I wanted to combine the idea of ego states (Parent, Adult and Child) from Transactional Analysis into my practitioner course, but was concerned that it wasn’t NLP – the idea of ‘parts’ and that ‘NLP is a model not a theory’ seemed to contradict these more concrete concepts. We had a discussion and he explained his model of the human psyche which he was teaching with Robert that week. This helped me to frame the material and I will explain how Stephen’s model seems to fit quite neatly with certain parts of Transactional Analysis.

The Parent (or Freud’s Superego) is a collection of principles, ideas, beliefs and commands that act like ‘recordings’ to help us navigate our way in the complex world we live in. The more negative aspects of this Parent,  Stephen called ‘The Alien’. This is something that has invaded us and is not us; it speaks to us with ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ but it has been planted in our heads, just like an alien. I liked the humour of this idea, but also the implied principle that so often our limiting beliefs are not ‘us’, they are simply ideas we took on in early childhood in error. Children simply accept things they are told and lack the necessary analytical skills to question their validity. The Parent’s ‘inner voices’ are then like an alien: they are telling us to do things that we never actually decided were ‘true’ or ‘false’. The process of growing up involves adopting thousands of beliefs that we accepted at the time; this helped us rapidly develop a model of the world where we could function safely without constant parental supervision. However, the downside of this process is that we unconsciously hold all kinds of bizarre and limiting beliefs.

The Child in Transactional Analysis is an amalgamation of all of the emotional states we developed through our life. We have all had the experience of seeing someone who becomes very excited,  and we smile, knowing that they would have behaved exactly the same way when they were five years old. The Child also contains our ability for creativity and intuition. Eric Berne, the founder of transactional analysis, said that the Child Ego State is much like having a child in your own home. At times they are charming, inspirational and fun, at others sulky, aggressive and cruel. Stephen has talked about similar aspects of the psyche, which he calls “The wounded self”. During his description, I noticed he was gesturing to his belly and spoke in a heartfelt way of the pain and neglect that remains within us from our childhoods. He explained that this is the wounded self and our job is to learn how to heal and manage this part.

The Adult (or Freud’s Ego) is the part of us that acts in the moment and is in flow. It can be the arbitrator between the Child and Parent and is our ‘grown up’ part. I believe it is our updated unconscious and conscious minds. It knows when to access our analytical mind when something important comes up (See Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow.) Stephen calls this the Conscious Cognitive mind.

Gilligan’s Field Mind is something that is not in Transactional Analysis, but is very much part of third generation NLP. This is closer to Jung’s collective unconscious. I interpret this as something that is both part of us and bigger than us.  I also believe that there is a benevolent force that generally good things will prevail.  I have called it a content-free form of faith. Eric Berne did not seem to believe in anything beyond the human psyche and was quite cynical about new age type things. Although I partly share his scepticism; I have found that believing that there are positive forces that can influence my life beyond me, has allowed me to be less controlling and unexpectedly good results have followed.

I look forward to learning Stephen’s Coaching course this week and hope you can make it (http://www.nlpschool.com/ for more details). I sense that the content he has developed with Robert Dilts will help coaching evolve,  just in the way he has influenced changes in NLP over the past ten years.

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