Eric Berne was the founder of the therapeutic method known as Transactional Analysis, he was a psychiatrist from Montreal (Canada) who lived between 1910 and 1970. Berne studied in his native city and in Yale University, United States, including in his education the ideas of psychoanalysis, under tutors Paul Federn and Erik Erikson (specialists who based their practice on the knowledge of the Self).

However, Eric Berne was always more interested in finding an effective psychotherapeutic method which could go further than both the psychoanalytic model or any other form of therapy. He began to organize seminars with colleagues who practiced group therapy to develop a social psychiatry, in terms of that being structured according to the interactions between individuals depending on the states in which they handled their Self (the so-called Psychological Transactions). From these experiences and his own experience as a soldier in World War II, where he expanded his theories on intuition, his first book was completed, ‘Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy’ (1961). Although he was developing this method for 12 years and his book was a step forward for the study of Interpersonal, Group and Mass Communication, it was not well received by psychoanalysts; the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Society rejected him as a member.

We owe Dr. Eric Berne the notions related to personality models, the need of caress or stimuli to mature as human beings and the approach of a Script of Life sometimes unconscious and sometimes rooted in social and family beliefs.

These models of personality or Ego states are three: Parent, Adult and Child. During the day or a period of time, we can feel, believe and act on them, that is to say, as a very influential someone in our childhood (generically called Parent, but it could be any relative, teacher or friend); as someone who acts with their context and uses their knowledge and experience (Adult); or as someone impulsive, fickle and spontaneous (Child). From these perspectives, we set up relationships and social activities (transactions), well described in his best-selling book ‘Games People Play’.

Within these games, in his Theory of Communication, the psychiatrist also described the essential hungers of individuals: stimulus, recognition and structure. To improve and to interact, caressing is necessary. When others recognize us positively or negatively, it even helps define our life to ourselves and to our position in the world. Social interaction would be the response of people to these caresses or stimuli.

These transactions are also defining in shaping our Script of Life, another concept associated to Transactional Analysis. From childhood, we learn behaviours, permissions and taboos that lead us to act in a certain way and to believe that we cannot get out of that Script. Recently, the definition of these “existential positions” has meant the starting point for therapies that seek to break with the self-beliefs and to transform us into what we can become going by our potential.

Dr. Berne ideas regarding all this:


Instead of encouraging people to live bravely in an old miserable world, we can make them live happily in a brave new world.


The Child in the person is potentially able to contribute to their personality as a happy child and real to contribute to family life.


When the intuitive layout is strong, brings up a feeling of certainty that is difficult to shake.


Scripts are artificial systems that limit spontaneous and creative human aspirations, just as games are artificial structures that limit spontaneous and creative intimacy.


Arguments are meant to last a lifetime. Decisions are based on childhood and constantly enhanced parental programming. The reinforcement may take the form of daily contact, like men who work for their father, or women who telephone their mother every morning to chat, or may be applied less frequently and more subtle, but with the same force, through an occasional meeting. After parents’ death, instructions may be remembered more vividly than ever.


Each person designs their own life, freedom gives them the power to carry out their own designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others.


We are born princes and the civilizing process makes us frogs.


Awareness requires living in the here and now, not in the elsewhere, the past or the future.


A loser doesn’t know what he’ll do if he loses but talks about what he’ll do if he wins and a winner doesn’t talk about what he’ll do if he wins but knows what he’ll do if he loses.


A healthy person goes “Yes”, “No” and “Whoopee!”. An unhealthy person goes “Yes, but”, “No, but” and “No whoopee”.


Let’s reflect on these ways of understanding both the individual and people in society. Eric Berne’s work is always a finding for doing it.


Have a good week,


Álex Rovira

Alex Rovira