The word ‘should’ is quite authoritative, isn’t it? It is more of a command, a rule that is set in stone. “You shouldn’t be wearing these kinds of clothes, it’s inappropriate” or “You should stay at home on weekdays and party only on weekends.” The word is so parental, as though there isn’t any other way to be other than the way that things ‘should be.’
We all know at least one person in our life who makes all the plans — where to go, what to wear — they are the ones who usually decide what we ‘should do.’ Usually, they are super organised and can provide quite a bit of direction and structure to a plan (they may also be deemed as good leaders).
Ego States: Parent
Individuals who operate from the ‘should have, could have’ perspective on a daily basis are the ones who have a strong parent ego state. Here, the word ‘ego state’ refers to the amount of mental energy that involuntarily sets a tone for the way a person thinks, behaves, and feels, in their daily life.
For example: You are at a party with your friends and there is one friend who keeps checking the clock. He/she ‘needs’ to get into bed early. Why: they must get to work on time, the next day.
Now, it is completely OK and socially acceptable for them to behave this way on an occasional basis. However, the moment this kind of behaviour gets repetitive is when it can be said that their parent ego state is high. In many social circles, people under this ego state are tagged as ‘boring’ or ‘buzzkill.’
Following the previous example, there is another friend at this party who is gulping shots as if it were water. There’s a common dialogue that they ruminate on at almost any party that they attend, as they say, “Oh come on, you only live once! This is the best night of my life!
I have no regrets. Woohoo!” — This is someone whose child ego state is beyond potent. To them, every single day is a party and life revolves around having fun today and more fun, tomorrow. They are the life of the party and known as some of the most charming people in one’s social radar. Sounds great, right? Well, not for too long.
Black and White Situation
More often than not, people with a high child ego state are known to be unreliable and cannot be taken too seriously, when required. These are the ones who may not be the best fit for corporate jobs, meeting deadlines or even when it comes to parenting — they may choose to stay out late, rather than coming home to their child who is waiting up for them.
With the two ego states discussed above, you may have noticed a pattern — a black and white situation: the parent ego state is one extreme, and the child ego state is another. Can there ever be a balance? Let us find out.
Winding back to the party example — You observe a person who is having a blast and literally ball of a time. However, soon she realises that “This has been so much fun! I wish I could stay longer. But I have got to get to work earlier than usual, tomorrow. Maybe I will party with them again, next month. We’ll see.” — This is one of the most ideal thought processes in the world of mental health. It is known as the adult ego state.
In another phenomenal concept of modern psychology by Eric Berne, the adult ego state enables an individual to make rational decisions, purely based on the here-and-now. This particular ego state guides our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in a way that enables us to think and determine our actions, based on received data.
Power Lies Within You
The parent and the child ego states may be poles apart, but the adult acts as the fulcrum between the two. The one in an adult ego state has a balanced frame of mind as their mental energy transitions smoothly between their parent, child, and the adult ego state.
On a personal note, the pandemic has blocked several travel plans back home. There are days when we miss our loved ones tremendously and may face mental breakdowns. Nonetheless, with the power and the knowledge of ego states, you may learn that in such situations (for example), you can be your own parent.
“It is OK. You are going to be just fine; you are safe” — try affirming this to yourself as you switch to the parent ego state in your mind. Truly, you will be just fine. At least, for now.
It takes a few years for someone to operate from their adult ego state. Decades of psychological conditioning play a hefty part in shaping our thoughts, emotions, and our actions. But with the examples stated here, hopefully — one might just be slightly more aware of how to operate on a personal, professional and even a spiritual realm.
If you are faced with a difficult situation right now, remember that you have 3 states in your mind. You have the power. Which one do you choose?
Hansika Korivi works in Corporate Communications in Dubai