A Client Who Acts Like His Father

Today I saw a returning client who had been attending for a few weeks, working on his

communication skills and his self confidence. He had been experiencing panic disorder

and had issues in his relationships both at work and at home which were causing him


In previous sessions, we had used the approach known as Transactional Analysis to look at

how he was interacting with others. Today’s session was moving on from this first step in

the therapy to look at each of his ego states in more detail and for him to build a picture of

how his three ego states felt when he was operating from each of them.

Understanding transactional analysis

Enabling the client to recognise when they are in each of the three states empowers them

to then make changes as the need arises. Unless they know which state they are in, they

can't change.

I explained that the child and parent states are historic, in that we rely on data collected by

ourselves from when we were young to define how we are in these states.

I asked the client if he would like to work on his parent state first and he agreed. Our

Parent state is made up of the recording we made of how we viewed our parents when we

were children. It is part of how we learn to 'parent' our own children and you can see

evidence of this when you watch small children playing. They will often repeat phrases or

behaviour that they have copied from their parents, especially when engaging in games

such as 'schools' or 'mummies and daddies'.

His parents

I asked him how he remembered viewing his parents when he was younger (rather than

how he saw them now) and he described his father as being quite a quiet man who 'would

do anything for an easy life where mum was concerned'.

He went on to say that his father was a loving man who rarely lost his temper and even

though at times was frustrated with his wife, never shouted but rather kept everything

inside and maintained the peace. The client summed his father's role up as one of being the

peace keeper in the family and who provided a steady, calm influence over the family.

The client described his mum in affectionate terms but described her as being 'feisty' and

'up and down a lot of the time'. He remembered her shouting a lot at him and his siblings

and not really knowing what they had done wrong.

Although he felt loved by both of his parents, he remembered feeling quite on edge when

coming home from school knowing that his father wouldn't be home for another few hours

and wondering what mood his mother would be in and whether he would be shouted at.

His home life

The client became quite emotional when he spoke about not wanting to make his mother

angry and I asked him if this was relating to anything in his life in the present day. He said

that he had realised this was how he felt when he came home from work and was worrying

what mood his wife would be in when he got through the door. He felt that she was quite a

volatile person and that the slightest thing would 'set her off' and cause a row.

I asked him how this made him feel and he said that he felt the same as when he would be

coming home from school, quite apprehensive, scared and wanting it all to stop. He looked

at me and said he felt 'like I am 5 years old again'.

When he actually got through the door, he would take on the role that his father had done

with his mother and be placating, trying to smooth things over and make everyone happy.

He said that this was what was causing him to be so anxious, as he didn't always succeed.


I asked him if he ever reacted in any other way to his wife and he said that he shouted back

at her when he felt that he couldn't calm the situation down. He realised that he was

mirroring his own parent's behaviour and how they interacted with each other, by being a

peace keeper like his father and also at times, argumentative like his mother.

We looked at how he felt when he was operating from his Parent state and how he could

recognise this in future.

We had covered a lot in this session and he said he had a lot to think about over the next


He made his appointment for the following week and left.


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