
hers and he derives a pay-off from it as well.
Bill and his mother, had a distant relationship in which she
often distrusted him and was angry at him, which made
him feel unloved and not OK. He often heard his father say
“Women will get the upper hand any way they can. Watch
out, son.” Bill decided he would indeed watch out. When
he chooses Sunny at the bar, he is aware that in all
likelihood the relationship will end in failure. What he
wants is strokes but he believes that either she will turn
him down or that he will eventually have to turn her down.
If he likes her, he will expect a rejection, if she likes him,
he will have to watch out because she will come to have
expectations which will eventually become nagging
demands. Either way, he never risks a disruption of his
plan which calls for failure with women. His existential
pay-off in the game of is the confirmation of the validity
of his decision that he would never succeed with a


The pay-offs of games are bad feelings which are
accumulated and can eventually be “cashed in” at some
point in life. Just like people who used to collect trading
stamps at the grocery store which were pasted in a book
and eventually traded for a toaster or TV trays, so do
people collect psychological trading stamps to be traded
in for a divorce, a suicide, a drug binge or a blow-up. For
example, Bill Winnerton is collecting anger stamps that he
will eventually want to trade in for a free divorce. Sunny
Kutlo is collecting depression stamps toward a suicide.
The fact that they are both creating situations which
produce the stamps of their choice is called their racket.
ROLES & DEGREES Games can be played soft or hard. For
instance, the above example of the game YDYB is the
softest (first degree) version of the game because it is
relatively harmless. The hard (third degree) version of this
game might be played by an alcoholic who “yes, buts”
every suggestion of the Rescuer to his dying moment.
Third degree games involve tissue damage. The game of
RAPO, described above, is a second degree game. The first
degree version is often played at cock- tail parties in the
form of a series of flirtations and put downs, while the
much more rare, third degree level of the game might end
in a court room or at the morgue.
The three basic game roles are Persecutor, Rescuer, and
Victim. Whole marriages and friendships are often based
on these roles. The three roles can be arranged in a
triangle to illustrate what happens (Figure 8):
The game usually starts with a person who acts as if they
want help (Victim):
Adolph: “I should quit smoking but it sure will be hard …”
Another person (Rescuer) gets hooked into helping:
Eva: “Great! I’ll help you. Here’s some chewing gum and I’ll
put away the ash trays and help you watch your weight
and …”
However, the Victim is not really interested in quitting
smoking: Adolph (Victim) cheats by smoking at work, in
the basement at home, and while walking the dog.
Eventually, Eva gets angry and switches from Rescuer to
Eva: “You creep. You ask for my help and then blow it.
You’re nothing but a sneaky, smelly weakling and you’ll
never quit smoking!”
Now Adolph switches from Victim to Persecutor, and
“If it wasn’t for your nagging, I wouldn’t want to quit
smoking anyway. Go to hell !”
Eva now switches from Persecutor to Victim and cries.
Feeling guilty and not OK she soon switches into Rescuer.
“I ‘m sorry honey. Let’s try it again. I’ll help you. Here’s
some chewing gum. I’ll put away the ash trays and …”
Adolph switches back into the Victim position and says,
“OK – if you say so …” As you can see, Eva and Adolph
are on a merry-go-round: they go “round and ’round in this
dramatic role Triangle.” The above is a game of Uproar,
but the triangle also occurs in other situations- especially
in therapy where people who don’t really want help hook
therapists into being Rescuers and eventually Persecutors
and Victims.
To avoid the Drama Triangle and the Rescue game that goes
with it, TA therapists insist on establishing a contract in
which the person specifically states what he/she wants to
be cured of. This protects both client and therapist: the
therapist knows exactly what the person wants, and the
person knows what the therapist is going to do and when
therapy is to be completed. In any case, the best way to
avoid the Drama Triangle is to stay in the Adult ego state.


Eric Berne said people are born princes and princesses and
their parents turn them into frogs. What this means is
that TA therapists see people as basically OK and in
difficulty only because their parents have placed
damaging injunctions on them. In Figure 9 we see a Script
Matrix which is a diagram used to figure out people’s
scripts. In it we see two parents and their offspring. In
this case Sunny Kutlo was, as are all healthy little girls,
happy, fun-loving and trusting. Her father Adolph Kutlo
had been married various times and was known in Upper
Valley Trailer Park for being a “lady killer.” His Child was
sex hungry and his Parent was down on his Child for it. As
soon as Sunny began to mature as a woman, Adolph’s
Child began to have sexual thoughts about her. He wanted
her to be sexy and feared she would be promiscuous.
Because of this, he told her to watch out for men because
they were no good. The message from his Child to hers
was, “You are sexy. Too much sex is bad. Men are sex
hungry. Stay away from men.” This message became the
Parent in Sunny’s Child, or the Pig Parent. Meeting a man
activated her Pig Parent which fed her her father’s
message: “Stay away from men.” With these messages
Adolph effectively programmed – or scripted – Sunny’s life
on the basis of his own problems and fears. Her script-
free tendency as a youngster was to approach people
freely and trustingly. However, due to Adolph she grew to
be fearful and distrustful of people, particularly men. On
the other hand, both Adolph and his wife, Eva, from their
Parent ego states, encouraged their daughter to find a
young man, and to settle down and get married. Because
of this, Sunny’s life alternated between failures in finding
a man- as in her episode with Bill — and attempts to get
married and settle down. In a person’s script there are
always periods in which the person appears to be evading
their unhappy fate. This period of the script is called the
counterscript. The counterscript is a period of time in
which the person’s unhappy life plan gives way to a
happier period. This is, however, only temporary and
invariably collapses, giving way to the unhappy script. For
an alcoholic, this may be a period of sobriety; for Sunny
(whose life plan is to commit suicide) it is a brief period of
happiness and involvement with a man; for Bill it is a
period of time in which he loves and trusts his wife. In
the Script Matrix we see that the script injunction “Stay
away from men” goes from the Child of Adolph to Sunny’s
Child, while the counterscript message goes from the Par-
ents of Adolph and Eva to Sunny’s Parent.
Sripting can affect people in several ways. Scripting that
affects people’s capacity to love by preventing them from
exchanging strokes causes depression. The injunctions
are: “Don’t ask for, don’t give, don’t accept strokes.” And
“Don’t stroke yourself.” Sunny’s is an example of such
scripting for Iovelessness. Sometimes the parents’
injunctions prevent the child from thinking its own
thoughts and figuring out the world with its intelligence.
Messages like “You’re too young to know,” “Don’t get
smart around here.” “You can’t understand,” “You’re
stupid” and “That’s crazy” are called discounts and cause
powerlessness and incpacity to think or to figure things
out. A third type of scripting affects people’s capacities
to enjoy and make healthy use of their bodies. People are
afraid that children will harm themselves if they
experience too much bodily pleasure. Others are simply
annoyed by exuberant children or emotions. As a result
they interfere with their expressions of joy and pleasure
with messages like “Don’t touch, …. Masturbation is dirty,
…. Don’t laugh so loud,” but especially by example when
they disapprove of emotional expression and are careless
with their own bodies. Such scripting for joylessness
interferes with people’s awareness of their body powers
and pleasures. It causes incapacity to relax and enjoy sex
and the need to abuse drugs such as alcohol, coffee,
heroin, cigarettes, marijuana, aspirin, sleeping pills and
stimulants to bring about well being. It causes people to
neglect their body’s physical environment so that they can
tolerate polluted air, water and food and work at jobs that
damage their health.
Parents also script their children according to their sex.
This sex-role scripting makes boys into strong but
unemotional men and girls into loving but weak women.
Americans, especially, script their children to be
competitive so that they have trouble cooperating and
living with each other.


In a healthy home environment parents will give
unconditional protection to their children regardless of
what they may do. In this kind of a situation children will
do what their parents want (within reason) out of love for
them. When parents make their protection conditional on
children’s submission to their injunctions, the children are
likely to develop life scripts. Scripts are based on
conscious decisions to obey parental injunctions, even
though they go against the child’s best self-interests. It is
at this point that the unhappy prince trades autonomy for
parental protection and becomes a comfortable frog. The
decision involved is a switch from an “I’m OK” position to
an “I’m not OK” position. It also often involves a decision
about whether other people are OK. Sunny came to the
conclusion she was not OK and neither were men and
decided, “I’ll never get close to a man.” When people make
such decisions, they often take on the role of a character
out of a fairytale, a novel or a movie. Sunny had a very
sympathetic reaction to Melody Blue, the tragic heroine
of Soaring Hearts Hospital, a daytime TV series she
watched with her father. When Sunny was twelve she
decided to be like Melody and began to imitate her
posture, walk, speech and mannerisms- Sunny might have
acted out Melody’s life until her suicide date had she not
met Dr. Feelgood, with whose help she was able to
discard her script and begin to pursue an autonomous life
CHAPTER 11 SCRIPT CHECKLIST When a person has a
script it is useful to fill out a checklist which includes
some of the most important aspects of the script.
1. Life course. What short sentence best describes the
person’s life? Example: Drinking myself to death. Being
unloved. Going crazy. Never having fun. Taking care of my
husband or family until they leave me. Never succeeding,
Working hard.
2. Counterscript- This is a period of life dominated by the
Parent. What does the person do when he seems to be
escaping the life-course? Examples: Drinking socially (for
a while}. Falling madly in love {and out}. Going on a gay
ocean cruise (next week}. Being creative {pottery
lessons}. Succeeding {for a day}.
3. Parental Injunction. In what way did the Child in mother
and father interfere with the person’s OK-ness? What was
the simple command which they made over and over, such
as “Don’t think,” “Don’t ask for anything,” “Don’t bother
me,” “Don’t be assertive,” “Don’t be selfish,” “Don’t get
too smart.” It is also important to know whether it was
the Child in mother (the witch) or in father (the ogre) who
gave the injunction. Good questions to find the injunction
and its source are: What did your father tell you? What did
your mother tell you? What did they want you to do? What
didn’t they want you to do?

4. The Game. Every script is based on a major game. A
suicide script requiring depression stamps might have
RAPO as a script game.
5. The Pastime. How does a person structure most of their
spare time with others? An alcoholic may spend much time
playing “Whisky, scotch or rum” or “What do you do for a
6. The Tragic Ending. Certain people have extremist, self-
destructive scripts. These scripts are called hamartic as
opposed to the less extreme scripts called banal scripts.
Lovelessness, when taken to an extreme, ends tragically,
just as in Greek dramas, with suicide or murder.
Powerlessness can end with madness in a mental hospital
“back ward.” Joylesshess can end with drug addic tion. In
the case of tragic scripts it is important to know what
these hamartic script endings are to be able to avoid them.
Tragic endings can be temporarily postponed or averted
with a script antithesis by a trusted person or therapist
who says: “Don’t kill yourself,” or “Never go to a mental
hospital” or “Stop drinking.”
7. The Therapist’s Role. The therapist must know how his
behavior might promote the script. The therapist who
behaves in a way required by the script will be unable to
be of any help. For instance, people often laugh while
talking about how they are destroying themselves. This is
called a gallows laugh. Anyone can go along with a
person’s self- destruction by joining in the laughter. Bill
Winnerton loved to entertain people with anecdotes about
his failures with women. Dr. Feelgood, however, never
even smiled these stories and made sure the members
Bill’s therapy group understood the difference between
gallows humor, which encouraged Bill’s script, and fun
which is necessary for good therapy. In an alcoholic script,
the therapist may be expected to play the roles of
Rescuer, Persecutor or Victim. A good therapist is aware
of roles and how to avoid them.


Sometimes people do things that are bad for themselves
but good for other people. Even though games are crooked
they can sometimes be useful. For instance, a game called
Busman’s Holiday is when a bus driver spends a vacation
being polite and helpful because he knows of no other way
of getting strokes. People who encounter him are
pleasantly surprised, so although it’s a game, it’s a good
game. But it is a poor source of strokes and he would do
much better if he were straight about wanting strokes and
pursued intimacy rather than playing a game. Also,
certain scripts, even though they restrict their owner’s
freedom and autonomy, may have socially redeeming
features and are therefore called “good scripts.” For
instance, a man whose script is working hard and never
having any fun became the best surgeon in his city and
saved many lives in the process. This script, although
advantageous to others, created a great deal of
unhappiness for the surgeon because he was unable to
love his wife and children and eventally had a heart attack.
Some scripts are tragic and some scripts are banal. Tragic
scripts are highly dramatic, like suicide or “mental
illness.” Banal, or garden-variety scripts are less dramatic
but more common. They are the melodramas of everyday
life. They usually affect large sub-groups of people such
as men, women, blacks, teenagers, etc. People in these
sub-groups are scripted to live their lives in certain set
ways: women are sup posed to be emotional, illogical home-
makers, and have no permission to be Iogical, strong or
independent; men are supposed to be logical, strong, bread-
winners, and have no permission to be childlike, scared or
needy. A banal script’s life course may be: going from bad
to worse, never having fun, taking care of only others,


Permission is a very important part of
Transactional Analysis. It’s a situation in which the
educator or therapist says, “You can do what your parents
or other people told you not to do” or “You don’t have to
keep doing what you decided to do as a child.” For
example, if a person who is now very shy was told “Don’t
ask for anything” one permission would be to ask for
what is wanted or needed.
Sunny Kutlo was told by her father not to expect anything
good from men or anyone and her injunction was never to
ask for anything. Dr. Feelgood’s Permission was “Ask for
strokes, you deserve them.” When a person takes a
therapeutic Permission and goes against parental and
social demands and wishes, their Child is apt to get very
frightened. That is why Protection is a very important part
of change. Protection is given or offered by the teacher or
therapist, preferably in a group, to a person who is ready
to change his or her script. The therapist and the group
offer protection to the person when they say, “Don’t
worry, everything’s going to be all right. We’ll take care
of you when you’re scared.” Permission and Protection
increase the therapeutic Potency of a Transactional
Analysts by introducing the Nurturing Parent into the
situation. Use of the therapist’s Parent and Child (as when
having fun during therapy) makes the transactional
analyst 300% more effective than the professional who
uses only one-third of his personality, and relates to
clients only with his or her Adult. Since people are born
princes and princesses and turned into frogs by their
parents, it stands to reason that with competent help they
can return to their original OK position. Good therapists or
teachers are not magicians, they just know what to do and
when to do it.
The capacity to be OK is waiting in every person ready to
be released from the prohibitions of the Pig Parent.
Transactional analysts know that by effectively analyzing
people’s transactions and powerfully giving people
permission to change and protecting them from their fears,
it is possible for everyone no matter how joyless, loveless
or powerless to become happy, loving and productive.

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