The 3 P’s: Potency, Protection, Permission

A fundamental concept of transactional analysis is the 3 P’s: potency, protection, and permission. All coaching is a process of creating change. The coachee must believe they have the potency to achieve their desired change, the protection from external or internal forces which are causing inertia against the change, and the permission from their inner self to create the change they want.

The three p’s are an area where the difference between coaching and therapy or other supportive professions is perhaps starkest: in therapy, it is often the parent-therapist who is offering protection, and permission, to the child-client. There is an imbalance in potency. In coaching, we are always striving to create an equal relationship between coach and coachee, a partnership of two adults (in the TA sense of the parent, adult, child model) where the coach and coachee act as equal forces in the coachee’s journey of change.

We are still facing the greatest global upheaval in our lifetimes. At a time like this, acting from our fully-resourced adult state can be a real challenge: plenty of us will be retreating into our child state, seeking an authority for protection or rebelling against the perceived intrusions on natural freedom, or conversely, striding into our parent state, imposing structure everywhere or attempting to swaddle everything in cotton wool.

Especially as the pandemic response continues to evolve and change, it’s very important to recall all our inner resources and how we are going to continue to draw on them over the long term.  At this time of disruption, what permissions have you given yourself for developing coping mechanisms and calling on your resources to get through this? What protection do you need, and how are you finding it in yourself? Where is your potency coming from, and what are you doing to nourish it or remind yourself of it?

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