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May 1, 1996 -- Vol.1, no.2

This article refers to:
Masters and Slaves: The Tragedy of Jonestown by Fanita English, M.S.W.

Editor's note: explanation of technical terms
by Alan Jacobs

The theory used here is not pop "TA", not the oversimplified version many social scientists discount as merely a fad. Rather it is from the social psychiatry and psychology of Eric Berne. It is "transactional analysis" theory. It is not "TA" the moral, political and entrepreneurial movement.

Berne is author of "Games People Play", a book that enjoyed phenomenal success on 1960's best seller lists. Berne's theories of personality and treatment were subsequently popularized, watered down and vulgarized by other, more opportunistic professionals. The promotion of such books as "I'm OK, You're OK", helped to deepen this negative impression, even though they contain some useful material.

"TA" became known only as a "pop-psychology" and the more intellectually rigorous versions suffer under that rubric to this day. But take note, there is another "TA", as it was coined, a transactional analysis of social interaction and one of social systems as well. This variety has survived despite the commercialization of its better known sister, often being confused with bumper stickers, cute slogans, "warm fuzzy" dolls and shameless promotion.

The version presented here is a serious, intellectually rigorous, and evolving body of knowledge. The following piece, written by a major Bernian theoretician, demonstrates how the real theory can be applied to understanding important social issues such as cults, and totalitarian movements.

Aspects of Bernian theory utilized here will include: existential positions, ego states and rackets. A short explanation will be helpful to those unfamiliar with these terms.

Existential position refers to the duality (I, Others). It defines how we see ourselves in relation to others. I can see myself positively and the other negatively, or vice versa. I can both of us negatively. Or I can see us both positively. This can be represented as (+,-); (-,+); (-,-); (+, +) respectively. This became colloquially known as "I'm OK, You're OK, and its three variations. In the past, the thinking has been lost in the fluff. Do not be distracted by these terms. The ideas behind them describe a crucial factor in relationships.

Ego states are names for three different psychological and behavioral systems within the individual. Berne saw them as three complete and distinct systems of thinking, feeling and behavior. They were colloquially know as Parent, Adult, and Child or Rules, Objectivity, and Needs. Another way of seeing them is: I should, I think, I want. The views enables us to describe what happens between people in a fairly precise and descriptive manner. What ego state we are in as we relate to one another is helpful in determining what is going on.

The unfortunately named "rackets", might better be called substitute feelings as the author of the following article, Fanita English, coined elsewhere. They are unauthentic feelings and behaviors that substitute for deeper, unfelt, or disallowed feelings and behaviors. They are also designed to get others to do something we don't think we can get without the racket, that is by simply asking, for example, whining appeasing, bullying, crying, etc.

Alan Jacobs, editor. May 1, 1996.

This article refers to:
Masters and Slaves: The Tragedy of Jonestown by Fanita English, M.S.W.