This is a TA (Transactional Analysis) term and needs a little clarification because of the two approaches I have used: one in my journals (see this entry, from 11 years ago) and one here on my website. In this post I briefly explain the difference between the two approaches and, at the end, I say a little more about what the Child ego state is.
The method I learnt during my training, which is referenced throughout my journals, divides the Child ego state as follows:
- Adapted Child – obediently sticks to the rules and adapts itself to its surroundings.
- Rebellious Child – goes against whatever it is told.
Whereas, the one I describe on my website uses the following subdivisions:
- Adapted Child – this is the same term as above but encompasses both of the above definitions in one. It is used to indicate the Child ego state which reacts to authority or its environment (either with compliance or rebellion).
- Natural Child – unrestricted by any boundaries; creative, playful, joyous. This is also sometimes referred to as the Free Child.
In my work with clients I use the second set of definitions as it allows for the distinction between what happens when boundaries are present and when there are none.
The Child ego state contains the thoughts and feelings we had as a child. They are conditioned by the experiences we had at that time and our reactions to the messages we received from those around us – our parents or those closest to us. When we find ourselves in similar situations as grown-ups we replay the behaviour we exhibited during those early experiences. It happens unconsciously and, as with all such behavioural patterns, if it remains unchecked it persists.
The Child ego state is dominated by emotions of all kinds. It is the source of our creativity and our joy, as well as the place our fears and worries reside.