The Three P’s

The 3 P's

I have described several safe experiments based on the Transactional Analytic (TA). On this page, I describe the three P’s from the TA model; they are:

Permission, Protection and Potency

There is more detailed background about these qualities available at:

… where you will glean some useful information. Even so, notice the value-laden language on this website as judgementalism permeating the world of therapy in both subtle, and less subtle ways.

As you research these three words, please consider: how would YOU translate the “3P’s” into your own world?

This may mean taking time to consider some personal short-comings. This is a difficult but essential step to take if you are to become your own expert – seeking out unpalatable things can be a step toward creating something just that little bit different.

On this page, I want to consider some small, safe experiments that may promote these qualities; qualities that can enhance our sense of well-being.


This area relates to ‘Allowers’; actions we are encouraged to take in our lives. This may arise from support and encouragement we received from our care-takers, or via new decisions taken to counter prohibitions we met in our early years.

Permissions connect to both Injunctions and Drivers. For example, some people may feel little right to exist so they have few Permissions to be themselves. Experiments can designed once we become aware of our ‘favourite’ Driver – the one we are most susceptible to.

For instance, affirmation work can help. You’ll notice how affirmations can often feel phoney at first; the prohibition is strong and working towards a Permission will go against that powerful, early message. Therefore, affirmation work needs persistence. Results may be slow to arrive!

An important Permission sought by some is the permission to feel. Although emotions are hard-wired into our systems, our social training can lead to some feelings getting a priority. Other feelings kept well hidden. Safe experiments to identify and label the full range of emotions we experience can help. Notice the illustration listing some emotions a little way down this page.

Often families suppress the child’s feelings – intentionally and unintentionally. Some families have a set of feelings that are OK, and others that are less ‘acceptable’. Over the years, it is possible for us to find an ‘OK’ feeling that can be displayed as a substitute for another experience. A common example, is for anxiety to be a ‘cover’ for our feelings of anger. The safe experiment – to explore ways in which anger is OK – is discussed on this hyper-linked page.

Other times, anxiety becomes pervasive in some-one’s life as it’s the only emotion that is acceptable.


The trouble with seeking those ‘permissions’ is that we will need to test out new boundaries and exploring new territories. That can feel scary sometimes. Therefore, it helps to have safe experiments that offer some protection from your risk taking.

The most detailed experiment I have offered can be found on a page about creating your own Safe Place. A less obvious example is Standing Back. In this situation, I step back from the current challenge and seek to see things ‘from a distance’; to see the wood for the trees.

Often this is helped by taking myself off to a quiet place, for a moment’s reflection.

Another Protection is our support system – family, friends and colleagues in the community. Sadly, support systems can be ‘thin’ on the ground for individuals most in need of support. There are a number of voluntary or third sector organisations, mostly run not-for-profit, able to provide some temporary backup.

It’s difficult to supply a list of resources without doing a disservice to good one that are left out. Even so, the internet will provide information from local and national governments giving details of contact points for a range of services, whether it for those feeling life is not worthwhile, to people in crisis through relationship breakdown. Groupwork can be a way to build up supports by working with like-minded people, and a confident, yet sensitive group leader.

In modern times, there are a number of other support services available on-line. I know these work for many people. Personally, I am of the generation rather suspicious of social media and other on-line facilities. I am sure we all know individuals who have had ‘their fingers burned’ via the impersonal and exploitative sections of the internet. So another safe experiment is to approach any NEW support with caution, and to ‘test the water’ bit-by-bit.

Another advert for the ‘small’ in small, safe experiment!


Potency, the personal power to get things done, is a resource we can all use.

It’s a tricky quality to talk about in practical terms; how do we enhance our potency this afternoon? I have already mentioned the value of affirmation work and my page on motivation may be of some relevance.

Potency does involve finding out what you can do and, indeed, what you cannot do – if only for today. I touch on the subject using a Paper from some colleagues – now a few years old.

I have a further page that may be helpful. It talks around meaning-making and it focuses attention on the do-able, rather than the fanciful or our vague ambitions.

A more practical page addresses the safe experiment of ‘reframing‘ as it may address how to find our own personal power knowing it can be elusive.

Developing our own potency may involve throwing off the shackles of our past; making sure we do not hold on to the family ‘hot potato’. This experiment can be helped by editing some automatic thoughts we hold in our head. For instance, some of the ‘sorries’ we offer to others may not be justified, and simply operate to undermine our self confidence or our self-belief. Next time you hear yourself about to say ‘sorry’, ask yourself: is it right to apologise at this time? Is there something else to say that might help me assert myself more decisively?

As ever, these are just a sample of lines of inquiry you could follow. Here are a few more!

Some further leads to consider

What is the scenic route?

Facing obstacles on your own scenic route

Actions that might work as small, safe experiments

When actions might not be so helpful

An index of pages on Your Nudge