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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

Do Organisations 'Decide' Their Fate?

Whilst I could commence these workshop notes with the TA concept of script I am, instead, going to refer to Massey’s paper on Freedom and Responsibility (2006).

TA is an interpersonal social psychology that also deals with systemic processes. In order to consider an organisation, we also need to think about the issues of freedom and responsibility as these will be translated differently within each organisation dependent upon the organisational script. 

Eric Berne’s Freudian background meant that he focused on the individual. He did talk about the social, but the emphasis was on social psychiatry and individual autonomy. He did not talk so much about the interpersonal context and, therefore, the concept of responsibility to others. 

In order to consider freedom and responsibility, we need to be able to take the role of the “other” and establish empathy and appreciation of the other’s perspective. Massey cites a number of theorists – Buber, Natanson and Laing who all talked about the “between”. When we are social we consider what happens between people. 

“Persons exercising freedom and responsibility coconstruct both what occurs between them and the quality of group living.  In responsible freedom each person interprets accurately the meanings of all parties and acts to protect the freedom of each to respond and to connect with integrity.' (Massey, 2006: p140)

Whilst organisations do not have ego states, they do have elements that correspond to them as these are communicated through the primal leader/s or euhemerus. Once the organisation is set up, it develops energy of its own but, because of the co-creativity, this is influenced by the original leader. 

Barnes talks about consultants and change agents needing to work with all levels of the organisations – the interpersonal and the social system.

To quote Joines (in Barnes, Ed, 1977):

“Corresponding to the Parent ego state in individuals, institutions have established patterns of belief and patterns of behaviour. Analogous to an Adult ego state in the individual, institutions have technologies. In place of a Child ego state, institutions have patterns of feelings and mythologies. Once these institutions are set up with certain defined procedures, they begin to function somewhat independently of any of the individuals involved. This means that if all the individuals within the institution were suddenly to change their life scripts, the institution would continue to function as usual until its operational procedures were also changed. Similarly, the institution’s procedures could be changed with little effect on the individuals’ life scripts. Thus, effective change must involve both the individuals changing their life scripts and the institution or social system changing its operational procedures on the social and psychological level”  (pp 270-271).

In 1977, Transactional Analysts were talking about Adult as being unemotional, like a computer. Today we think about the Integrating Adult ego state which is about integrating our past experiences and using them appropriately today. Therefore, where Joines talks about “technologies” he is using the outdated concept of Adult. Today, we talk about thoughts, feelings and behaviours that are related to the here-and-now.

However, we can still consider the intra-personal, interpersonal and social systems as all being linked through the concept of scripts. These scripts can be supported through dysfunctional means such as games and rackets.

Drego (2006) was a keynote speaker at the World TA conference in Edinburgh and her speech is written up in the TAJ. The conference theme was about freedom and responsibility and its relationship to ego states and she highlights TA’s social perspective. This perspective comes partly from three-dimensional OKness which Berne wrote little about, but did note. Davidson has gone into this concept in greater depth (1998, 2005).

Of course external forces influence the organisational script. Capitalism and industrialisation have their influence as does a sense of individualism or communalism that tend to occur in western and eastern societies respectively.

In addition each area of manufacturing will have their own practices e.g. soft drinks will operate differently to pharmaceutical companies. These all go toward influencing the script of each organisation.

Krausz* notes that organisational script change requires:

1.     Permission (internal and external) not to follow parental directives when they are inadequate/dysfunctional in the here-and-now

2.     suitable organisational growth and development

3.     here-and-now decisions

4.     a real turn-on for success

5.     coherent and convincing organisational behaviour and functioning.

Redecision Theory

A redecision is making a change in the early script decision.

Bob and Mary Goulding are the originators of the Redecision School of TA. Their approach incorporates Gestalt Therapy with TA, often using two-chair work to facilitate the process. Their emphasis is on recontacting the Child feelings that were experienced at the time of the early decision. They might then go on to undertake a de-briefing through the Adult ego-state to ensure understanding.

The Gouldings felt that since the original decision was made from the Child ego-state then to make a lasting change, the redecision needs to be made from the Child ego-state as well. They also believe that changes made from Adult are not as long lasting.

The Gouldings describe an impasse as two parts of the person as pushing against each other and therefore the person can become stuck. They conceptualised the impasse between different ego-states or different parts of an ego-state. As the individual strives to become autonomous, this sets up internal conflicts called impasses. The same can be said of organisations.

Type one concerns counterinjunctions. These are messages about how to be OK given by parents (e.g. Be Strong – you are OK if you show strength and minimise expression of feelings, or Be Perfect – you are OK if you get everything right). The decision to respond to these messages can begin the conflict with the person’s needs and here and now wants and hence the development of the impasse.

Type two concerns injunctions – messages from the Child of the parent. This occurs when they are responding to their own Child needs, rather than to the needs of their off-spring.

Type three relates to issues around identity. Many people talk about this type of impasse as “It’s always been this way”. Mellor (1980) went on to develop his own understanding of impasse theory, writing in the TAJ about a developmental understanding of impasse theory. For him, first degree (his term for type) impasses occur after the child is old enough to understand language.

Second degree impasses originate earlier and the messages relate are carried by feelings.

Third degree impasses relate to very early, even pre-natal experiences.

It is likely that we develop third degree impasses first, then second and then first degree. However, it is not always linear and interventions may need to go back and for forth as different impasses and types of impasses are uncovered.

Mellor’s and Gouldings models for diagramming impasses are different. Mellor maintains the structural model throughout, whilst the Gouldings shift into an early functional model. For Mellor, resolution is through A2, for the first degree impasse, A1 for the second degree, and A0 for the third degree.

Mellor finds that the consideration of development theory is helpful in his process with psychotherapy clients. Is this where organisational and psychotherapy applications divide or is there use in the developmental model in organisations?  

Redecision in the Work Place

We can get impasses in the work place. For example, a type three impasse might occur when an organisation re-structures and takes on new employees. Those new in are likely to be motivated, have new ideas and accept the new structure, whilst those who have been in the organisation for some time may be resistant, scared and want things to remain as they were.

How might the other types of impasses occur?  What other ways might a type three impasse occur?


Boyd, H. S. and Cowles-Boyd, L (1980). Blocking Tragic Script Outcomes, TAJ 10:3.

Campos, L (1976). Empowering, TAJ 6:4.

Davidson, C and Mountain, A (2005). Assessing Systems and Processes in Organizations, TAJ, 35:4.

Drego, P (2006). Freedom and Responsibility: Social Empowerment and the Altruistic Model of Ego States, TAJ 36:2.

Goulding, B. and Goulding, M (1979). Changing Lives Through Redecision Therapy, Grove Press.

Holloway W (1973). Shut the escape hatch, Monograph IV, Wm. H. Holloway, M.D.

Krausz R.R (1993). Organizational Scripts, TAJ 23:2

Joines V.S (1977). An integrated systems perspective, in G. Barnes (Ed), Transactional Analysis after Eric Berne: Teachings and practices of three TA schools (pp257-272,) New York: Harper College Press.

Levin-Landheer, P (1982), The Cycle of Development, TAJ 12:2.

Massey, R (2006). Freedom with Responsibility: Interconnecting Self, Others and Social Structures in Context, TAJ 36:2.

Mellor, K (1980). Impasses: A Developmental and Structural Understanding, TAJ 10:3.

Mountain, A (2000). The Relevance of Culture and Relationship Dynamics for Closing Escape Hatches in Therapy, TAJ 30:2.

Novey, T (1975). Middle Essence and Management, TAJ 5:4.