No, this isn’t a dialogue at the sandbox between two new moms.
Dr. Eric Berne served up his psychological ideas in the 1950’s by subdividing our “selves” into three states: parent, adult, and child. One of the best books on this topic is Born to Win: Transactional Analysis with Gestalt Experiments By Muriel James and Dorothy Jongeward.
I read Born to Win in the early 1980’s. How I interacted with my husband Judge Blah, my prince, changed after that read.
According to Dr. Berne, as fully functioning human beings, we should be moving gracefully from ego state to ego state at the appropriate times. Visualize a snowman, made up of three circles the size of nickels. The top one is the parent; the middle, the adult; the bottom, the child. Now draw a vertical line through the snowman, cutting him in half. On that line, our ego state should be moving fluidly, up and down, depending on the situation.
Adult State: When we arrive at a formal dinner party at Buckingham Palace with the Queen of England, our adult should be in charge, adhering to protocol and offering tasty bits of upper crust wisdom that would surely please the Queen.
Parent State: When our teenager comes home drunk and past curfew, our parent should kick in and admonish our late and tipsy teen by lecturing her, grounding her, and ruining her life for at least one month. Note: in some unfortunate instances, the actual parent’s child kicks in and has a drink with his kid.
Child State: When we go on a cruise with our best friends, we allow our child to play and have fun, so we participate in karaoke, belting out New York, New York in a swaying room to perfect strangers. Never mind that we hold responsible jobs back in the States. Start spreading the news…
Most of us do not have three nickel sized circles as ego states. Instead, ours are concentric, creating the imbalance that screws up some of our transactions with others.
My snowman looks like this:
My parent state at the top is the size of a dime.
My adult state in the middle is the size of a nickel.
My child state at the bottom is the size of a half dollar.
What this neat little packaged image means is that I am slow to judge, act appropriately in business dealings, and relish a good time.
Judge Blah’s snowman looks like this:
His parent is the size of a half dollar.
His adult is the size of a quarter.
His child is the size of an electron.
What this neat little packaged image means is that he is quick to Judge (Blah), is always well mannered, and schedules a fun activity every third Sunday of the month from 3-5pm.
One doesn’t have to have a doctorate from the Freud Institute in Vienna to analyze our conflicts.
And yet, I chose him for his steadfast maturity and wisdom.
He chose me for my zest for life and humor.
What makes the relationship work is that we each are influenced by the gravitational pull of our personalities.
Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2008 Sedona, Arizona Toad Sculpture