There is a concept in psychology called Transactional Analysis. It describes human behavior and attributes much of our lives to the those around us in our childhood. It is fascinating work that provides insight into the human mind and how we process the information around us.
Richard Carlson, Ph.D. discusses Transactional Analysis in his book Easier Than You Think. He says that Transactional Analysis “claims that people are born innately healthy but develop patterns early in life based on negative or positive influences around them.”
I have always believed that our experiences early in life help us to develop the behaviors, values, and tendencies that we rely on later in life. Transactional Analysis is just one theory that emphasizes the value of those early experiences.
To me this theory really just emphasizes the impact of systems and habits. Early in life, before we really have a patterned response to situations, we look to those around us to help form our systems.
We develop our thinking systems based on how others express themselves. If parents constantly point out the negative in the world or hold extreme biases, then often the children develop some form of these beliefs.
I never truly understood how impressionable children are until I had my daughter. Even as a toddler she is always surprising us with a new word or behavior. My wife and I usually look at her and say “how did she learn that?!”
Yesterday while we were relaxing in front of the TV, I placed my arms behind my head. My wife nudged me and pointed to my daughter. Her eyes were fixed on me and she was putting her arms in the exact same position. We catch her imitating us as we clean, cook, talk on the phone, etc. She is always watching and trying to learn from us.
Recently there have been some police violence incidents highlighted on TV. I hear people express their opinion that it is the fault of the police, or the parents, or someone else involved. The parents usually get in front of the camera to tell the world that their son or daughter never would have committed the crime.
Regardless of your beliefs, we all have to understand that the way we talk about, respond to, and address these situations affects those around us. This is extremely important if we are around children as they will take cues from our words and behaviors and form them into their own personal systems and habits. Do we openly share a strong opinion on this matter in front of our children or do we explain the situation as a tragedy and that many people were involved in escalating the situation?
Transactional Analysis goes on to claim that we form our roles very early in life and then spend the rest of our lives playing out those roles.
In business when a company develops value for their product or service that they sell to a customer, they have to find the best ways to leverage that value. How can they consistently deliver that value in order to grow the business?
Transactional Analysis is equivalent to “leverage” in our family tree. Strong influences may not only impact your children, but they may impact the next few generations.
With this being the case, it is even more crucial that we examine and understand the systems and habits in our lives. Is this really the way we want to influence the next few generations in our family?
If, instead of just being a reflection of past generations, we learn to adjust the systems and habits in our lives we can take control and improve our influence on others.
The key is to better understand the driving forces of systems and habits and then make small changes that will lead to large change over time. This is the way you can truly transform your life and become the person that you want to become.
Dr. Carlson says that “in all these aspects of life and so many more, a small change can make a huge difference.” What small change can you make systematically that will end up making a huge difference in your life and in the lives of those around you?