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Part 8: Functional Ego-State Map

Ego-States and neural networks are synonymous terms used to describe how systems of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors become automatic “programs”

Ego-States and neural networks are synonymous terms used to describe how systems of beliefs, feelings, instructions, coping skills, and behaviors become automatic “programs” that are stored in the implicit memory of the subconscious mind — activated by the brain on cue. Study this functional Ego-State Map thoroughly to see how you can analyze your own behavioral patterns to understand what part of you gets triggered and develop ways to integrate that ego-state.

One of the most important benefits of using the therapy card with my clients is that they must engage the thinking brain. This is called grounding in the present moment vs being hijacked into the unfinished business of the past or stage fright about the future. One the back of the card are all of the descriptions of each ego-state and how it functions,

Video Transcript

Welcome to this presentation on the functional ego-state map. There's a difference between structural ego-state maps and functional ego-state map. Both are from transactional analysis. A structural ego-state map just identifies where various Ego States are located if you were to draw them in a diagram.

Download the Functional Ego-State Card

The functional ego state map, on the other hand, is more concerned with how each of the ego-states function, not necessarily where they're located in a diagram. If you are listening to this presentation on the Sound Wise app, then you can find a visual for the Functional ego-state map in the Notes section of the Player. Before we begin, it's important to understand a few terms, assumptions and analogies I like to use when talking about the functional ego state diagram. First, there is the ceramic baseball analogy. This analogy helps me to explain how emotional and physical trauma creates fragmentation in the self, what integration is, and why.

Integration is the primary goal of therapy. So, if you imagine the self as a ceramic baseball and you come into the world, life throws you a curve and you get hit by a bat, what happens to that ceramic baseball? That's right. It breaks or shatters. Now there's a core chunk of self that continues to grow and self-actualize into the adult that you are today.

But being traumatized as a child would leave splinters or shards or fragments of self that are broken off or split off from the self and floating like satellites around the outside. To give an example of that, imagine an eight-year-old boy walks into a pitch black, dark room. The door slams shut, and there's a heavy scent of garlic in the air. Suddenly, he's getting beaten up by an adult male. He doesn't know who it is, but he's being traumatized.

30 years later, the same person walks into a dark room. There's a smell of garlic in the air. It's pitched black, and the door slammed shut. Suddenly he's having a panic attack and he feels like he's eight years old again. This is because his awareness left his core chunk of adult oriented self and went into the broken or fragmented part of self.

The traumatized part and re-experience that whole episode over again when he didn't get beaten up like he did the first time. Then his awareness goes back to the core chunk of self, and he's wondering how that happened. Some people wonder if the term fragmentation means we're talking about multiple personalities.

While dissociation and multiple personality disorder, now called dissociative identity disorder, can result from serious trauma, usually it's the result of ongoing, severe abuse inflicted on a child before the age of six years old. So, for the vast majority of people, we are not referring to multiple personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder.

All people have many different parts in transactional analysis and other parts-oriented therapies like internal family systems therapy or precision CBT. These are referred to as ego states or simply parts of self.

To get a better idea of the concept of parts of self, remember the last time you may have said something to yourself like Man, I hate it when I do that, or Why do I always do that? These are indications that some part of you is doing something another part of you does not authorize for this next part of the presentation. It helps to have a visual.

So if you're using the Sound wise mobile app and listening to this audio, you can open the notes section and find that visual there. Now referring to that visual. If you look right in the center of it, the adult ego state is the out front leading the way. Part of self. This is the part of self that gathers information, solves problems and makes logical, objective decisions.

All those executive functioning aspects of self. I like to call it the CEO of the self. And like any good CEO, the adult self must work in the here and now, mindful of the lessons of the past and the goals for the future. But operating in the here and now, and a good CEO knows how to work in consultation with the experts. In this case, that would be the integrated parent and child ego States.

The term integration means a combination of parts that are connected and working in harmony with each other. In my version of the functional ego state map, integrated ego States are represented by the color green. Fragmented parts of self are disconnected. They get triggered and do their own thing, causing internal conflict and disharmony. There's little or no connection with the adult ego state, and therefore little or no connection with the here and now.

Fragmented ego-states are operating as if they are actually living in the past. Here in this visualization, fragmented parts of self are represented by the color red and exist on the fringes of the personality. So, the green zone is where we are when things are going well and we are autonomous or not. In script, the red zone is where we go when we get triggered into those live scripts. This is when we experience those “scripty” emotional themes from the past and begin acting out those cycles of abandonment, shame and contempt.

Another concept is that of the psychological position. Psychological positions are ideas that we hold about ourselves, others, and the world in general. Psychological positions in the green zone of integration are based on the premise that I am basically okay, and you are basically okay. Fragmented positions are grounded in the belief that either I'm not okay and or you are not okay. Fragmented parts of self are not connected to the here and now.

They're not mindful of the adult ego state linkage to the adult is necessary for healing and integration to occur. For these parts, they need access to the adult oriented parts of self. Again, the words negative and positive represent the psychological positions of each ego state. Negative stands for not okay and Positive stands for basically okay. Keep in mind that I'm okay, you're okay.

It's the healthy position. Even when someone's behavior is not okay, they're basically okay and capable of making better choices. Okay? Referring to the diagram, the negative protective parent is the punitive and or demanding critical parent ego state that tries to control self and others with shaming messages like should, must, and ought to rules. This ego state functions under the philosophy that self or others are not okay, and they need me to set them straight.

The positive protective parent, on the other hand, is the part of self that takes charge in a directive but non shaming way when someone is in immediate danger, such as when a loved one drinks too much to drive or they're so depressed that they're talking of suicide. In those cases, we need to step in and take charge.

Another example might be when a parent has to step in and correct or redirect their child, such as when a teenager violates curfew or drinks alcohol at a party. The position here is that everyone is basically okay and usually able to make their own good decisions, but the circumstances are temporarily such that I need to step in. The negative nurturing parent is the fixing, rescuing, caretaking, codependent parent who needs to be needed.

This position is that you are not okay, and I must help you. The positive nurturing parent is that authentically, supportive, and nurturing part of self that comes up when the time is right, like in a situation, such as when comforting a grieving loved one or encouraging a nervous partner or just being supportive to a friend.

The negative natural child is the impulsive, undisciplined, spoiled, or bratty child who behaves in embarrassing ways, such as belching in public. It holds the position that I'm okay and you're not if you try to get in my way. This is the kid in the candy store without parental supervision, and sometimes this is the addict part of self.

The positive natural child is that spontaneous, free spirited, fun loving, and adventurous part that likes to giggle and laugh, enjoys the simple things in life, and wants to sample all the pleasures life has to offer. Everything and everyone is okay. This part means the positive adapted child to keep it somewhat in check.

The negative adapted child are the reactive, wounded child ego States, the vulnerable, needy child, the angry, defiant child, and the manipulative little professor. The vulnerable needy child holds all the original pain of abandonment and shame.

The angry, defiant part carries the contempt for self and or others, and the manipulative little professor figures out how to get needs met in those old, underhanded ways of childhood when it was not okay to ask directly for what you need.

In certain situations, these ego States get triggered into feeling very not okay, and they begin to act out those childhood wounds in present day life causing problems. The positive adapted child. These are the Proactive healthy child ego States that learned how to express their needs in socially acceptable ways. These are the parts of self that help us function in the world.

They've been socialized and adapted to the culture in which they live. Those who do not have such ego States are usually institutionalized until they can be rehabilitated. You can learn more about this functional ego-state map by reading the book Throwing Toxic Relationships. It's the fourth in a series of five books in the Thawing the iceberg program. Thanks for listening.

Download the Functional Ego-State Map

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Don Carter MSW, LCSW