Transactional analyses is the third area described in this blog to understand people’s behaviour and prevent taking wrong conclusions.

Transactional analyses originate on the studies of Eric Berne. He described ‘games’ we humans play every day and for a large part of the day.

Games like ‘saying good morning’ to colleagues. It’s a game because both sides have roles to play to fulfil the games expectation. If one person would not respond to another’s greeting, that person would feel odd about it. Thoughts about …did I do anything wrong, is that person alright…is everything ok? The ‘good morning ritual’ like many other rituals is called a game.

Every single flow of communication – verbal and non-verbal, facial, gesture is called a transaction. The recognition and attention received during a transaction – including conditional attention gives a person the feeling of being ok – or getting a ‘stroke’. Strokes are achieved through games called Rituals (e.g. good morning, tea time), Pastimes, Activities or Intimacy. It’s a basic human desire to get ‘stroked’. We typically try to get these in a positive way, but if that does not work out we try with negative attempts. Childhood experiences on what gets attention (good and bad) get replayed if no other guidance is present.

Why is drinking alcohol so attractive to people? One of the reasons: it’s a game. While being drunk, people feel like they are allowed to be children again – behaviour that is otherwise totally unacceptable is ok. And it contributes to the conversations with saga’s that happened while being drunk. “Do you remember when we did this …and almost ended up with …”. One can only contribute to these if there are own experiences, otherwise one cannot play. Not playing means there is no attention or recognition and though no stroke. Getting no strokes makes a person feel ‘not ok’ – which is an encouragement to drink and participate in the game. Playing or not playing is a choice – while not playing often leads to feeling not ok.

The ‘not ok’ feeling is a feeling we are trying to avoid. It is established during childhood (age 5-8) when we are totally dependent on others.

See next blog….transactional analyses – ego states


…starting in the late 1950s, it already made it into a famous song in 1969: