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OPTIONS

STEPHEN KA RPMAN, M.D.

Many persons get into "locked" trans- action, such as from the Child, "Go to
actions with persons outside of the group hell," from the Adult, "Let's talk it over,"
and come into group therapy to get help or from the Parent, "Stop it now!"
on how to handle it. Transactional
Analysis offers a simple approach to I. HOW TO CROSS
figure out what's going on, and illustrates
TRANSACTIONS
the great variety of options available to
the patient. This paper presents situations The object of the above examples is to
brought in by patients and the variety of deliberately and effectively cross the trans-
answers offered by the group. action. To make it work, the following
The diagram below illustrates a typical four criteria must check out.
"locked" transaction that seemed "un- 1. One or both ego states must actually
breakable" to the patient. He was always change. The person must either unhook
explaining; the other person, with the ini- himself from his own ego state and switch
tiative, was always complaining. to another one or actually hook a differ-
ent ego state in the other person. If both
ego states remain the same, the same
"locked" complementary transaction will
"You're proceed indefinitely.
bad"
2. The transaction must be crossed. In
the above examples, the Parent to Child
transaction is crossed by first a Child-
Child reply, second an Adult - Adult re-
ply, and third a Parent - Child reply. In
"I'm
not" the Adult to Adult transaction both ego
states were changed.
3. The subject must change. In the
Figure 1 above examples, the subject in each was
changed from whether one person was
"bad" or not to what the other person
could do.
None of the attempts by the patient 4. The previous topic will be forgotten.
to handle this situation were effective be- This goes along with the change of subject
cause no matter what he thought up, and ego state. The new topic will be more
everything was a variation of a Child gripping than the previous one.
statement. The others person's responses, The object is "to change what is going
no matter how "reasonable" sounding, on and get free in whatever way you can."
were all variations of Parent statements. To get this you have to get the other per-
He found out in therapy that all that was son out of their ego state, or change your
needed was an effective crossed trans- ego state, or both.
Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971 79
OPTIONS

The above crossed transactions and the (i.e., in hysteria, reassuring the Child
ones to follow are chosen by Adult deci- first, then talking to the Adult). Some-
sion. The Adult decides (1) what effect times a "second effort" is needed to retain
he wants in the other person, which ego the ego state if it is rechallenged. The
state in him to hook, or what mood to problem of being caught in a situation
leave the both of them in, and (2) which where one is "too nervous to think" will
ego state would be best for himself. This not come up with a properly prepared
is not "role playing" or "pretending" a patient. A question about whether the
certain way, but it is switching to another "underlying problem" is still there is ir-
attitude you already have toward the per- relevant in that this is an exercise in
son (another ego state). learning social skills and Adult control,
The Adult, in choosing the option, just and using sides of the personality other
thinks quickly, "Well, there are other ways than the ones with "underlying problems."
of handling this," and then, "I don't want
to hurt him (P)," or "I better put him II. ADVANCED OPTIONS
down (P)" or "I want him to talk straight
to me (A) ," or "Let's keep this friendly Advanced patients who are familiar
(C) ," etc. Ordinarily the Adult can with discussing the ego states in terms of
choose to ignore the hook and let the Prejudiced Parent, Nurturing Parent,
comment pass, but this exercise is for Adult, Free Child and Adapted Child find
"locked" transactions in which the person the advanced analysis of options more
is already hooked or when they feel the useful. The diagram below has evolved
"irresistible urge" of a hook and can't be as a practical necessity in that it is the
oblivious to it, but want to do something only way of presenting the ego states in
to switch off that transaction once and a diagram so that lines can be drawn back
for all. It gives the person something to and forth among all of them. It is not
do about the situation to change it when to be confused with second order struc-
it cannot be ignored. A teaching-therapy tural analysis" diagrams or other dia-
combination can be a "back to the draw- grams. The above divisions of the ego
ing board" exercise for patients in trans- states are used rather than second order
actional analysis. It supplies knowledge structural analysis because of their imme-
previously ignored by or withheld from diacy and familiarity.
the patient. After a while, with practice, In practice, keep it fun, simple, and
replies become automatic as they are with uncomplicated for the Child. Usually only
most people, and there is no feeling of the common Parent-Parent, Parent-
pausing to choose words. Child, Adult-Adult, Child-Child, and
If the crossed transaction doesn't "take" Child-Parent channels are used. The
then it didn't unhook anything or hook therapist can request a sampling of
anything new (no new crossed transaction options without even using the diagrams;
line can be drawn on the diagram). The e.g. "How about a Nurturing Parent reply
four criteria in such situations were not to her?" or "Anything funny your Child
met. More may need to be Iearued about could say to get out of that?" Although
ego states to realize that there is a sharp the diagram can illustrate twenty-four
difference between ego states, and, each possible ways of crossing a transaction,
is an entirely different "set" from the everyone separate and discrete from the
other. The situation may be one where other, in actual practice only those chan-
extra hooks are needed as in duplex trans- nels mentioned that are easiest to grasp
actions, or divided duplex transactions are used. The timing of the use of the
80 Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971
STEPHEN KARPMAN

option review can appeal to the Child by "Watch it. Don't get testy with me."
using it only to solve a frustrating prob- "I'm getting sick and tired of this con-
lem on the spot. With new patients the duct on your part."
original transactional diagram is used, (frowning quickly) "You're really a
with its eight possibilities for crossed pest, aren't you?"
transactions.
3. Nurturing Parent to Nurturing Parent:
The transactional circles with the letters
in them as 1: elow are written on the black- "There's enough trouble and hate in
board as follows. The names of the ego this world without us adding to it."
states are \" ritten next to the diagram in "We should hold our arguments down
this paper for clarification only. to protect the children."
4. Nurturing Parent to Free Child:
"Be kind to yourself. Anger is such a
waste of your energies."
"You're bad" "Why don't you take a night out on
Prejudiced
Parent the town?"
Nurturing
Parent
"How's your family?"
"Do you need anything?"
Adult 5. Nurturing Parent to Adapted Child:
"Now, now. You sound upset."
Free Child "You aren't giving of yourself when
Adapted
Child
you talk that way."
"You poor thing. You've had a bad
"I'm not" day. How's your asthma?"
"Tell me more about why you feel
that way."
Figure 2
Using the locked transaction "You're 6. Adult to Adult:
bad"-"I'm not" in figure 2 above, the "How did you arrive at that?"
following examples illustrate the common "Let's check it out and see what we
twelve of the twenty-four possible crossed come up with."
transactions that could change the situ- "Define your terms."
ation: "Can you rephrase that?"
1. Prejudiced Parent to Prejudiced Par- 7. Free Child to Prejudiced Parent:
ent: "Oh, wow! Pommel me master."
"The real blame is on the system. Do "Penalty! Penalty!"
you know what I heard about.;." "Wouldn't you just know it, but at a
"You're right. I'm bad. But let me time like this I have to go to the
tell you what John did." bathroom."
"C'mon. Let's go. There's work to be
done." 8. Free Child to Nurturing Parent:
"That really doesn't help me."
2. Prejudiced Parent to Adapted Child: (smile) "I know you care."
"Don't you dare talk to me in that
tone of voice!" 9. Free Child to Free Child:
"Now you just listen to me for a min- "Well, you're no bargain yourself."
ute." "Hey. That's a great outfit you got on.
Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971 81
OPTIONS

Where did you get it?" her husband "off her back" (Adult or
(smile) "Yes, you're absolutely right. Child didn't work). Within several months
Yes. I agree with you 100% . Yes. she was able to handle a situation that
Yes. occurred at the beginning of every month:
"Let's go to bed." her husband comes into the room angry
10. Adapted Child to Prejudiced Parent: Parent and waving the monthly bills,
shouting "What about these bills? Do you
(won't cross the transaction of fig.2.)
think you are Mrs. Tycoon?" To this she
11. Adapted Child to Nurturing Parent: was able to come up with these replies, all
(sob) "I know I'm just a horrible of which relieved the oppression: a) "You
wretch without feelings." shouldn't have gotten married if you
(tears) "I feel so hurt." couldn't afford it." b) "How could I be
"I'm sorry." Mrs. Tycoon? I didn't marry Mr. Ty-
"Y ou don't have a very high opinion coon." and c) "Yes, the price of living is
of me. There's a little good in every- discouraging." This was the start of a
one, isn't there?" more sane relationship.
3. A sad, quiet joung man who played
12. Adapted Child to Adapted Child: "Wax Museum" discovered that he did
(nasty) "You're always right and I'm this in the presence of a lecturing Parent
always wrong." wearing a sweatshirt saying "Follow me.
"I ought to punch you in the nose for Do my thing." Some plausible options
that." were worked out in therapy as a substi-
"You're making us both look crazy." tute for the Adapted Child "Wax Muse-
These Parent to Child locked transac- um" option: a) He found his Child could
tions are common in clinical practice. The joke with the person about the lecturing
following three examples will illustrate transaction; b) that his Adult could sit
similar relationships discussed in therapy. back and learn something from it; or c)
his Parent could take sport at challenging
1. A sleepy patient one morning was the accuracy of the ideas presented. That
told by her bossy (Parent) roommate, the patient accepted these options is inter-
"Let's go. We're going to the beach right esting in that only a few months previ-
now." The patient responded with her ously he had not know that there were
sulky Child "I'm not going" which set off sides to his personality other than the
a long drawn out lecture. At the time she Adapted Child, and that there were sides
could see no other option open to her to other people's personalities other than
other than trying to reason with or refuse their Prejudiced Parent, and that these ego
a bossy person. Some options mentioned states were actually available.
in group were: A-A: "I know it would So far, all the examples mentioned have
be fun but I should get some work done. concerned attempts to escape from a
Why not find someone else?" FC-FC: Prejudiced Parent to Adapted Child
"I'll put sand on the deck and get a fan "locked" complementary transaction.
and blow it on you." NP-AC: "Is it Many other types of locked transactions
necessary I go with you?" PP-AC: "Is are possible too and have come up in
attendance at your lectures compulsory?" therapy. In one case, a person could not
2. A passive, beaten woman long domi- shake off a Child-Child transaction with
nated by her tyrannical, punishing hus- a person who is always silly and wanting
band had a first contract in group to learn to have fun and could never be made to
how to use her Parent in order to get sober up or talk seriously. In another in-
82 Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971
STEPHEN KARPMAN

stance, a woman complained that an older contain the duplex, such as the reply
lady at work saw her as a lovely daugh- "How unkind" which comes from both the
ter, and she could not break out of this Prejudiced Parent (putdown) and the
Nurturing Parent to Child situation. A Nurturing Parent (kindness) to the Ad-
man in his forties complained that all his apted Child. The arresting question
relationships were Adult-Adult, and he "What's your point?" comes from both
could not see any way of changing them. the Adult (request for clear information)
Another patient discovered in therapy that and the Prejudiced Parent (demand) to
he was the type of person who left other the Adult. Sometimes a duplex from an-
people in the position of trying to figure other person has to be fielded in separate
out options on how to handle him. stages. A duplex can also hook two ego
The question sometimes arises "Which states in another person, such as a son's
of the options is best to use?" The pur- comment "You'll always be the greatest
pose of the exercise is to show the options mother in the world," which strokes both
available, not the philosophy of whether the mother's Nurturing Parent and Free
it is "better" to be funny, frank, punish- Child.
ing, helpful or what not. The information A "Bull's-eye" is a direct comment that
should be made available to a patient in- reaches all three ego states in another
asmuch as whether he uses all of the person. Usually an Adult interpretation
options or not other people may be using that senses what a person's Parent, Adult
all of them with him, and it would help and Child are experiencing will result in
to know it. The use of all the ego states hooking a person's Adult. One patient got
is valid; the timing and manner of their her husband to listen to her in an argu-
use determines their effect. Responses are ment when she stated "You're trying to
measured and tailored to the threat and start a fight, and I hate fights, and I'm not
are basically protective to preserve Adult going to do it," and at another time "I
control. Ones that seem cruel are ac- have to wait for an opportune moment to
knowledged as such but are not hidden tell you something I've done."
and change things for the better for both Destructive Prejudiced Parent options
parties. There's no talk of "winning" or can be learned from this author's mono-
"losing," or acquiring "sociopathic de- graph called "Verbate (rhymes with
fenses," or learning to playa better game Karate): The Verbal Art of Self-Defense."
of "Now, I've Got You, You S.O.B." It Here a person learns to deliver precise
just shows people the variety in their ego blows to the Adapted Child giving him a
states and the ego states of others, how to measured amount of guilt stamps, hurt
reveal the different sides of their person- stamps, mad stamps and fear stamps. The
ality and to appeal to the different sides comments are gauged as to whether they
of others, and to have a variety of tools go to the skin, the bone or the marrow.
to create a better communication. It Permanent or near permanent neuroses
doesn't concern "role playing" or "pre- are achieved by blows to the marrow.
tending" but switching to a different ego One patient lost his black belt in Verbate
state and "taking a different tack alto- when someone addressed him with "My,
gether." isn't it a beautiful day," and he responded
with "You look like you're having a heart
attack." He had been warned in class
III. OTHER OPTIONS only to use Verbate in life and death
Duplex transactions often are required struggles.
in complex situations. One phrase can Other options available are 1) Switch
Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971 83
OPTIONS

the roles in the game; e.g. from "kicked" the patient "Miss" Jones instead of "Mrs."
to "kicker" in the game of "Kick Me." 2) Jones each time, or refusing to talk
Switch to another game. One patient further until she was called Miss Smith.
could switch the game of "Blemish" into The worker felt that an antithesis was
"Gee, You're Wonderful, Mr. Murga- easier for her at her point in therapy than
troyd." When a woman stopped the mer- switching ego states.
riment in the group by turning to him and
saying probingly, "I noted your eyes are IV. INDICATIONS AND USES
shifty," he turned that "Blemish" game
IN THERAPY
around by saying proudly "People often
comment about my eyes, like my students 1. Show that there are options. The
at school, they say I have big, blue eyes, most important use of this exercise is to
etc." and the woman, hooked, responded show that there actually are options, and
warmly by saying "You know, they are that they can be easily used, and that
good-looking." Everyone else in the others are using them. This is the main
group was smiling at how wonderful he idea to get across, and it is more impor-
was and how lucky they were to be in tant than the learning of individual trans-
the group with him. Another Parental actions. When a group patient presents
patient said to him once "You always take a problem situation, he is surprised to find
things too seriously," and he switched that many of the people in the group
quickly from Adapted Child to Free Child already have ready techniques to handle
and started a Child-Child game of it, and that he can learn these techniques
"GYWM" by saying "Actually it goes from them. The more random the group
with intelligence and hard work," and selection and the more representative of
proceeded to relay the stories of how he a "cross section of society" the group is,
got A's in graduate school. 3) Switch in the more clearly this idea will get across.
time structuring. The option is always The person sees, too, that other people
available to a person to switch from a have options in handling him, and he may
game into pastimes, or get into an activity, try to test someone during the week to
or switch to intimacy, or withdraw, etc. prove this point. He will see that people
4) Switch in the Drama Triangle. C With who don't get along with many people in
practice a person can learn to know the the world are limited in their range of
verbal and somatic feeling of being in the possible responses. Anxiety, in this case,
Persecutor, Rescuer and Victim positions would be inversely proportional to the
in the triangle, and pull very effective number of options a person has.
switches, or get out of the triangle. 5)
2. Solve immediate problems. In this
Switch in the O.K. positions. Similarly as
way it can be a very practical treatment
above, any switch in the O.K. positions
method as, invariably, from time to time,
in the situation will bring a dramatic
each of the patients will present a situa-
change in the situation; e.g. when the not
tion in their daily living that they cannot
O.K. person suddenly becomes O.K. 6)
cope with. Usually the patient will write
Switch to an antithesis. A young social
down possible "comebacks" or direct
worker, Miss Smith, was repeatedly called
statements, and the following week report
Mrs. Smith by a client, despite repeated
to the group that the situation has
reminders month after month. The group
straightened out immeasurably.
suggested some antitheses, such as buy-
ing a name plate to put on the desk that 3. Learn structural analysis. As a nec-
she could point to effortlessly, or calling essary part of the exercise there is a con-
84 Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971
STEPHEN KARPMAN

stant review of ego states and questions b. You have a right to protect yourself.
long unasked are brought up. The ego Patients sometimes feel that they would
states and the idea of transactions must be "destroy" someone if they talked back,
learned more thoroughly at these mom- without realizing that they can create
ents as they have to be put into action any desired effect. If a person says
after the group. It makes structural that they have been "destroyed" in a
analysis come to life as a useful idea. game way, then this transaction can be
Often patients find the "lines" they hear handled too. One patient saw options
very exciting, and several of them copy as an "ABM System" to protect her
down ones useful to them. Sometimes it Adult. Another saw it as a way of re-
becomes evident that people who have ducing the total number of anxious
been in transactional analysis therapy situations for her each day.
over a year still don't understand ego
c. You have a right to express yourself.
states until this exercise has been done
Group patients will say one should get
several times, and then it takes on a
things off their chest and not let things
meaning for them that diagrams didn't.
build up or collect trading stamps.
In the group therapy setting when sudden
Some patients are frustrated because
problem transactions come up and the
they can't say what they feel because
person handles them well, he may get a
their options are so limited. An occa-
stroke from someone who says, "You
sional legalistic patient will take the
fielded that one beautifully," If he isn't
"express yourself" permission as a
able to handle himself well in the group,
blanket permission rather than as an
the options in dealing with a person in the
Adult permission.
group can be reviewed on the blackboard.
Some people find it is the fastest way of d. You have a right to learn options.
learning ego states. Teachers may ex- Some people are always learning ways
amine students or trainees in a transac- of handling things from others. Lim-
tional analysis course by presenting a ited patients don't know that the social
problem transaction and request that a skills and techniques can be learned by
certain number of options be worked out, working at them. One patient felt that
possibly all twenty-four. she could not learn humor (Child-
4. Discover permissions needed. Repar- Child option) because she thought it
enting. In the course of working out was a talent that was innate. Another
questions about options or reluctance to- patient suggested to her that she could
ward changing a situation for the better, pick up a feel for it by watching the
it is discovered that certain permissions late night talk shows.
are needed by the patient that were e. You have a right to use options.
denied him in his formative years. These
One has permission to handle any
permissions often come to the group in situation that comes up and to think
the form of reparenting injunctions, a few
of the best thing to say and to swtich
of which come out in the group as fol-
on and off an attitude if it is unwanted
lows:
and to gauge responses to correct a
a. You have a right to demand straight
situation for the better.
transactions. One does not have to deal
with crooked transactions and games f. You have a right to see that others
and can request direct, open confron- are using options. A person can see
tation or seek out others who can that all responses to him are not nec-
transact directly. essarily instinctual but may be decided
Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971 85
OPTIONS

upon. People he deals with have a speak out," etc.). Tact and artistry were
range of possible options and they can not specifically valued and there was no
appeal to those sides of him. direct positive stroking for this. The four
discounts (Schiff) 4 discounted that there
g. You have a right to see ego states was a problem, or that a lack of options
correctly in others. One patient ques- was significant, or that there were other
tioned whether it was "sane" to pick options available, or that they could be
up on the covert message and trust her learned and used. It is possible that a
feelings. She backed this up with some Parental psychotherapist could discount
quotation from literature on "shadow that social skills are a problem for some
versus reality." For the first time she patients, or that social skills are signifi-
was able to see that ego states were cant, or that the skills are available, or
objective reality and that she had a that they can be learned in therapy.
built-in means for determining reality.
6. New contracts and prescriptions for
h. You have a right to use all your ego therapy. In the course of working out
states. One withdrawn' patient thought the various options on the blackboard, it
that some ego states were O.K. and is usually discovered that a patient is not
some were not O.K. He felt his Parent able to think of options that "feel right"
was not O.K., and he therefore would to him from one of his ego states. One
not defend himself in most situations. woman felt that it was completely foreign
Another patient, with a "serious" to her to say things to her boyfriend from
sweatshirt, felt that the Child was friv- her Nurturing Parent ego state, and she
olous and that laughter and joking did not think she would be able to do it.
"and all that business" was childish. The diagram in this case and others can
The injunctions against using some ego then pinpoint the precise "lesion" or prob-
states in both cases could be traced to lem with the patient, discovered in a
crooked parenting in childhood. scientific way. The patient often then
5. Discover childhood prohibitions. adopts a new contract in therapy to prac-
Some investigations into the family life tice or "let out" that ego state whether it
reveal the inhibiting transactions. Some- be Free Child, Nurturing Parent, etc.
times there were no counterscript injunc- Some people recall once using the ego
tions favoring politeness, tact, flexibility, states that are now unavailable to them,
"thinking on your feet," etc. Negative others cannot remember ever knowing
scripting injunctions were varied, such as about them or being able to use them.
"Don't think," "Don't talk back," "Don't Patients can work on their ego state
do anything on your own," and "Don't contract in a variety of settings. In weekly
say what you think." The Child-Child group therapy the patient can establish a
"wink" from the parent indicated that fun contract to be "the Parent" in the group,
was found by hiding, holding back, being for instance, as one twenty year old did
safe, battering people bluntly, or that as part of his "get out of his house" ther-
being a clown was all that was needed. apy. One patient took an Adult contract
There was no model to identify with and another practiced a Free Child con-
("here's how" in the Script Matrix) 3 with tract in a weekend marathon. Whenever
minimal demonstrations of artistry, tact, they made comments that were not in
wit, or honesty in dealing with people. these ego states it was pointed out by the
There was frequent mystification against group. Theoretically this could be done
direct expression (e. g. "It's cruel to likewise in a classroom setting or in a
86 Transactional Anal. J. 1:1, January 1971
STEPHEN KARPMAN

"attack therapy" setting where a person's and 9) Protecting; e.g. "Don't worry
task was to maintain the ego state in the about that. Right now I just want you to
face of rapidly varying attacks or attempts have' fun." She reported to the group sev-
to unhook him. This could have wider eral weeks later that after discussing the
therapeutic potential than the conven- problem transaction in group and doing
tional attack therapy. the homework, she was able to be more
The patient may also be given "home- considerate to her boyfriend and that he
work" in practicing an ego state such as had remarked several times how she had
what was done with the woman above changed.
who was uncomfortable with her Nurtur-
ing Parent ego state. She took home a REFERENCES
problem transaction of the previous week 1 BERNE, E. Transactional Analysis in Psycho-
therapy, Grove Press, Inc" New York, 1961.
with her boyfriend and worked out a Nur-
2 KARPMAN, S. Script Drama Analysis, Trans-
turing Parent reply that discriminated be- actional Analysis Bull" 7:26, April 1968.
tween each of the following attitudes: I) B STEINER, C. Script and Counter-Script,
Caring, 2) Considerate, 3) Concerned, Transactional Analysis Bull., 5: 18, April 1966.
4) Compassionate, 5) Kind, 6) Forgiv- 'SCHIFF, A. W. & SCHIFF, J. L. Passivity,
ing, 7) Reassuring, 8 ) Understanding, Transactional Analysis J., 1:1, January 1971.
Errata for page 87

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