The Adult ego state is suggested in many psychological theories as the state of psychological health. In the Adult ego state the person sees the world as it is in the here and now and the person is not reacting to the world as they did when they were a child. (i.e. not in the here and now but reacting in an archaic fashion).
As a result many psychotherapies are designed to give the person more access to their Adult ego state. They aim to assist the person to get into their Adult ego state and to stay there. In these approaches awareness is seen as facilitating cure. The assumption is awareness is cure, and thus some fall down a bit on this assumption.
The first and most obvious example is Freud and psychoanalysis. One of the main goals in psychoanalysis is to make unconscious material conscious. For instance through dream interpretation one can access the client’s unconscious. Once done the client can become aware of it (i.e. make it conscious ) and then they will be cured because they will understand the unconscious and can act in a conscious way (the Adult ego state).
CBT is the same. You seek the irrational thoughts or thinking errors and once discovered the person then can think about them and then use certain strategies to nullify them so as to remain in a rational state of mind. With feelings in CBT one thinks about them. What lead up to me feeling this? What irrational thought is underlying the feeling? And so forth. Once discovered one can be in the Adult ego state and fix things and avoid such situations in the future.
Classical TA is all about Adult awareness as well. One analyses games and scripts. Once understood one is more aware of them and thus can choose to stay out of games and so forth.
Whilst there are some significant difficulties with the idea that Adult equals health or cure without a doubt the more one has access to their Adult ego state and can stay in their Adult ego state when under stress the more they are going to deal with difficult situations in a productive way.
People can move out of their Adult ego state in two ways because there are only two other ego states. The Parent and the Child. If the person stops thinking in Adult and moves into the Child ego state that is called regression. The person regresses to an earlier state of being. They start to think and feel like they did when they were 7 years old. They will adopt their old problem solving styles from those early years which most often are not effective and lack logical problem solving.
The person may also move out of their Adult ego state by moving into their Parent ego state. This is sometimes known as crystallisation, because the persons thinking and problem solving becomes crystalline and thus lacks any flexibility which the Adult ego state think has.
For example, the person may say we drive this way to work because we always drive this way to work on a Monday. This is a Parent ego state solution to the problem of which way to drive to work. It has no flexibility. The Adult ego state solution is, “We drive this way to work today because the man on the radio said the other way has a traffic jam.” It is flexible depending on the current environmental conditions.
In older age when one starts to loose the Adult ego state functions with a bit of dementia people will go either into regression or crystallisation. With crystallisation they can be quite infuriating to debate with because they will not be willing to see any new information or other ways of thinking.
Of course some people will move out of Adult thinking much earlier in life and start problem solving with regressive or crystalline thinking. This can occur for many reasons and what is required is Adult ego state strengthening exercises. That is ways and means of strengthening the Adult ego state such that the person can maintain it better under stress.
I will outline various ways of doing these over the next few days as I add to this post. But for starters one would usually begin with awareness of the ego states and that can be done with the “Parts Party” exercise.
One gets three pieces of paper and writes Child, Adult, Parent on one of them each. They are placed on the floor. The therapist gets the client to stand on the piece of paper with Adult written on it. They are given something to talk about such as a person, a relationship, a difficulty they are currently having at work. Usually it is related to the reason why they came to therapy in the first place.
When standing on the Adult ego state paper they can only say things from their Adult. If they start talking from their Parent or Child ego states the therapist brings this to their attention and they move to that bit of paper and speak from that ego state that they moved into. They move to the various bits of paper as the exercise goes on and are allowed to only speak from that ego state.
This lets the client get some idea of what the various ego states are like and is allowed to begin to differentiate the three. They start to experience what it is like being in Adult, then Child and then Parent. They get a first hand experience of each ego state.
In addition they may have thought they were being in Adult when in fact they were in Child or Parent. So this can be an ego state decontaminating exercise as well. It will also show the client and the therapist what ego states they are most comfortable with and know the best. If they move onto the Parent piece of paper and find it very difficult to say anything one knows they spend little of their time in that ego state. If they move to the Child ego state and speak freely they are comfortable in that ego state.
After time as the client gets used to this exercise they can begin to correct self. If they are talking in Adult and feel self slip into Child then they can self correct which is the whole idea of Adult ego state strengthening. They begin to get an understanding of what it feels like to move out of Adult into the Parent or the Child and thus they can then self correct. Thus if they are in discussion with someone they can do the same and thus avoid communication difficulties.
One can do this exercise with other ego states like, NP, CP, FC, RC, CC & A.