TA: An Elegant Theory


Schemas, according to Young (1999), are deep cognitive structures that enable an individual to interpret his or her experiences in a meaningful way. He assumes that, because schemas are formed in response to experiences over a lifetime, they can be restructured. This is the basis of redecision therapy (Goulding & Goulding, 1997), a transactional analytic practice that focuses on a “redecision” of the early decisions that are the foundation of a person’s script.

Young expands on this theme with his concept of “maladaptive schemas.” The notion that such “life scripts” can be redecided plays an important part in the American Psychological Association’s cognitive-behavioral therapy manual for depression (Persons, Davidson, & Tompkins, 2001). “Schema change methods” are outlined as strategies designed to “restructure maladaptive core beliefs” responsible for depression.

There are, of course, a number of tragic life scripts documented in the clinical literature as well as in fiction and nonfiction, such as mental illness, depression/suicide, criminality, alcoholism, and other chemical dependencies (Steiner, 1971).

Regarding games, Berne postulated that they are the building blocks of scripts; without the continuous playing of games, scripts cannot advance. Berne assigned roles to the players in games and suggested that they are interchangeable. Karpman (1968) narrowed the roles that are essential to any one game to three: Rescuer, Victim, and Persecutor. The familiar Rescuer-Persecutor-Victim cycle or “Rescue Game” is widely recognized as “codependency” in the twelve-step movement. Not playing the various roles of the “Alcoholic” game as recommended by Berne is a basic strategy in Alanon. The proposition that codependent (Rescuing) behavior leads to Persecution and Victimization has not been tested, but it is one of those intuitive Bernean bull’s-eyes that resonate in everyone’s experience.

Nothing in the academic or research literature seems to refer to games or similar concepts, although in popular culture, from which the term “game” derives, there is an intuitive understanding of their occurrence and their negative impact.

Posted in Frontpage Article, TA Articles.

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