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Transactional Analysis

ADHD, General, Relationships / Couples Therapy, Transactional Analysis

‘Parent’-‘Child’ Traps in Adult ADHD Relationships

August 11, 2016

When the bills have piled up, the keys are nowhere to be found and promises are not fulfilled the relationship can tense up quickly. The non-ADHD partner can feel resentful of “always” having to caretake without gratitude. It can feel as if it’s all about the ADHD person’s needs and their own needs get neglected.

The non-ADHD partner can start behaving in parental ways…
1. Rescuing/ fixing and taking over.
2. Criticizing, judging and reprimanding

The ADHD partner can…
1. Feel child-like, infanticised, judged, controlled or suffocated.
2. Start to over rely on and take their partner for granted.

It unfortunately can end up looking like an unsustainable parent-child relationship where one is caretaking and controlling while the other is dependant and suffocated. Resentment can build up pretty quickly on both ends.

How do we break out of a parent-child trap?

Tips for the ADHD partner:

#1 Take the time to ask your partner how they feel & validate them.
Recognize that your ADHD has an effect on your partner. In their world they could be witnessing chaos, scattered ideas and broken promises. Your behaviors could be triggering anxiety in others around you. They are rescuing and caretaking to help contain the chaos.

#2 Set boundaries.
Be clear about what you want and don’t want your partner doing or saying. Let them know you do not want their help or that you don’t appreciate the judgement.

#3 Make an effort to fulfill your partner’s needs, wants and dreams.
ADHD symptoms can take up a lot of space in the relationship. Shifting the balance and paying attention to what your partner needs can help you break out of the parent-child dynamic.

Tips for the non-ADHD partner:

#1 Set boundaries.
Be clear about what you want to do to help. Avoid crossing your own limits and feeling like you “have” to help. Say “no” when you need to. Help only when it’s appreciated and only when you truly want to.

#2 Avoid criticism, controlling behavior and contempt.
Talk instead about how an unfulfilled promise or a messy kitchen makes you feel and what you need/want to see happen.

#3 Be assertive.
Your needs are important TOO! Talk about your needs and ask for them to be met in a positive way.

Finding ways to equalize the relationship, respecting that you are both adults that can make choices is key. You were attracted to each other’s differences in the first place so love the other for who they are. Trying to make the other more like yourself is a fruitless project to take on.

LGBT, Transactional Analysis

Staying ‘OK’ in the Face of Discriminatory Bills

April 7, 2016

More than 30 anti-lgbt bills are fighting to pass in 2016. We are already seeing the first few discriminatory bills pass.

I see how these bills are affecting lgbt emotional health. A sense of sadness, anger or fear are normal emotional reactions to discrimination. More than ever skills around resilience, self care and relationship communication skills need to strengthen.

From a Transactional Analysis perspective these bills are essentially a painful form of DISCOUNTING. It is a discount of an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation. The child ego state holds one’s sexuality and feelings around gender. The pain of feeling this discount can sometimes be beyond words and could potentially shape how we decide to perceive the others and ourselves. Maintaining an I’m OK and You’re Ok existential position can be challenging as such experiences can regress us back to early wounds and early painful script decisions.

Don’t stay alone with your thoughts and feelings. Reach out to friends, community resources or a therapist. Knowing you can DECIDE to continue being OK in the face of adversary and discrimination is a gift.

Try the following Affirmations:

I have a right to my gender identity/sexual orientation
I Love me
I will live through this
I will seek support
I have a right to survive
I have a right to exist as me

Transactional Analysis

Beyond Stroke Filters (A Neo-Bernian Idea)

February 19, 2016

Eric Berne is known for coining the term “strokes”. He explained it as a basic unit of recognition. It was believed that human beings were born with an innate stimulus hunger. Experiments in the 1940s suggested that infants failed to thrive in environments where physical stimulation was limited. This hunger for touch develops to become a hunger for recognition in social and intimate relationships.

These were the types of strokes that Eric Berne described.

Internal strokes (strokes we give ourselves)
External strokes (strokes we give to others)
Unconditional strokes (strokes for being)
Conditional strokes (strokes for doing)
Positive strokes (strokes that communicate okayness)
Negative strokes (strokes that communicate not-okayness)

Claude Steiner is known for theorizing the ‘stroke economy’. He suggests that we can be restricted by the parent ego state in five main ways:

don’t give strokes when we have them to give
don’t ask for strokes when we need them
don’t accept strokes if we want them
don’t reject strokes when we don’t want them
don’t give ourselves strokes

These five ‘rules’ reinforce a culture of scarcity as opposed to how limitless strokes can be given and received. I once encountered someone from a chaotic household and that led to him making an early decision to “trust no one to care”. His script believes were entrenched in ideas of stroke scarcity and that happy interactions were close to impossible. I invited him to take on a little experiment for the week. He would try for 7 days every morning to smile at one person on the way to work on the bus. To his astonishment, people smiled back! There were no threats, exchanges or bartering. The strokes were limitless.

TA literature describes the ‘stroke filter’ as a contaminated Adult ego state process where the person chooses to interpret positive strokes as negative ones. This maintains their particular life position.

What are STROKE PROCESSORS?

This write-up suggests a clear way to facilitate for clients to understand how their life scripting (early decisions about themselves and the world) might affect their Adult ego state functioning. The Adult ego state might be processing strokes in 4 different ways:

Stroke Maximizing:

Processing the intended stroke as much more important or significant than intended. An individual could take a simple greeting smile from another as a sign of sexual flirtation. Or an individual could take a piece of Adult negative feedback as a Critical Parent insult.

Brian was regularly playing some ‘kick me’ games at dance night clubs. His eyes would scan the room for attractive women who would respond to his smile. He would interpret each smile as a green light for close contact dancing or an invitation for intimate conversation. Often the women would interpret his behavior as inappropriate.

Stroke Minimizing:

Processing the intended stroke as less important or significant than intended. An individual could downplay a compliment or ignore the significance of a negative complaint.

Sam had an ‘under-achieving’ life script. His early decision to not succeed led to him to perpetually discount his personal intelligence and abilities. Each time a colleague complimented his ability he would minimize its significance in his mind. “They are just being nice.”

Stroke Converting:

An individual could take a negative stroke and interpret it as positive or take a positive stroke and interpret it as negative. For example, an individual could take a compliment as a reminder of how they are not-ok.

Susie was constantly nervous about her appearance. Nothing ever felt enough for the world- even if she was told otherwise. She always had make up on even when she went to bed. Her husband tried to tell her he loved her but all she could think was- “he wouldn’t love me without the make up”. “Don’t be you or else…”- she continually told herself. Her husband’s unconditional positive strokes were converted as conditional strokes and further processed as negative strokes.

Stroke Selecting:

An individual could select the strokes they want to absorb and the ones they want reject.

Grace an employee got her first employee appraisal and all she chose to hear were the negative strokes. She decided she was a terrible worker even after her manager had a ton of positive feedback to offer as well.

Bringing these ‘stroke processors’ to the awareness of the client can be effective for decontaminating the adult ego state. It can allow for an exploration of the life script, early stroking patterns and early decisions. It can more importantly be an invitation for clients to make new autonomous decisions about how they want to “process” strokes in the here and now.