Ego State Therapy - The Origin of States

Where did our ego states come from and do we all have the same ones?

The following information comes directly from  Ego State ... the official Australian website for Ego State Therapy

We are not born with our different parts or ego states.  We make them as we live.  Our ego states are formed when we do something over and over again.  This ‘over and over again’ learning creates a physical neural pathway in the brain that has its own level of emotion, abilities, and experience of living.

If, as a child, I bring my mother a cup of tea and she gives me a hug and thanks me, then the next time I want some nurturance I may do something nice for my mother or for someone else.  If this continues to work for me, and I continue to do nurturing things for people, and I continue to get positive feedback, I will develop a nurturing ego state.  At future times in life, when I want to feel a connection with someone this nurturing part may come out and my feelings and actions will be nurturing.  Some people may be good at bringing that part of me out.


If, as a child, I am feeling a need for attention and I tell a joke or do something funny, and if I get a positive response (that’s really good), and if I continue to get a positive response over months and years for being funny, I may develop a joking, comedian, ego state.  If, on the other hand, when I tell those first jokes, if I get a, “Be quiet Gordon” response, I will probably not develop a joking ego state. We each have our own special parts according to the experiences we have lived.  The ways our family and friends react to us help us develop the particular ego states we have.


By repeating actions over and over again the brain will grow and connect in such a way that will create a physical neural pathway that is an ego state.  We will switch into an ego state when a need for that state occurs, or when an injured part is reminded of the injury it may come out in an attempt to gain some resolution. That is why a bad feeling can come over us all at once.


Our brains are composed of cells, called neurons. We are born with millions of neurons.  We can lose them through injury and aging.  Thankfully, we have a lot, and the ones we have can be trained, and retrained. Our brains can grow. We can grow new neurons and we can grow new connections between our neurons.

An interesting thing is that our brains grow according to stimulation.  When mice were raised in an active environment their brains grew bigger than mice grown in a passive environment.  Like muscles, brains grow bigger with use.

When kittens wore special goggles that allowed them to see only horizontal shapes for their first 4 or 5 months of life, they became mostly blind to vertical shapes when the goggles were removed.  So our brains actually grow according to the amount of stimulation we get, and according to the type of stimulation we get. The goggles made the kittens practice seeing only horizontal shapes.  When we do a nurturing behaviour over and over again, that is like the kittens special goggles.  Our brains develop according to that repeated behaviour.

That is how we develop ego states.  By doing the same type of activity over and over we grow connections that create a specific neural pathway that is an ego state.  An ego state is a physical part of our brain.  Our brains are trained to have the ego states we have.  An ego state is a grouping of neural fibres that have been trained in such a way to provide us with specific skills and emotions.  Our ego states are our resources that we can call upon according to our needs. They are called ego states because whichever state we are in, we think of it is 'me', we have ego idenity there.

Each of us has our own distinctive set of ego states that we have trained.  No one else will have ego states that exactly match our own, but they may have some ego states that are very similar to some of ours