A summary of TA concepts

Unconscious Motivators

As indicated previously, TA treatment focuses primarily the here-and-now without seeking to analyze deeply into the unconscious. However, it is undeniable that many important choices in life can be motivated by unconscious drives. Their impact must be recognized, particularly when a client deals with major life commitments or changes (e.g. regarding career or marriage) or wonders about having engaged in certain past behaviors that now seem strange.

To address such situations, I have added the concept of unconscious motivators to basic transactional analysis. I use the term “motivators” rather than drives because my definition of these differs significantly from Freud’s. (see English, l998, 2003).

The three Motivators are: The Survival Motivator, the Expressive or Passionate Motivator, and the Transcendence or Quiescence Motivator. Each Motivator has distinct functions and can affect our ego states with its particular attributes, yearnings or feelings.

Specifically the survival motivator functions for individual survival. It stimulates feelings and needs for action to ensure such survival. Therefore it brings on attributes such as hunger, thirst, feeling cold, fear, and need for protection and strokes; it also promotes survival conclusions.

The expressive/passionate motivator functions for species survival. In all animals this occurs thanks to procreation, so sexuality is an important attribute of this motivator. However procreation alone would not have sufficed for the survival of the human species; we would have been annihilated long ago by more powerful animals. Fortunately our species has evolved by adding many more attributes to this motivator. For instance it promotes curiosity and attraction to adventure and risk-taking. These attributes led our forbearers to the creative inventions, discoveries and explorations that have enabled our species to survive and become the most powerful on earth.

Lastly, the transcendence/quiescence motivator functions to maintain our quiet connection to the universe and to transcend daily life through, for example, spirituality, meditation, and also by sleep. It fosters peacefulness, restfulness, harmony, and detachment from overwhelming anxiety.

Scripts. Berne noted that most of us seem to operate with “an unconscious life plan” to which he gave the name of “script”. Scripts are adaptations of early childhood reactions and experiences, and although Berne (l961) wrote that “neurotic, psychotic and psychopathic scripts are almost always tragic,” he also added that “a practical and constructive script ……may lead to great happiness”.( p..116) Unfortunately there has been a tendency among some transactional analysts to forget that Berne indicated that constructive scripts can lead to happiness. They thus sometimes erroneously confuse scripts with dysfunctional archaic survival conclusions. Yet just because someone may be functioning with certain harmful archaic survival conclusions that need to be changed, it does not mean that their entire script should be thrown overboard. Quite the contrary, as I have spelled out elsewhere (English, l977b, l979, l988)

Posted in Frontpage Article, TA Articles.


  1. This is the first time that I heard about this South Asian TA Association.

    Presently I am a member of ITAA. I am here residing in the Philippines.

    How can I be member of SAATA?

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