“I’ve never done it, so I think I can”
– Pippi Longstocking –
How do you find a balance between being yourself and meeting up to expections of other?
Did you use to watch Pippi Longstocking? And you were a little bit jealous too? Lovely how stubborn, obstinate and headstrong she is and how nothing puts her off. She’s a free as a bird! That’s what we all want, don’t we? And yet we often don’t! Why?
How do we notice this in our own lives?
On the outside it probably looks like you’ve it completely together. You have got an interesting job as an entrepreneur. Or you are a manager, a caretaker, a teacher, a coach. Something you can tell your friends and aquaintances about. You’re busy and you feel appreciated. Everything is running smoothly! And yet… Inside something is eating you. Suddenly you’re thinking: ‘Is this it?’ Is there any room for my spontaneity? My life rattles on and I’ve any control over it! I want to have control over it again!
What has got you into this situation? Why do you suddenly feel unhappy and rebellious? And how can Transactional Analysis (TA) help you change this ? How can you be yourself? That is what this blog is all about.
Now, just a little bit of theory on the ‘Ego States’ model that is used in TA, it won’t be long. We’ll get back to you in a minute ;).
Transactional Analysis (TA) uses the Ego States model. It shows us that we can position us in three ways when communicating. Three ego states, in other words. Three ways of functioning and communicating.
- The Free Child and the Adapted Child
A Free Child is stubborn and headstrong. Just like Pippi Longstocking. It is the part of us that is creative. The part that makes us think completely differently, that makes us dare to feel and behave differently from the others. This is where our spontaneity comes from. We are all unique creatures and we are all different from each other. We have our own-ness.
As children we learn to adapt to the expectations of society. This is what we call the Adapted Child. There is nothing wrong with adapting. It is necessary to work together constructively and to live together without problems.
Sometimes we do just the opposite of adaptation. We rebel against the expectations of the others, just because we feel like being uncooperative. That is the Rebellious Child.
This is different from what Pippi Longstocking does. She never intends to be uncooperative, but she want to do things her way. That is the Free Child. And those a two completely different things.
Our society puts many expectations upon us. Parents have a task to educate their children. They tell their children how to behave if they would like to be accepted in society. That’s how children learn to take responsibility.
We position ourselves as a Parents when talking about our expectations. Towards ourselves of towards others. Also when we help others, we position ourselves as Parents.
From our Adult ego state, we evaluated all the information and take a decision. If you think well about it, consider what you feel and want, and take into consideration the standards and values, you can function well from your Adult ego state.
The Adult considers the contribution of all positions and then takes a decision. A good decision makes the Child happy and gets the approval of the Parent.
Nice and lovely, Linda! But where does it go wrong?
When the equilibrum between the three ego states is lost, you become out of balance. Then, the Child and the Parent in you start fighting. It’s a fight between “what you should do’ and ‘what you really want’. Between ‘should’ and ‘the Pippi Longstocking inside of you’.
How come? Well, there is a simple explanation for this. On the one hand, you adapt (Adapted Child) to what the Parent in you expects. On the other hand there are your deepest wishes and desires, the ones you really dream about (Free Child – Pippi Longstocking).
Sometimes you even feel ashamed of your wishes and desires, your ‘stubbornness’. You prefer to belong and be accepted rather than to listen to your Free Child, to what you really want. You are scared of who you are and you start rejecting yourself deep inside. Being normal and not standing out becomes more important than living your life fully. When this happens, there is a wide gap between your inside and your outside. You don’t let your stubborn identity be seen.
Fighting with yourself – don’t forget that all three ego states come from your own mind – is very tiring at that moment. On the outside it looks as if you’ve go it all together, but deep inside something’s eating and undermining yo. You’re ‘keeping up appearances’!
Why are you doing this ?
Usually the cause of this problem goes back to education. Often shame is used as a method to make something clear to children. If you behaved bad as a child, you might have been told “shame on you!”. Or, if you had your own opinion and you had the nerve to give it, you were told ‘who do you think you are?’.
Sometimes it is ventilated more subtly during education. Your dad or your mom might have listened genuinely and subsequently told you: ‘Why don’t you do this or that?’. Dismissing your ideas as unimportant, though in a friendly manner.
The choices your parents made were what they thought best in that situation, regardless of what you thought about it. They did not really consider your opinion and might even have considered it to be troublesome.
At that moment you were left alone with your own opinion, your stubbornness and obstinacy. Even a child has desires, needs and feelings that come with this. So do you! When they are not recognized and identified, you start to think that you are only OK when you meet society’s conditions: Studying, finding a good job, working hard and taking responsibility. And you start to feel ashamed of your own stubbornness.
As an adult you carry these ideas from you education with you and keep taking them into consideration. That is why you make choices part of you does not support and you lose your individuality. That’s where it goes wrong.
How can TA help you with this?
It can be different! How do you adopt a lifestyle giving a role to Pippi Longstocking without leaving her completely in command? You have to gain insight into what your own ‘I’ needs and what is keeping you. You can do this by going through the different ideas and looking at them in an objective way. This is what the following exercice does.
Take a piece of paper and draw three circles or three columns, one for each position in the Ego States model. Think of a situation or part of your life you’re not feeling good about, and fill in words, ideas and guidelines for each position.
Mark you! Be honest and objective with yourself and remember that none of these positions is positive or negative. Each position gives you meaningful and valuable insights. Every position should be filled, even if you feel some resistance.
You start with the Parent position:
As a Critical Parent, you ask yourself: When am I (too) hard on myself? For example: to be OK, I have to work harder. I should produce more results. You repeat in your head all the critical things you have heard from your parents. And you write them down.
As a Caring Parents, you ask yourself: what would be good for me, what do I allow myself ? For example: I allow myself to take more holidays. I allow myself to get coaching. You repeat all the good advice you’ve ever been given or that you would give yourself.
Subsequently you look from the Child:
From the Free Child ego state you start thinking what you really would like to do. What you really want for yourself. For example: for me to feel calm, to go on a journey, to bake an apple pie.
As and Adapted Child, you ask yourself: What am I afraid of? What makes me feel small? What do I feel ashamed of?
Let the Rebellious Child be heard: What do I fight against? When am I uncooperative?
Finally you look at the situation from your Adult ego state:
If I put that all into perspective, then I come to the conclusion that the best solution is …’
And Pippi is back!
This exercise helps you to recognize the thoughts that stop you from being yourself and those that are right to function in society. It gives you the freedom to make a choice that fits you. Because when doing this exercise, you consider the opinion of all positions, including Pippi’s.
Would you like to get started?
Would you like to understand how to get more of yourself and take a big step forward? Would you like to learn how to make choices that put you into rather than out of balance? Then register for the two-day Introduction to Transactional Analysis. You’ll find out more about the Ego States model and other tools and models. You will learn to look at your communication in a different way and you will understand yourself better. Transactional Analysis provides you with tools to be yourself.