Updated: Aug 15
Do you ever feel like you are managing a room full of children?
The last few months have definitely brought a huge variety of emotions and behaviours. Having some time to think about them instead of rushing around you might be looking for answers. Please note these are my personal observations and experience and if you suffer from any mental health issues, please do seek medical help.
I don't know about you but I can recall more than one occasion when I felt like a two year old having a full blown tantrum rather than an adult. On the other hand my seven year old daughter showed very mature behaviour.
I've known about Transactional Analysis for few years now and I still find it fascinating and surprising that we're not taught this at school. At least the principle so here it is.
In nineteen fifties, the psychologist Eric Berne developed an idea that people can switch between different states of mind, sometimes even in the same conversation and certainly in different areas of their lives like home or work. The idea is based on three states we all operate from The Parent, The Child and The Adult. Lets have a look at each one and what behaviour is specific for each state:
This state is influenced by our own parents and other people of authority in our lives like teachers or other members of family. Typical clues would be hands on hips, pursed lips, pointing index finger, arms crossed across chest, sighing, being critical, judgmental, but also supportive and nurturing. Words often heard when in the Parent state are nonsense, naughty, How dare you!, lazy, stupid, disgusting, poor thing, Not again! should.
It is important to keep in mind that these are clues and are not conclusive.
This is our Childlike not childish behaviour which has roots in our early childhood. As children our early responses are non verbal and so in the Child state, physical responses are most readily apparent, like tears, temper tantrums (I didn't throw myself onto the floor), eyes rolling,, shrugging of the shoulders, hand raising for permission to speak, giggling, delight, laughter. Words often used are I don't care, I want, I don't know, I guess, I wish...Favourite game 'Mine is better'.
As grown up adults w can find ourselves in the Child state especially when the emotions are high. Once you are able to recognise different states you will be able to control your responses better depending on the environment.
When we are not telling people what to do or having a temper tantrum, we are in our Adult state. Reasonable, logical, interested, asking questions instead of making assumptions, listening , accepting other peoples opinions even if it's different from ours.
Staying in Adult state can help us avoid many conflicts, whether at home or work. When you feel yourself reacting emotionally it means you're entering your Child state. It's up to you to change it. One way to over come this is to remind yourself what state you would like to be in or how (un)helpful your behaviour will be in given situation.
If you're a parent you will experience all sorts. I'm trying to be honest with my daughter when I act like a child so she knows we can all get into different states and there is no shame in it. In fact instead of an argument escalating we can laugh at my immature behaviour but also teach my children that nobody is perfect and we all have days when we want to act like a two year old. As long as we can bounce back.
Awareness is a powerful tool to deal with many issues. It is the unknown that often makes us agitated because we don't know what to fix. Behaviour can be complex but in many cases it's pretty straight forward. If someone you're talking to responds in their Child state is it because you spoke to them from your Parent state? How can you move the conversation into Adult state? This doesn't apply in families. I often see those in charge behaving like parents. No wonder they get bunch of child like responses or another 'Who are you to tell me what to do' Parent like response.
If you're struggling with behaviour (not medical)then , please get in touch and we can shed a bit of light into the patterns of your communication.