Transactional analysis analyzes people at four levels. Each level has its own distinct ramifications. The individual is seen as starting out with acceptance and psychological health in childhood and these get messed up along the way by various influences:
1) Structural analysis – the individual’s personality. These consist of the three conscious or preconscious ego states of Parent, Adult and Child. As noted in the previous article, “Parent” is the composite of memories of how others regarded us, the “Adult” is the processor of the other two ego states and the “Child” is the desire of the child within us that refuses to ever grow up. The parent can be sub-divided into distinct, sometimes, conflicting, sub-components, such as the Nurturing Parent, the Critical Parent, and so on.
Stanton L. Jones gives an account of how this might look from a Christian perspective: “The preacher proclaiming universal sinfulness is in the Critical Parent; the charismatic believer dancing before the Lord in ecstasy is in the Natural Child; the student in a Bible study on major doctrines of the church is in the Adult; the penitent saying confession before a priest is in the Adapted Child; and so forth. Healthy individuals are able to act out of each of the ego states, but will spend the majority of their experience int he Adult, Natural Child and Nurturing Parent (in that order). The influence of the Critical Parent and Adapted Child are to be minimized.”
Problems occur when an individual spends too much time in one of these states or slips between them in an unstable manner. Furthermore, individuals are seen as needing stimulus-hunger responses known as “strokes.” These allow the individual to feel recognized.
2) Transactional analysis – the individual’s interpersonal interactions. “Transactions” occur between such ego states. Transactions are seen to be healthy when they complement one another. For example, when one ego state says “I’ll never learn calculus!” and another says “Yes you will, you are very smart!” they are parallel or complementary. They are unhealthy when they are crossed, however. Pathological transactions occur when the states are “crossed” such as Stanton L. Jones’ example of when a student asks for more clarification on a lesson from a teacher and the teacher tells the student that he should have paid attention in class.
Humans have stimulus-hunger and structure-hunger. We want to be recognized and we want to have stability in our transactions. Some people take no risks because they feel vulnerable and they miss out on intimacy, and others are more spontaneous and are able to accept unpredictability in relationships. There are other concepts important to transactional analysis as well, such as rituals, which are predictable interactions with others.
3) Racket and game analysis – looks at repetitive interpersonal patterns that are dysfunctional. Each human inhabits a life position concerning whether or not we accept ourselves and others. Related to this is the concept of position-hunger. We want our basic life-positions affirmed by others. This is where rackets and games come in. A racket is a habitual way of feeling that we nurse. An example of this might involve being perpetually in the grip of self-pity. People are seen as playing “games” when they seek out confirmation of their negative position assumption instead of allowing unpredictable intimacy to occur. In the words of Stanton L. Jones, “Rather than allowing unpredictable intimacy to occur, they predetermine the outcome of the transactions by engaging in ulterior and crossed transactions to make a predictable outcome happen. The payoff if the confirmation of their assumption; the game works when the assumption of not-OKness is confirmed by the reaction of the other with whom the game has been played.”
4) Script analysis – examines life patterns on a broad, thematic level. Tendencies towards bad transactions are constructed toward a specific end:
“In discussing scripting, TA therapists assume that bad transactions, rackets and games do not occur at random, but are patterned toward a desired end. Scripts encapsulate a person’s life direction, one’s life themes. Scripts re set up for the person at an early age, usually by the parents. In the publication of some TA experts, scripts consist largely of grand injunctions against certain critical, healthy life developments or processes. Examples include scripts of Don’t feel, Don’t Get Close, Don’t Grow Up, Don’t Be Childish or Don’t Succeed. For others, scripts are defined temporally, such as the Always script of unyielding consistency, the Never script of total pessimism and the Almost script of never-ending near-misses. Some define scripts in terms of life-theme cliches, such as Getting Even, Being Helpful, Carrying My Cross or Looking for the Pot of Gold. Finally, some define scripts in terms of childhood mythology, with the belief that adults live out literary metaphors from childhood that have some to symbolize their lives; these would include the Cinderella script of sighing and waiting for the invitation to the ball to arrive, or the Peter Pan script of refusing to grow up.”
While there may be certain senses in which transactional analysis can offer insight into the human condition, it must be avoided by the Christian at points during which it is clearly in opposition to Christian doctrine. For example, TA regards humans as basically “okay” at birth, shortly after which we become. Furthermore, TA is inordinately behavioristic. In addition to its view of morality which rejects the existence of original sin, they excuse sinful behavior and conduct by making it all a question of environmental influences:
“…full-blooded hatred, human rebellion against God and the like become mere “mistakes” that flow from our psychological conditioning. The result of this is that TA lacks a compelling moral vision. morality in the TA system means acting spontaneously out of the Natural Child as moderated by the Adult ego state. This reduces to a typical humanistic self-actualization ethic where it is presumed that all fully functioning persons will naturally act in moral accord. As Malony said, “TA does not analyze the human condition with enough seriousness, and thus it lacks the power to transform persons from scripts to freedom.””
From the Christian perspective, it is not “strokes” of recognition that the individual needs, but a relationship with the Triune God on a vertical level and with a Christian community, on the horizontal level. Humanity’s problem is ultimately the guilt and corruption of sin and the task of being saved from the forensic judgment consequent upon these, through being reconciled to God through the redeeming death and blood of Jesus Christ.