Getting over it and A1 thinking

A1 black and white thinking. She is a bad person for hurting me. Behaviour can be the person.

A2 thinking can understand that all people are good and some just have unproductive behaviour or behaviour that hurts others. Behaviour is bad not the person.

A2 & A1 thinking Jpeg

We always have a Child ego state and therefore we always have A1 thinking – black and white thinking, magical thinking, fundamentalist thinking and so forth. We never loose this type of thinking but we do add A2 thinking at a latter time, so most adults end up with A1 and A2 type of thinking as a possibility. These are influential in the personality of each of us at different levels at different times in our lives.

In parenting books we read it is important to present to the child the difference between bad behaviour and a bad person. One is meant to teach this concept to the child. That all people are born good people, some of them do hurtful or bad behaviour but that does not make them a bad person. If a person does bad behaviour that does not make them a bad person. One reason for teaching this, is the child will at times apply the same black and white thinking to self.

Business lady

Black & white thinker


Mother scolds her son for hitting his sister. The son can then think “I am a bad person”, or “Mummy is saying I am a bad person” or “Mummy says I am unloveable”. Mother then at some point highlights to the child that she didn’t like his behaviour but she still loves him as her son. His bad behaviour does not make him a bad person, is what mother is trying to say.

There is a problem with this, as it is sophisticated grown up, A2 thinking. The Child ego state which includes the A1, will still not fully understand it and it will seem like a load of BS. When mummy asks her son if he understands the distinction she is making between a bad person and bad behaviour, most children will nod affirmatively in a Conforming Child ego state type of way. Part of them however will not accept it and their affirmative nod to mother is just to tell her what she wants to hear not because they understand and agree with her. The A1 black and white thinking of the child hears all the words and explanation but does not accept it as reality. In the A1 way of thinking, it is not reality nor logical.

A 30 year old adult is endeavouring to come to terms with a childhood that was quite brutal. Mother behaved in such a way, brutal at times, that was significantly damaging to the person. The person does all the anger, sadness and emotions. What is then meant to happen is the person is suppose to “Get over it”, or “Forgive the parent”. They are suppose to let it go and there are very good psychological reasons for doing so.


Forgiving someone who has hurt you can be this hard to do



At this point many therapists will attempt to sell the same logic to the client that the mother tried to sell to her son – bad behaviour does not mean bad person. When presented to the client some also  will agree with the therapist from a Conforming Child ego state position. Their A2 understands and agrees with what is being said but their A1 simply does not understand it and will believe it to be illogical because using black and white thinking and fundamentalist thinking it is illogical. One thing a therapist does not want is for the client to start adopting the Conforming Child position in the therapy. That is a very negative thing to happen for the long term success of the treatment.

But all is not lost. One does not seek to convince the A1 that it is illogical. One does not seek to convince the A1 that there is a difference between bad behaviour and a bad person. Instead one appeals to its logic where it can be shown to be suffering at its own hand. Not many people will go along with that for a long time. If a person remains angry at mother for her brutality in childhood then she looses out in two ways:

1. As a 30 year old she has all that emotion and energy locked up in the past, wasting away. They are trapped in their past and this interferes in how they get along in relationships and life today. Their anger is no longer hurting mother (who may now even be dead) but is only hurting self. A1 logic will understand this.

2. If one is carrying around a heavy bag of anger, sadness, shame and so on, on their back for years what will happen? Again, mother does not suffer, the person carrying the bag suffers and that suffering can be quite pronounced. For instance chronic angry feelings held over years can lead to all sorts of very unpleasant physical consequences including cancer and heart disease, migraines, stomach problems, skin rashes and so forth. The A1 will understand this logic.

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