“I’m OK-You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris, M.D. published by Harper & Row
“I’m OK—You’re OK” is a study of Transactional Analysis or the structure of self in relationship to one’s future.
According to Dr. Harris each person has a conflicting nature, which he illustrates in using a Parent-Adult-Child structure. To give a little insight into what he means by the P-A-C we must understand what each position is based on.
Dr. Harris speaks of the Parent as that personality which acts and decides on the basis of ideas received simply by instruction. These ideas are those which were accepted without questioning.
The Child is that personality which is motivated naturally and acts without restriction.
The Adult examines his Parent and Child and uses this data as a stepping stone from demonstrated standards and fantasied life to life as he figures it out. This is the decisive position.
From these three positions Dr. Harris shows how a person applies his feeling in a situation to the esteem he has for himself. These feelings always manufacture some combination of I’m OK—You’re OK, or I’m not OK—You’re not OK. The Child’s position is usually that of I’m not OK— You’re OK, or an inferiority complex. The Parent position is I’m OK—You’re not OK, or superiority complex. The Adult position is the ultimate goal of every person supposedly. This position maintains that I’m OK—You’re OK, or equal balance to oneself and fellow human.
Harris goes on to show the different problems that arise and how each situation may affect various individuals. He contends that the “cause and effect” nature of situations will not solve problems but man’s ability to contemplate the future or estimate probabilities and thereby analyze a transaction. He goes on to show different transactions and analyzes each to show the weaknesses of most and the strength of others.
Dr. Harris also contends that often a person’s ability to face each life situation becomes impaired and psychiatric treatment becomes necessary. It is here he shows the advantages of group treatment over against individual treatment because it encourages the Child to relax and laugh, and in turn is supportive and considerate to the Parent while looking for new answers for the Adult.
Situations which the reader delves into with Harris are connected to our responsibility, values, morals, and social and religious obligations.
My attention was especially drawn to his look at theology. His theory is that one should not allow theology to limit a person to certain beliefs accepted on the fact that forefathers taught them. According to Dr. Harris religion should leave one with the feeling of I’m OK—You’re OK. He holds to rebirth — that of the natural Child.
A summary of the whole foundation for the betterment of society is found in Dr. Harris’ closing statements, where he states that science has changed things making it possible to do away with the problems causing personal upheaval. A direct quotation may be revealing to his whole philosophy. “In the beginning man’s mind grew and developed in service to his own survival. Can we now turn the brain to new tasks of the survival of all people of the world? Can the gift of life and our brief span of existence on this earth be enjoyed to the fullest of human spiritual capacities?……….We believe we have found an opening . . . .” The conclusion one might draw is that he believes the problem has been faced and worked on and now we are building a better society.
It is not my responsibility as of now to comment on these positions of Dr. Harris but Mr. Huisken will give his critique on this work in a later issue.