Working with an Executive Coach recently, I was reminded by her of a particular model of counselling, called Transactional Analysis.  The assumptions of the ‘Transactional Analysis’ Framework are:

  1. People are OK.
  2. Everyone has the capacity to think.
  3. People decide their own destiny, and these decisions can be changed.


Wow.  It’s that simple.  And to prove it, let’s look at the assumptions a bit more closely…

1                  People Are OK

Everyone has worth, value and dignity.  This is a statement of character, as opposed to how people behave.  So although I may not like or accept what a person DOES,  I still value and accept who he or she is as a person.  Basically, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin”.

2                  Everyone Has the Capacity to Think

Everyone with a normally functioning brain has the capacity to think.  Therefore every individual has the ability to decide what he or she wants from life, and carries the ultimate responsibility for living with the consequences of their own personal decisions.   Nobody can be ‘made’ to act, think or feel in particular ways by other people, or by the environment, except by physical force or threat.

3                  People Decide Their Own Destiny, and These Decisions Can Be Changed

Some of our responses to events are developed when we are children – so for example eating for comfort when we heard our parents fighting, is a childhood response that can be brought through into adulthood.  When you react to an event as an adult, with this response that was developed in childhood, you are living by a largely unconscious “Script” written long ago. However, you are not only repeating your old, childish response, but by doing so, you are re-living the emotions that went with that memory or event long ago, so it becomes a very charged experience over time.

Part of the work we do as counsellors is to help clients stop reacting to current events by re-enacting old scripts.  Instead we ‘Invite Autonomy’ – we ask clients to ‘forget’ their old responses and ask them to approach any current problem or issue with a clean slate, and therefore make a rational, adult decision based on the facts surrounding the event today.

For example – say you reached for biscuits or sweets, or you were given biscuits or sweets as a distraction, when your parents fought.  The script you develop here is conflict = stress = biscuits = comfort.  As an adult then, any time there is a suggestion of conflict, you do not tackle the issue that caused the conflict, instead you feel stressed, and reach for the biscuits.

However, as an adult, if you are engaged in a workplace disagreement with someone, there is probably a mutually agreeable compromise to be found, and possibly some work to be done on inter-colleague communication, but this is probably the last thing you can do, as you felt overwhelmed with the feelings (emotional memory) of stress, and ran away from the conflict, straight to the biscuit jar.

By becoming more mindful, you CAN decide to change how you think, and feel.  You may need support in doing this from a counsellor, a group or a self-help program such as our online program, which is entirely based on the premise that people can change.  It is making the commitment to work towards changing that is the difficult bit.  But remember: You are OK, You have the Capacity to Think, and Therefore You CAN Change your Destiny.


This article was based on Chapter 1 of Stewart, I., “Transactional Analysis Counselling in Action” (1989), UK: Sage