Transactional Analysis

With Transactional Analysis, Eric Berne made complex interpersonal transactions understandable especially the “games” that the “inner child” plays in order to gain recognition from others.

viennaEric Berne (1910-1970) the founder of Transactional Analysis (center) with Claude Steiner (front,) Jack Dusay (back) and Pamela Blum while attending the 1968 International Congress for Group Psychotherapy in Vienna.

Transactional Analysis is poised to enter the third millennium; a highly effective, information based psychology and psychiatry of human communication.

Continue reading “Transactional Analysis”

Transactional Analysis and Psychoanalysis: Writing Styles


The author compares the languages of transactional analysis and psychoanalysis and argues that in his break with psychoanalysis, Eric Berne took leave, primarily, of the linguistic and therefore conceptual style of psychoanalysis. He sought to write, speak, and think about observable phenomena with the use of verbs and concrete nouns instead of adjectives and abstract nouns, which he characterized as “jazz.” This initial linguistic transformation profoundly affected transactional analysis methodology. Continue reading “Transactional Analysis and Psychoanalysis: Writing Styles”

Forget the Unconscious; An Essay

by Claude Steiner PhD

Often in discussing transactional analysis with fellow professionals I find that they express astonishment over our apparent rejection of “the unconscious.”

Clearly, consciousness is only the tip of the mental iceberg. We have been accused of being over-simple but we are not so simple as to doubt that obvious fact.
Let me first state Berne’s position. Berne was always respectful of psychoanalytic theory and at no time quibbled with any of the major concepts in that system. He simply believed that there was a better way of curing patients and he agreed with Freud that psychoanalysis probably was not an effective method to produce cures. Berne was a logical positivist and an admirer of Ludwig Wittgenstein who was a vehement supporter of speaking only of the observable and verifiable.
Regarding concepts such as masochism, transference or the unconscious he wanted us to use them in a precise manner, as defined by Freud. Masochism, he reminded us is the sexual enjoyment of pain; he objected to the use of masochism in the vulgar sense of self-defeating behavior. The unconscious is not merely subconscious, preconscious or out of awareness but dynamically repressed Oedipal ideation kept out of awareness by a certain amount of permanently cathected energy..
A huge amount of significant “mental” –neural– activity takes place out of awareness that is not, in the psychoanalytic sense, unconscious. It is also quite possible that some ideation is not merely out of awareness but dynamically repressed in the manner described by Freud. Those legitimate, unconscious phenomena should not be confused with simple unawareness. Often what gets defined as unconscious is simply an idea that the client, who didn’t trust his therapist sufficiently chose to keep to him or herself; to call that idea unconscious is what Berne called a “jazzy” excuse for the therapist’s lack of attunement skills.
Any one who wants to be precise as Berne did will avoid the indiscriminate use of the unconscious concept. For myself , as a transactional analyst who believes in talking only about that which I can examine with my senses, I seldom use the term, and never in therapy except “between quotes.”.
The unconscious, the id, the seething cauldron are colorful, historically useful, enormously popular metaphors whose reality is, so far, unverifiable. (since whatever is dynamically repressed is not readily available for measurement) When discussed, it is probably best spoken about with a healthy skepticism.
A matter, you might say, of semantics. Yet more needs to be said. There is tension within transactional analysis regarding its relationship, past and present, with psychoanalysis (PA). No one can argue that our theory is not connected to PA; Berne’s early training was certainly psychoanalytic and permanently influenced him. Everyone who thinks psychologically today is informed by psychoanalysis: we fully accept the fact that childhood events affect us a grown ups, that childhood sexuality is a fact and a determinant of our personalities and, of course, that consciousness is only a fraction of our mental life.
But there is something else operating within TA regarding psychoanalytic thinking and practice. A colleague recently stated in a letter to me that “the reality is that where TA is thriving -attracting trainees and publishable material, the interest is towards developing its psychoanalytic roots.” I certainly see (and regard with alarm) the interest toward developing the psychoanalytic roots of TA, which I suppose I have made sufficiently clear, is both regressive and lacking in courage. I know those are strong words but I cannot find a better, less offensive way of expressing what I believe is going on. Regressive because it is going back historically within a discipline (transactional analysis) which was developed by Berne as a counterpoint, and in dialectical opposition to (PA). Lacking in courage because it takes a safe, armchair, philosophical, one-to-one, mental approach to the world’s most pressing problems when what we need is a risk-taking, pragmatic, action oriented, group based approach. TA needs practitioners who are proud to be just that–transactional analysts– instead of dissimulating their allegiance to TA and taking safe haven in their consulting rooms, cozy with psychoanalytic ideation and its tortured, largely unread prose.
I am firmly committed to offer an alternative to this “interest toward developing psychoanalytic roots.” My guess is that TA thrives wherever it is taught because it is TA. When it is taught with “psychoanalytic tendencies,” people are interested in spite of them rather that because of them. What makes TA thrive are TA’s core concepts on one hand and trainers who are fair, loving and devoted on the other.
Ultimately my position concerning Berne’s contribution—that all there is to know about people can be learned from their transactions–is that it was as farsighted in his time as Freud’s was in his and that it has not even begun to be understood, even within TA, and even as it has already influenced the helping professions indelibly.
Claude Steiner

Interview: On the Early Years of Transactional Analysis. Eric Berne and his disciple Claude Steiner

Claude Steiner (Berkeley/U.S.A.) interviewed by Dr. Anne Kohlhaas-Reith (Waldkirch/Germany)

On Claude’s Relationship with Eric
On Eric’s Views on Therapy
On Eric’s Therapeutic Method
On Eric’s Intellectual Attitudes and Similarities with Claude
On Eric’s and Claude’s Relationship to the T.A. Organization
On Strokes
On Eric’s and Claude’s Intellectual Relationship
On T.A. Membership and Exams
On Claude’s Contribution to T.A.
On Eric-Claude Parallels Continue reading “Interview: On the Early Years of Transactional Analysis. Eric Berne and his disciple Claude Steiner”

Stroke-Centered Transactional Analysis

By the time he finished Games People Play, Eric Berne’s transactional analysis theory had almost ten years to differentiate itself from psychoanalytic thinking and to mature in its own right. In the Introduction to that book, Berne laid out his stroke theory and made it clear that he considered strokes to be the fundamental motive for human behavior and the reason why people play games. He wrote:

The individual for the rest of his life (after infancy) is confronted with a dilemma upon whose horns his destiny and survival are continually tossed. One horn is the social, psychological and biological forces which stand in the way of continued physical intimacy in the infant style and the other is his perpetual striving for its attainment. (p. 14)

The following stroke-centered theory of transactional analysis is substantially based on Berne’s theory of strokes. Continue reading “Stroke-Centered Transactional Analysis”