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Ego states, Parent - Adult - Child

By lili <>

Many people talk about the child inside the submissive. Their "inner child" or the "little girl inside". So many, infact, that there must, undeniably, be something in it. I know that I have had far more experiences in a "child-like" state since entering the process of Internal Enslavement than I ever had previously. If I am honest, probably more than I have had since being a very small child myself.

In many ways the kind of upbringing I had led to my growing up fast. Living with two parents who hated being in the same room as each other meant that I spent whatever time I could out of the house. I grew up fast, infact you could say that I was adult before my time.

IE freed the child in me, but that doesn't mean that I am childish, although, in many ways I can be very childlike. Equally, I do not enter a state of being childlike and find myself annoyingly trapped there. I am as capable of actively using the adult in me as I am using the child (at least nowadays I am, anyway.)

So what does this all mean? Am I just a little girl wanting a good "father-figure"? Could it be true that in order to achieve M/s a Dominant needs to parent a perpetual grown child? Personally, I find this hard to believe.

Eric Berne describes the Child as one of 3 ego states in his description of "Transactional Analysis" (TA). In brief, he describes 3 ego states which he named "Adult", "Parent" and "Child". The "Parent" can be described as "controlling and nurturing", The "Adult" as "sensible and logical" and the "Child" as "playful and childlike". Infact it is in the ego state of "Child" that we experience most joyously and equally most tragically, our lives.

I feel that I should point out now that my embarrassingly brief explanation of what took Berne a career to develop does not, by any means, do it justice. I can only say that, if you are in the slightest bit interested in TA, you could do worse than reading Eric Berne's "Games people play" or Claude Steiner's "Scripts people live". I read them both and found them fascinating.

I have come to realise that, for many years now, the child in me was supressed, mostly because she is the one hurt by the world outside. This meant that, although I could use and control my Adult and Parent ego states, I lost the ability to access the Child and this left me incomplete. Not that far into the process of IE something strange started happening to me. I began to feel afraid of loosing myself again. Of course, on the surface of things, this didn't make sense. Logically I knew I needed slavery, I also was beginning to realise that to be whole again I had to regain the ability to use my Child ego state freely. However, what I began to experience was the Child running wild. For a time this felt wonderfully freeing, but, after a while, I felt as though I was being smothered by it. The Child was running free at the expense of my other 2 ego states.

The Parent and the Adult aspects of me are the ones I have relied on for survival for such a long time. I know how they work and I have learned, over time, which ego state copes best in what situation.

The Child in me was hidden away for so long that, for a time, I felt unpredictable in that ego state. I found myself acting in ways I would have never done before. I also began to find it progressively more difficult to switch to a more appropriate ego state than Child, for example, when I felt scared it's would have been better for me to use my Adult or Parent ego states than the Child ego state (I experience things far more intensely and less logically in "Child" than I do in either Adult or Parent.)

Whenever I delt with situations, inappropriate for a Child ego state, I ended up feeling frustrated, I was having tantrums or sulks and at times I was begining to thoroughly annoy myself (goodness only knows how Tanos put up with me!)

In some ways this gave me a very real sense of loosing myself, in that I didn't always feel in control of my own emotions. At that time I was awash with childish reactions and emotions and I really didn't know how to deal with them, or even if I should be attempting to.

In the end I just let them go and stopped trying to suppress them. Sometimes it really is better to let go of the old in order to embrace new ways of handling things. (How I wish it was as easy to do as it is to just say these words.)

I know now that Tanos stayed in control of the situation throughout my transition, but, at the time, I was still scared. He told me to let go and trust him and I knew that was exactly what I needed to do, but saying it didn't make it happen (time did that instead.)

Knowing how this all affected me, and knowing what I have learned about the ego states, I am convinced of how unhealthy it would be for anyone to be encouraged to use just one ego state. By encouraging the use of one ego state (Child) at the expense of the others (Adult and Parent) would be to deny us from using the very things which have kept most of us (particularly submissives) safe all our lives. We would become incapable of using all the healthy ways of coping, with life and with ourselves.

For a while I went through a stage of only being able to access my Child ego state with Tanos. I believe this had alot to do with the fact that I had supressed my Child as a way of coping with life, myself. So when I finally found a safe place to be the Child, I ran amock as a Child. I over used it, because I was so delighted in the way it made me feel. I enjoyed things in a completely different way, in a way I had forgotten how to.

In the end I just irritated myself to death with it. I feel far more balanced now, I am better able to bring the appropriate ego state into play, sometimes with prompting by Tanos (usually as a response to his present ego state.)

Tanos has an extremely strong Adult, something that gradually has helped me to connect to my own weakened Adult. I'm not too sure, now, how much of our relationship is actually Parent - Child. We spend a great deal of our time in Adult - Adult as well as Adult - Child interactions. Ofcourse there is an element of Parent - Child but we also have quite alot of Child - Child too (especially when we are doing and enjoying the things we like doing together!)


I must admit that I am unconvinced that "parenting" is what, fundamentally, underpins an M/s relationship, although it does, to some degree, seem to be part and parcel of accessing the submissive's inner self. I suppose if we accept that everyone has an inner Parent, Adult and Child then a Master who is able to access and even control those ego states, will be gaining access to a better understanding of his slave as well as gaining the ability to control her ego states as an appropriate and desired response to his own. I realise, with hindsight, that Tanos and I have been working in the past in compatible ego states, without having prior knowledge of what they were called. I certainly, and quite obviously, switch P-A-C ego states in response to Tanos. I am not his child, although I have a little child inside me, but then, according to Eric Berne, so do you.

Further reading

Berne and Steiner's books on Transactional Analysis are available from the IE Bookshop.

Last updated 5 July 2001.

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