Self-Help Advice Books I'm OK -- You're OK

About the self-help book I'm OK--You're OK by Tom Harris, history and advice from the book.


I'M OK--YOU'RE OK (1967)

The Head Man: "Tom Harris has done for psychotherapy the same thing Henry Ford did for the automobile: made it available to the average person," said J. Allyn Bradford, a Boston minister, who runs OK World, Inc., a Transactional Analysis training institute. Ministers in general like Harris and his "I'm OK--You're OK" brand of TA therapy. It's no accident; Harris, trained in medicine, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, is a practicing Presbyterian, who sees TA as a "manual for the survival of mankind." His evangelism is balanced by a hearty sense of humor. He reports in his book a colleague's remark to him in a parking lot: "If I'm OK and you're OK, how come you're locking your car?" He also has an iconoclastic view of psychology. A typical statement from Harris: "After about five years of psychoanalysis, you get a ton of garbage and an ounce of usable material. In TA, we go after the usable material right away."

Overview: According to Harris, all people begin by feeling they are Not OK, just because, as children, they are overwhelmed by superbig, superpowerful adults. The four patterns of adult response to life are:

1. I'm Not OK--You Are OK. By the end of the second year of life, most people have adopted this one.

2. I'm Not OK--You Are Not OK. This is less common, and often lies behind the problems of autistic children.

3. I'm OK--You Are Not OK. Also a less common response than the first, it is often adopted by battered children.

4. I'm OK--You're OK. This is the only response that demands a conscious decision to change.

Therapy tries to bring into harmony a person's Parent, Child, and Adult, with emphasis on the "I'm OK--You're OK" response.

Help-Yourself Advice:

1. Use restraint when Parent and Child signals threaten to overwhelm your Adult. To keep from externalizing feelings, say, for example, "That is my Not OK Child." Count to 10.

2. According to Harris, the Adult should, when presented by the Parent with data, ask such questions as: Is it true? Does it apply? Is it appropriate? Where did I get that idea? What is the evidence?

3. When you don't know how to respond to others, stroke them (either physically or symbolically) and address yourself to the Child (usually lovable) rather than the Parent (usually fear-instilling).

4. Work out your own system of values, using your Adult to examine the rules laid down by your Parent.

5. State a contract: I'm OK--You're OK.

6. You can choose to be OK and think that others are OK, too.

7. When in an impasse over what to do, ask: "What is the loving thing to do?"

8. When dealing with children, talk to their Adult as much as possible. Start from where they are.

9. When dealing with adolescents, emphasize the idea that "it is you we care about." Make definite written contracts with them, Adult to Adult, which include dos and don'ts as well as consequences.

10. Follow the Adult's view of the worth of persons: "I am a person. You are a person. . . . If I devalue you, I devalue myself. This is the rationale of the position I'm OK--You're OK. . . . The requirement of this position is that we are responsible to and for one another, and this responsibility is the ultimate claim imposed on all men alike. . . ."

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