Eric William Sigmund, M.A., C.M.
Eric Sigmund discovered Transactional Analysis in 1966, through Dr. Eric Berne’s acclaimed book Games People Play. Less than two decades later, Mr. Sigmund was a co-recipient of the Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award, the highest award given by the International Transactional Analysis Association for original contributions to the theory and practice of Transactional Analysis.
He began his formal study of Transactional Analysis at the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1969. Mr. Sigmund has a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and has been certified by the International Transactional Analysis Association as a transactional analyst with a clinical specialization since 1972. He has served on the International Transactional Analysis Association board of trustees and on the editorial board of the Transactional Analysis Journal.
Twenty-seven of Mr. Sigmund’s clinical articles on the theory and practice of Transactional Analysis have been published in a variety of professional journals, many of them reprinted multiple times and in several languages. Among them are the 1975 Transactional Analysis Journal articles “Discounting” and “Redefining,” for which he and co-author Kenneth Mellor won the 1980 Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award.
In his groundbreaking 1998 article “The Conscious Natural Child,” Mr. Sigmund identified the connection between negative internal dialogues and the neurobiological stimulation of the brain’s limbic system, a stimulation that produces adrenaline (epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol) and escalates negative speech and actions. In this article, Mr. Sigmund postulated that the most significant issue in cognitive, emotive and behavioral health was the conscious direction of the internal dialogue.
Mr. Sigmund has created a series of practices that teach people how to consciously govern their internal dialogues, even in the presence of actual problems and perceived offenses. By following these practices, anyone can learn to maintain a positive internal dialogue, making it easier to define problems, identify their significance and determine how to solve them. These practices have been successfully taught to individuals, couples, families and organizations; and in gang intervention programs, psychiatric treatment facilities and prisons.
Transactional Analysis is a profoundly powerful and easily accessible system of individual and social psychology. Simply put, transactions are units of communication. So, Transactional Analysis is the art of consciously examining our communications. This observation begins with becoming aware of how we speak to ourselves in our internal dialogues, and extends outward to discover how these internal communications determine our speech and actions with others.
I’m a devout believer that paying attention to our self-talk is vitally important
for our mental health. In my opinion, making the decision that internal abuse
is not acceptable behavior is the first step to finding deep inner peace…I have
learned that in order to protect my overall mental health, it is necessary for me
to tend the garden of my mind…and I spend very little time hooked into unwanted
or inappropriate thought patterns…If I want to retain my inner peace,
I must be willing to tend the garden of my mind moment by
moment, and be willing to make the decision…[to choose] what I want to
spend my time thinking about…a thousand times a day.
- Jill Bolte Taylor
Knowledge of the practice of Transactional Analysis allows us to understand more intimately the process by which we are aware of ourselves, other people and the environment; and therefore, the better we are able to communicate with those we choose to be intimate with and the more successfully our actions that comprise our lives will be. This intimacy will also guarantee our ability to correctly define problems when they arise, and to recognize their significance in our lives. We will be able to determine what we are willing to do to resolve the problems and to efficiently apply ourselves to the solvability of the problems. You will be introduced to the concepts of introjection and projection and how they define and activate the Four Life Positions.
Four Life Positions
Dr. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, contributed many important insights into how we function as human beings. One of his most important contributions was the delineation of four life positions from which each of us was organizing our perceptions of ourselves, other persons, situations and in the environment in which we are living our lives. These life positions are not static. We don’t simply adapt one of these life positions and then function in all areas and under all circumstances from that position. Rather, we employ different life positions at different moments and under different circumstances based on our experience of the subject matter being defined by the life position. Three of these life positions are unhealthy and unsuccessful and are based on particular styles of negativistic internal dialogues. One of them is both healthy and successful and is based on our choosing conscious, positive internal dialogues even when we are experiencing situations in which we perceive offensive stressors from other persons, situations or the environment. Dr. Berne defined these four life position as:
1. “I’m O.K., you’re not O.K.”
This first life position is called the projective – put the bad object outside of myself – life position. We engage in the projective life position when we attempt to put the negativity we are creating inside ourselves onto another person. In this life position, our internal dialogues are filled with negative thoughts that undermine our personal security – cause us to be insecure – no matter hat the actual subject matter of those negative thoughts might be. In order to compensate for the personal insecurity we are experiencing inside ourselves, we attempt to minimize and diminish other persons, while we aggrandize ourselves as being better than the other person. This is what leads to interactions in which we portray ourselves as O.K. (the good person) and we portray the other person as not .K. (the bad person). We are projecting – putting outside of ourselves and on to the other person – the abuse we are suffering from our own negativistic internal dialogues. The only possible outcome to this projective life position is the creation of drama, conflict and interpersonal distance.
2. “I’m not O.K., you’re O.K.”
This is the introjective – take the bad object inside ourselves – life position in which we present ourselves as not O.K. (the bad person), using our internal negativistic dialogue to minimize and diminish ourselves; and then we aggrandize the other person (the good person) by describing the other person as a better person than we are. The only possible outcome to this introjective life position is drama, conflict and interpersonal distance.
3. “I’m not O.K., you’re not O.K.”
This is the futile life position in which we are minimizing and diminishing both ourselves and the other person. WE are both “bad people.” In this life position, our internal dialogues are pervasively negativistic. It is the life position from which nothing positive is possible. The outcome of this life position is drama, conflict and interpersonal distance.
4. “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.”
This is the healthy life position. In this life position, our internal dialogues are positive and oriented toward problem identification and resolution rather than to making ourselves and other persons not O.K. We may not approve or agree with our own speech and actions. We may not approve or agree with the speech and actions of the other person. But we strive to maintain an awareness of the basic O.K.ness that resides in each of us. The outcome from this life position is active problem identification and resolution, the creation of safety and the potential for reciprocal intimacy.
The projective and the introjective life positions always devolve into the futile life position. We can not make other persons not O.K. without being not O.K. for failing to be compassionate, empathetic, understanding and forgiving. By the same token, we can not make ourselves not O.K. in relationship to other persons in relationship to other persons being O.K. without making them not O.K. for failing to be compassionate, empathetic, understanding and forgiving. These first two life position are merely transitioning positions that allow us to set up movement to the futile life position in which we are both not O.K. In order for life to proceed without constant infusions of suffering in terms of drama, conflict and interpersonal distance, we must be willing to hold a safe place for our own intrinsic O.K.ness and we must be willing to hold the same safe place for other persons. The rule is to always use the best of ourselves and to only appeal to the best of the other person(s). As human beings, we have many moving examples of how this principle has powerfully effected situations and environments. The story of Gandhi’s life, Nelson Mandala’s life, Albert Schweitzer’s life, Mother Teresa’s life and the current Dalai Lama’s life are but a few of the profoundly instructive examples of the truth and power of a refusal to give in to the projective, introjective and futile life positions.
In every one of us there are good seeds and bad.
We have the seed of brotherhood, love, compassion, insight.
But we also have the seed of anger, hate, dissent
…Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do,
it bears your signature.
(Nhich Nhat Hanh in Winfrey, 2010)
Transactional Analysis looks at the various ego states that make up each person’s personality: the Child, the Adult and the Parent. Learning Transactional Analysis will help you to understand the structure and function of these ego states and to learn how to direct them consciously. You will also be introduced to a model of communication based on the pathways that connect each person’s ego states and that operate whenever people speak to one another. You’ll discover how some types of communication succeed and how others categorically fail.
You’ll discover how to examine your Life Script – the incorporations about your life that you have been following since childhood just as the actor in a theatrical presentation follows a script – and how to change the instructions in your Life Script if they are not serving you.
The greater our body of knowledge, the faster and more easily this process can be achieved.
Mr. Sigmund has practices on Maui and on the Big Island of Hawaii, and welcomes queries.
Sigmund Transactional Analysis, Inc.
P.O. Box 1273
Volcano, Hawaii 96785