So, the theory goes, we all have three ways of being inside us. We can behave like children, or like adults, or like parents. Different behaviours are associated with each state – most of our emotions, our feelings, for example, come from the ‘child’ state. Anger (though not temper tantrums) often accompanies a ‘parent’ state, except for ‘righteous anger’ which is properly adult.
At best, we all have a happy, free, fun-loving child who has been well-fed with praise and love. And we have a good merciful parent with firm boundaries. And we have a rational adult, capable of thinking through problems and making sensible decisions without being flooded by the (childish) emotions running parallel or allowing an overly judgemental parent to reign supreme.
Our child states and our parental states are formed by our experience, primarily by the experiences we underwent at the hands of our parents in the first few years of our life. The adult comes later.
But things rarely go entirely smoothly, and sometimes the child is very upset, and sometimes the parent is very critical and sometimes people have such a hard time functioning in all three states appropriately that they ditch the difficult ones. So a man might ditch the parent (and the adult most of the time) and resolutely occupy the child position for as much as possible. Or a woman’s default position might be to hide her suffering child and cluck like a mother hen instead.
What sometimes happens, when one of these ego states or life positions is missing, is that the lopsided person finds another person to cling onto and between them they make one whole person. So the man who is the pillar of his community but never a child, finds a childish wife to play on his behalf. He can be happy with her child, even enjoying her naughtiness, and she is absolved of the responsibility of being the parent. There is a symbiosis that can appear stable.
But, in truth, there is something missing in both of them. He has no joy in him, only vicarious joy in the play of others. She is undeveloped and rendered incapable of thinking for herself. The stability arises because both has a great deal to gain from the symbiotic relationship continuing. He does not want to deal with his own less happy child. She cannot be bothered with the disclipine of becoming a parent.
Over time, however, each may start to grow. He may become tired and fed up with always being the responsible one. She may crib-bite at the playpen that limits her possibilities. Each may meet others who help them to dare to feel that forgotten state and each may desire to be whole unto themselves – separate, independent and open.