At Yale, where he studied psychoanalysis under Dr. Paul Federn.
After the war, Berne resumed his studies under Erik Erikson at the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute and practiced at Mt. Zion Hospital.
Berne wrote a series of papers and articles on intuition, describing in one popular exposition his apparently uncanny ability to guess the civilian occupation of soldiers from just a few moments conversation with them. His musings on the faculty of intuition led to his groundbreaking work on transactional analysis(TA).
Berne mapped interpersonal relationships to three ego-states of the individuals involved: the Parent, Adult, and Child state.
Philosophy of TA
• People are OK; thus each person has validity, importance, equality of respect.
• Everyone (with only few exceptions) has the capacity to think.
• People decide their story and destiny, and these decisions can be changed.
While still largely ignored by the psychoanalytic community, many therapists have put his ideas in practice.
In the first half of the book, Berne introduces Transactional Analysis as a way of interpreting social interactions. He describes three roles or ego states known as the Child, the Parent, and the Adult and postulates that many negative behaviors can be traced to switching or confusion of these roles. He discusses procedures, rituals, and pastimes in social behavior, in light of this method of analysis. For example, a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling parent will often engender self-abased obedience, tantrums, or other childlike responses from his employees.
The second half of the book catalogues a series of "games" in which people interact through a patterned and predictable series of "transactions" which are superficially plausible (that is, they may appear normal to bystanders or even to the people involved), but which actually conceal motivations, include private significance to the parties involved, and lead to a well-defined predictable outcome, usually counterproductive.
The book uses casual, often humorous phrases such as
"See What You Made Me Do,"
"Why Don't You - Yes But," and
"Ain't It Awful" as a way of briefly describing each game.
Often, the "winner" of a mind game is the person that returns to the Adult ego-state first.
Not all interactions or transactions are part of a game. Specifically, if both parties in a one-on-one conversation remain in an Adult ego-state, it is unlikely that a game is being played.