EGO STATES – Basics (Part 1)

inner child 

& I feel best when they get along!


REVIEW: S & I – Healthy Individuation

See ACRONYM page for abbrev.

In the 1970s the concept of the Inner Child & co-dependence became popular.  In the ‘80s & ‘90s John Bradshaw did an excellent series of TV specials focusing on ACoAs & the IC.  Carl Jung is credited with the concept of the “Divine Child”, but the term broke into the mainstream mainly with the book “Your Inner Child of the Past” (1963) by Hugh Missildine, MD. Modern IC work is an outgrowth of ‘Ego Psychology’, ‘Family Systems Therapy’ & T.A.*

*T.A.= Transactional Analysis : This chart is from Eric Berne’s GAMES PEOPLE PLAY, in ESs-Basic part 1it’s simplest form & is the basis for all modern Inner Child work.  For Berne, an ego state is ‘A system of feelings accompanied by related set of behavior patterns.’

NOTE: Having different ego states is NOT schizophrenia, multiple personalities or any other kind of mental/ emotional illness. It’s normal.  The issue is not whether they’re real or not but rather how well they work together!   ALSO, keep in mind that in psychological terms ego is not a dirty word! It simply means the ‘I’ or True Self. The healthier our ego, the more functional we are & the better our lives.

The human mind is made up of a “Family of the Self” within a single personality. How well these internal parts get along among themselves – in order for the individual to function effectively – can vary greatly from person to person. These ‘family members’ (E.S.) are neural pathways in the brain forged by chemical connections as a result of thinking, feeling or doing (T.E.A.) the same thing over & over, year after year.  When we’re grown-ups, our E.S. are meant to be ‘built in’ resources we can call on as needed, but for ACoAs aspects of the basic states can be distorted (WIC), deficient (poorly functioning Adult), even missing (Loving Parent) due to our upbringing.

• They are called ‘ego states’ because whichever one we’re in, we think of it as ‘me’, our All-About-Me-owsense of identity (ego = Self).  We’re all born with the makings of 3 basic internal states (P.A.C.) – points of view, inner voices, attitudes – & we know this because kids have the same 3 parts, but in child form. Of course we start out just with the Child state, & look to our family’s Adult & Parent parts to take care of us. We also need them to teach us how to function in those 2 modes, so how well our eventual A & P turn out depends on the emotional/mental health of our caretakers.

Ego States (Parent / Adult / Child) are made up of our experiences & activities grouped into clusters which can vary in size & importance, which include many memories, postures, feelings, beliefs…. that were learned at an earlier age. Each state is consistent within itself, ego stateshaving its own Thoughts, Emotions & Actions. They become our habitual way of responding to ourselves & the world, the clusters being bound together by some with a point of view or common ‘truth’, either healthy or not – depending on upbringing.

EXP: The unhealthy (P) may be organized around the belief the “I have to rid the world of all wrong-doing”, & the wounded (C) may base it’s sense of identity on “I have to be perfect to be loved”, while the focus for a healthy (A) may be “I express my talent & training in my work” ….

• E.S. are conscious parts of our psyche which we can shift in & out of – one minute acting like a kid, the next handling a problem, in Adult mode…. They are visible & available to awareness, making it possible to notice, value, work with & modify aspects of them, if they want to. Even so, most people are not aware of which state they’re expressing at any given moment, although others often can, just by watching or listening to someone: “Boy, is he being a brat!” (C) / “You’re not the boss of me!” (P) / “Yes, the suggestion you made is very practical.”(A).

● According to Daniel Siegel, a state of mind (E.S.) can become ingrained when a positive OR negative event is experienced repeatedly, or when a traumatic event is overwhelming. In general, ingrained states of mind become parts of the Self, some by reacting to other people & some by introjecting them:
— Normal Differentiation – which eventually allows for S & I: children slowly separates out their own identity from that of other family members – having different opinions and values  art_class_4while still being able to stay emotionally connected to them. They learn to discriminate between things they like & don’t like, as well as entire patterns appropriate for dealing with parents, teachers, and playmates

— Introjection of significant others – children unconsciously accumulate groups of beliefs, emotions & behaviors from their caretakers that are acceptable or not to their True Self. If acceptable, the behaviors get included into their sense of identity (“this is me”), but if they’re not acceptable (qualities of abusive / neglectful parents) then the behavior ‘clusters’ become Inner Objects (“not me”) they have to ‘handle’ or manage by developing defenses

NEXT: Ego States – basics (Part 2)


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