“I’m OK— You’re OK” Revisited (By: Robert L Hempel, M.Th.,T.A.P)

***Blog posts on The NET represent the viewpoint of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by USATAA.***

Since the 1960s when Thomas A. Harris, PhD./T.M.*, first introduced to his best-selling, I’m OK— You’re OK , (Harper & Row, New York, 1969), this phrase has been trivialized over and over again.

I accepted the phrase wholly when first introduced to the concept. The concept was born in Eric Berne’s San Francisco Seminar Through the years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the phrase. Many persons have argued with me that people’s behavior makes this concept false. A psychiatrist argued against the concept saying, “Watch out for ‘third-degree Bernes'”. Comedians have joked about in their routines for years. A New Yorker cartoon (1972)1 caption had a woman on a phone conversation saying, “We are reading “I’m Ok—You’re OK” and we’re ok because of the martinis, not the book.” Most usage, I believe, have missed the true meaning of the concept.

My teacher, the late Morris L. Haimowitz, Ph.D/T.M*, said that I’m “OK—You’re OK” means, “I value myself and I value You.” The first time Morris mentioned this in my training group, I felt a breath of fresh air. He put into words what I had been feeling for years.

Religious literature such as the Hebrew and Christian bibles support this concept “loving self and neighbor.” Jewish theologian, Martin Buber, wrote a book, I and Thou (Translated by Walter Kaufmann, Harper & Row, New York, 1996) which espouses that all human beings are created in the Divine image and are valuable.

Mary Goulding, MSW, TM, emphasized another aspect of OK—OK understanding, “being” and “doing”. She taught at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy about being and doing strokes. The nature state of the person is OK by herself/himself. OK-ness is a part of our Being. There is a contemporary notion that one has to “do” in order to be OK. She taught trainees that each person is OK in their natural state without “doing” anything.

I had a couple in my congregation who were compulsive in a loving way of giving food and other gifts to me as a single pastor. I invited them for lunch as a Christmas gift to them. To their chorus of “what can I bring”, I answered, “Nothing! Bring yourselves for I love you the way you are and this is my Christmas gift to you.” They were OK as persons and didn’t have to give the pastor a gift to be OK. They came to lunch and a wonderful time was held by all.

I ask our Transactional Analysis community to re-visit the concept, I’m OK—You’re OK. Please don’t gloss over this important teaching. Help those in our therapy practice and those outside the office to understand the concept “I value myself and I value others.”

—Robert L. Hempel, M.Th, T.A.P.
July 30, 2016.

2http://www.drthomasharris.com/im-ok-youre-ok-book-thomas-harris/

*TM — Teaching Member International Transactional Analysis Association which currently is called a Teaching and Supervising Analyst.

3 Training at Western Institute for Group & Family Therapy, Watsonville, CA, USA, March 1974.

Beyond Stroke Filters: Stroke Processors (A Neo-Bernian Idea), By Cheryl Leong CA MFT

landscape-nature-sunset-trees

***Blog posts on The NET represent the viewpoint of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by USATAA.***

Eric Berne is known for coining the term ‘strokes’. He explained it as a basic unit of recognition. It was believed that human beings were born with an innate stimulus hunger. Experiments in the 1940s suggested that infants failed to thrive in environments where physical stimulation was limited. This hunger for touch develops to become a hunger for recognition in social and intimate relationships.

These were the types of strokes that Eric Berne described.

Internal strokes (strokes we give ourselves)
External strokes (strokes we give to others)
Unconditional strokes (strokes for being)
Conditional strokes (strokes for doing)
Positive strokes (strokes that communicate okayness)
Negative strokes (strokes that communicate not-okayness)

Claude Steiner is known for theorizing the ‘stroke economy’. He suggests that we can be restricted by the parent ego state in five main ways:

don’t give strokes when we have them to give
don’t ask for strokes when we need them
don’t accept strokes if we want them
don’t reject strokes when we don’t want them
don’t give ourselves strokes

These five ‘rules’ reinforce a culture of scarcity as opposed to how limitless strokes can be given and received. I once encountered someone from a chaotic household and that led to him making an early decision to “trust no one to care.” His script beliefs were entrenched in ideas of stroke scarcity and that happy interactions were close to impossible. I invited him to take on a little experiment for the week. He would try for 7 days and every morning to smile at one person on the way to work on the bus. To his astonishment, people smiled back! There were no threats, exchanges or bartering. The strokes were limitless.

TA literature describes the ‘stroke filter’ as a contaminated Adult ego state process where the person chooses to interpret positive strokes as negative ones. This maintains their particular life position.

What are STROKE PROCESSORS?

This write-up suggests a clear way to facilitate for clients to understand how their life scripting (early decisions about themselves and the world) might affect their Adult ego state functioning. The Adult ego state might be processing strokes in 4 different ways:

Stroke Maximizing:
Processing the intended stroke as much more important or significant than intended. An individual could take a simple greeting smile from another as a sign of sexual flirtation. Or an individual could take a piece of Adult negative feedback as a Critical Parent insult.

Brian was regularly playing some ‘kick me’ games at dance night clubs. His eyes would scan the room for attractive women who would respond to his smile. He would interpret each smile as a green light for close contact dancing or an invitation for intimate conversation. Often the women would interpret his behavior as inappropriate.

Stroke Minimizing:
Processing the intended stroke as less important or significant than intended. An individual could downplay a compliment or ignore the significance of a negative complaint.

Sam had an ‘under-achieving’ life script. His early decision to not succeed led to him to perpetually discount his personal intelligence and abilities. Each time a colleague complimented his ability he would minimize its significance in his mind. “They are just being nice.”

Stroke Converting:
An individual could take a negative stroke and interpret it as positive or take a positive stroke and interpret it as negative. For example, an individual could take a compliment as a reminder of how they are not-ok.

Susie was constantly nervous about her appearance. Nothing ever felt enough for the world- even if she was told otherwise. She always had makeup on even when she went to bed. Her husband tried to tell her he loved her but all she could think was- “he wouldn’t love me without the makeup.” “Don’t be you or else…”- she continually told herself. Her husband’s unconditional positive strokes were converted as conditional strokes and further processed as negative strokes.

Stroke Selecting:
An individual could select the strokes they want to absorb and the ones they want reject.

Grace, an employee, got her first employee appraisal and all she chose to hear were the negative strokes. She decided she was a terrible worker even after her manager had a ton of positive feedback to offer.

Bringing these ‘stroke processors’ to the awareness of the client can be effective for decontaminating the adult ego state. It can allow for an exploration of the life script, early stroking patterns and early decisions. It can more importantly, be an invitation for clients to make new autonomous decisions about how they want to ‘process’ strokes in the here and now.

Submitted by, Cheryl Leong, MFT www.cherylleong.com

Black Lives Matter on Emmett Till’s 75th Birthday (By Lucy Freedman, CTA)

***Blog posts on The NET represent the viewpoint of the author and have not been verified or endorsed by USATAA.***

Hot American summers seem to bring out some of the worst in our society. Anger erupts, violence happens, reactions escalate, and the reverberations in the news have hardly subsided before it happens again. The construct of race (which is not an actual biological thing) and the embedded history of white supremacy in America, inform our cultural scripting in ways that are both conscious and unconscious. Recent publicity about implicit bias is at least bringing some of that to the fore. 

Those who want to be idealists may dream of a society that is not burdened with the products of white supremacy; i.e.,white privilege, income inequality, marginalization of people by color, nationality, gender, and economic status, etc. I hope that people reading this blog aspire to that ideal and recognize where and how we need to face up to current reality.

Some people respond to the Black Lives Matter movement as it if it is part of the problem. It certainly highlights their discomfort with the historical truth. 

I received this quotation from a friend: 

“Perfect analogy for how critics of ‘Black Lives Matter’ get it wrong. Like suggesting anyone promoting ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ thinks other cancers are not worthy of attention.”

The idea that supporting Black Lives Matter means that you hate police or wish them ill is way off the mark. Anger that is not managed on either side is just a descent into spirals of craziness, bringing out exactly the opposite of what is needed. 

OK-OK communication within communities can prevent many of these problems, though breaking up cultural scripts isn’t done overnight. But after centuries, people? 

I saw a report that today would have been the 75th birthday of Emmett Till. If you don’t know who he was, look it up. Just as the videos of today tell their stories, the pictures of Emmett Till after he was tortured and killed galvanized the country. We need to be galvanized now, to be honest about the uneven distribution of power in our communities. 

I say, idealists, people who promote I’m OK – You’re OK thinking, please honor those who rightly stand up for people whose lives have been treated as if they matter less. 

For an informative very short video on this subject, check this out: 

https://www.facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats/videos/1182822125144173/

Respectfully submitted,

Lucy Freedman, CTA