Richard Maun – Four Ways That Two Ego States Interact

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Four Ways That Two Ego States Interact

26 July 2010

One way to play with cards! What does your Parent say though?

One way to play with cards! What does your Parent say though?

There are many ways that we can interact with eachother and now that school’s out for the summer there will be many families who witness more whinging, sulking and general grousing. And that’s just from mum and dad….

…you can almost smell the Child Ego State at work here and when we think about being in our Parent or our Child there are four typical ways people tend to communicate. Of course there are always nuances of behaviour and complex conversations, so all we’re doing here is taking a fat brush to conversations and painting them in four big stripes.

1) Parent to Parent
Arguing over who’s in charge, or who really knows best…you see this in the school playground when two mums tell eachother how they would run the school. Also, this is often seen when two managers at work are talking at (not to) each other to establish who is top dog.

2) Parent to Child
Telling someone what to do and expecting them to be a good boy/girl and get on with it. This is sometimes disguised as ‘asking’ and can still be telling…this is what my Child tends to rebel against, when it has flounced off in a huff, to sulk for a bit. Telling and asking can also be friendly and supportive, so we don’t want to think of things as just being negative. Likewise, when we’re taking care of our team, or partner, it’s likely that our Parent is addressing their Child.

3) Child to Parent
If we’re unsure, nervous, unwell, or need someone to guide us it’s quite likely that in our Child we will hook the other person’s Parent, so that they take the leadership position and sort things out for us. I’ve seen an unhealthy example in an office recently, where an Assistant kept using her ‘lost and confused’ look to snag a Manager into doing the work for her. Sometimes our need to be looked after is genuine and healthy and sometimes we might simply be avoiding taking responsibility ourselves.

4) Child to Child
Ever played with your partner (you can define ‘play’), or had a joke at work? Of course you have and these are classic interactions where our natural Child energy is there for all to see. Being creative, solving problems with intuition, having fun, or perhaps crying together, are all examples of when we’re all in our Child Ego State. Watch out though after a hard day at work, when both of you are in your Child and looking for someone to be the Parent and do the looking after…’No, you cook dinner!’…’NO! It’s your turn to do dinner!!’ …sound familiar?

Once we can see what is happening we can make decisions to continue or to change. Do we keep playing, or do we cook dinner, or take the lead, or ask for help? We can enjoy noticing how well we communicate with others and can stop and do things differently if we feel things spiralling into an argument.

When we’re tired or stressed it’s likely that we will be in either our Parent or our Child and so given the nature or looking after the kids for six weeks, or going ‘on holiday to relax’ many of us will have ample opportunity to spot patterns of Ego State behaviour over the summer. The trick here is to be honest and to ask for what we need from those around us. Even if that means asking the kids to prepare dinner once in a while!*

Our Task For This Week

Is to…have fun noticing Ego States. Perhaps watch EastEnders….who is in their Parent and who is in their Child?

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Thank you for reading to the end…

Next week is about the Adult Ego State and part two of ‘Icecream Story’…


*Assuming you’re not expecting a five year old to rustle up anything too fancy!

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