Our tradition of dynamic social justice expands with USATAA’s Social Justice Committee inauguration. Social action traditions among transactional analysts began in 1961 with the San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars sponsorship of George, a six year old boy from Crete, whose father was killed by an abandoned WWII mine. This Social Justice blog will serve the dual purposes to recognize and build upon the social activism of our colleagues engaged in social justice work and record developing social justice theory and practices.
This inaugural Social Justice Committee blog remembers and celebrates two courageous social activists and transactional analysis colleagues, Josephine Bowen Lewis and Denton L. Roberts, Jr, who passed away in the last few years, and passed the social justice torch along. We want to honor their accomplishments and leadership with their pictures and the reflections of those fortunate enough to know these loved USATAA members. We remember Jo and Denton for their years of expertise, devotion, and love to our organization.
Jo Lewis was an inspirational therapist and international speaker and change agent. She co-founded the Center for Cooperative Change, held an Associate Trainer appointment at the Southeast Institute for Group and Family Therapy, and served as General Coordinator for USATAA in 1998. She loved her role as teacher and facilitator at many TA conferences.
When Jo passed suddenly in 2014, many were stunned at her unexpected passing. We could not quite believe it was true. We want to acknowledge and thank Jo for her friendship and her lifelong, significant contribution to this world and to transactional analysis.
Denton Roberts, who passed away on December 12, 2011, was a founding member of USATAA, and has been called a “force of nature.” He served as General Coordinator for USATAA in the early 1990’s, and on ITAA’s Board of Trustees, facilitating a scholarship and education fund, which he hoped would aid future transactional analysts to grow USATAA. He was USATAA’s third general coordinator; flipping words as he did ideas, Denton often joked that he was the “Coordinator General.”
Denton’s friend and colleague, Bob Hill, eulogized Denton and praised his history of social activism, calling him “a raconteur with few peers, and a caregiver par excellence, a shepherd to church members, and a citizen of the world.” Hill notedDenton’s “unflagging commitments to do what he could in a world racked by pain and rocked by unrest,” adding that ‘from the hot days of Selma, to the poverty-scarred streets of South Central Los Angeles, to a nation inebriated on the wine of war, to the hallowed space of Ground Zero in New York City, Denton provided leadership and love, presence and prayer, counsel and creativity…..he kept his eyes on the prize of equality, loveable-ness, empowerment, and the precious value of every human being.” This eulogy emphasized Denton’s capacity to convey “calm to the distressed, peace to the tormented, challenge to the wandering, insight for the confused, grace for the troubled, humor for the overstressed, hope for the brutalized, and love for the abandoned,…while he “kept a firm hand on the plow that turned over fresh furrows for the individual… with clear-minded insights, an unfettered intuition that bordered on genius, and a deeply compassionate heart…. as he helped to strengthen and transform life-saving, life-giving institutions.
More memorial tributes to Jo and Denton from friends and colleagues are excerpted below. Please add your own to the comments below.
“It is with great joy and honor that I celebrate Denton and Jo’s social activism in ITAA, USATAA and in each of their professional and personal lives. In the introduction to his book, Able & Equal; a Gentle Path to Peace, Denton writes, “When people function from the basis that they and all people are capable, powerful, loveable, valuable and equal there exists what I identify as Human Esteem which provides the bedrock upon which peace is built.” In my experience, Denton Roberts operated from this premise in his relationships with all, both at the personal and institutional levels. His work at All Peoples Church in Los Angeles was indicative of his dedication to social justice.
Jo and I worked together with Valerie Batts and other consultants at VISIONS Inc. to foster multiculturalism and confront racism, sexism, heterosexism and all other forms of oppression at all levels. With her husband Mark Wise, Dr. Bowens Lewis developed and operated The Center for Cooperative Studies in Atlanta, which touched many lives and organizations in support of justice.
Both Jo and Denton were active in ITAA boards and committees, always with a focus on social justice and equity. As General Coordinators of the USATAA, each of them operated from the cooperative non- hierarchical structure of the organization. Denton went with me to the lawyer in San Antonio who wrote up the incorporation papers for the USATAA in 1982. There were many mentors in the ITAA for Jo and Denton in support of their activism including, but not limited to Muriel James, Mary Goulding and Graham Barnes. Intuitive awareness and passion for peace and justice through equality remain.” ~ Felipe Garcia
“We could count on Denton when facing challenges. He volunteered his energy and time to work for ITAA after the Executive Directorship ended, to keep the organization going through the transition.” ~ Gloria Noriega
“Jo Lewis had a clear moral voice. Jo was one of the people who would stand up at Board of Trustees meetings or in large conference gatherings to point out that what we were doing, or the direction being embarked upon, was wrong.”~ Richard Erskine
“Denton Roberts expanded cultural script theory with his article for the Transactional Analysis Journal, “Cultural Scripts” (Vol. 13, No. 4, October 1983 pp. 253). Building on Berne’s diagnostic metaphor, Denton argued that “a huge splinter” in society’s toe was based on oppressive superiority. He offered a “gentle” treatment plan in typical Denton fashion.” – Bob Hempel
“I have admired Jo’s fearless, yet gentle persistence as she delineated subtle forms of gender discrimination or raised thoughtful challenges to privileged perspectives at conferences for over 25 years. As moderator for the USATAA Master’s 101 at the 2007 San Francisco conference, she saw to it that we presenters honored our timelines and contracts with her usual grace.” ~ Janice Dowson
“Jo Lewis was one of my role models as a TA therapist. She supervised my first TA 101, giving feedback in a loving and confrontative manner. When it came to values issues in tough council and committee decisions, Jo helped us ground into what really mattered. She was a wonderful Child to Child playmate, whether we were out buying her a coat at a chilly San Francisco summer conference, or ordering luscious strawberries romanoff from room service after a tough day giving TA exams; Jo showed how to live life well.
Before meeting him in person, I read Denton’s landmark cultural scripts article in the TA Journai, which informed my early work on changing cultural and gender scripting. I imagined him to be formal or professorial and was surprised at his humble, casual demeanor when we met. When we both served on the ITAA Board of Trustees, people listened to Denton’s voice of reason, which was usually introduced with droll humor. He told plenty of jokes and stories, and must have been a good companion on his trail rides in the Sierras with TA people, such as Vince Gilpin.” ~ Lucy Freedman
 The full name of this precursor to ITAA was San Francisco Social Psychiatry Seminars for the Study of Transactional Analysis and Social Dynamics
 “George (Our sponsored orphan in Crete).” Transactional Analysis Bulletin 1:4. Oct. 1962.
Social Justice Committee members: Bob Hempel, Cheryl Leong, Janice Dowson
***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.
*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.
***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:
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.
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.”
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.
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
***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:
Lucy Freedman, CTA
Book Review: ‘Raising Kids O.K. : Transactional Analysis in Human Growth & Development’ (1976),
Authors: Babcock, Dorothy, RN and MS, Keepers, Terry, PhD, Publisher: New York, NY: Grove Press.
USATAA Reviewer: Karen Rightler, MFTI, RN, and TAP
This book applies Transactional Analysis principles to children, parents, and families. It is an excellent resource for parents interested in learning more about themselves and their children, and how they can raise them to feel “OK”. It is also very helpful for mental health professionals who want to integrate TA with their existing skills.
The book is organized into 3 parts. Part I begins with an overview of the following TA terms: Strokes, Time structuring, PAC ego states/Functional diagram, transactions, Games/Drama Triangle, OK Corral, Basic life positions and Scripts. Examples, exercises and suggested TA related-readings are at the end of each segment. The authors begin by making a point to address the importance of the self-care awareness. They note the importance of handling your own needs as a parent, then taking care of a child. Part I concludes with Berne’s Marriage Scripts. The authors provide information about different types of marriage scripts and parent programming about children.
Part II provides detailed information about Psychological Development, including theories on attachment, trust, and symbiosis from gestation to infancy. Within the appropriately simplified theoretical information, there are practical examples and also advice with the message of making you “OK”s as a parent. One excerpt from psychological development in infancy confronts over-parenting. If either parent discounts the babies’ needs for becoming more independent and growing, they are also discounting ourselves as complete persons. Basing our OK-ness exclusively on our parenting skills discounts ourselves as well as our children (p.95).
Babcock and Keepers take the reader through each phase of childhood and milestones. Each segment addresses age appropriate issues that arise, such as toilet training and emotional regulation for toddlers, teasing in grade school, and sexuality in multiple phases. All segments have an insightful section toward the end in bold titled ‘psychological tasks of parents’ pertaining to that particular stage.
The chapters continue on until adulthood and aging, addressing socialization, script development of the child, adult ego state development, and re-examining your own life script throughout. There are examples of transactions with diagrams within the text.
Part III is entitled ‘Troubleshooting’ section devoted to addressing behavioral issues, grief, loss, and changes in the family structure.
Karen’s Point of View:
There is so much to love about “Raising Kids OK”. Babcock and Keepers did a fantastic job of providing a comprehensive TA overview that is realistic and applicable to parenting in all phases. With the segments broken down a parent can flip to the section that applies to them after reading through the overview of TA principles. It was written in a way that parents could comprehend, and that people already familiar with TA would learn from as well.
As someone who is a parent of a young one, I continue to reference this book and recommend it to parents. The criticisms to point out may be its age and accessibility. Updating examples, format and content may help the reader. Supply is generally limited to purchasing used online. My copy must have been from a library since it was stamped red with “DISCARD” on the inside cover. Despite that, Raising Kids O.K. is not leaving my collection any time soon.
1932 – 2016
On the evening of Saturday, April 16, 2016, beloved wife and mother June Seropian was called home to be with the Lord Jesus. June was born on June 17, 1932 in Spokane, Washington. She was the youngest of six children in a loving family headed by John Emmett and Elizabeth Hartnett. After graduating high school, June attended college at Gonzaga University, where she was so well loved as to be crowned homecoming queen, before graduating with a B.A. in Sociology in 1955.
Two years later, June was serving as an American Red Cross social worker at Fort Ord, the U.S. Army Post in Monterey, California, when she met her soulmate and husband of 58 years, plastic surgeon Diran “Dee” Seropian. They married in Spokane in 1958, honeymooned at nearby Coeur D’Alene, then settled in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to launch Dee’s medical practice and start a family. They were blessed with four children: Lucine Alise in 1959, Diran Vahn in 1960, Lisa Anne in 1962, and David Jonathan in 1969. Though June was raised a Catholic, her children were baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale. June and Dee later attended All Saints Episcopal Church for many years, where they were both members of the vestry, and she was a facilitator for Bible Study Fellowship.
June returned to graduate school and earned a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work from Barry University in 1978, before going on to become a licensed psychotherapist certified in Transactional Analysis. June practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, treating a variety of clients with her unique blend of warm, loving kindness and razor-sharp insight. She was a skilled healer of hearts and minds who created a safe, yet disciplined clinical environment where she helped her clients to change, grow, and become whole. She was an excellent therapist, well respected by her peers and colleagues, and beloved by her clients.
In 1997, the first of two grandchildren, Katherine Elizabeth, came into June’s life, followed by Sarah Lucine in 2000. A dedicated grandmother, June happily nurtured, fed, and cared for her granddaughters with absolute adoration and devotion. She babysat for them five days a week, and as they got older she was regularly present at their school functions, dance recitals, soccer games, and birthday parties. She loved them and they loved her — a second generation of children blessed by June’s special brand of kindness, warmth and acceptance. Throughout her life, June remained close to her own family as well, especially her last surviving sister Kate, whom she often visited. She was beloved “Aunt June” to many nieces and nephews on both the Hartnett and Seropian sides of the family.
In 2005, June and Dee retired to the vacation home they owned in North Carolina, a beautiful retreat in Lake Toxaway they called “The Treehouse.” This started a new chapter in their lives, one filled with long walks on the golf course, views of the local water falls, and day trips to Brevard, Highlands, and Asheville. Autumn was an especially treasured season, for every year Dee and June were dazzled anew by the changing of the leaves. Their friends and family visited them often, and spent many happy holidays at the Treehouse. June and Dee also regularly travelled to visit their children at their homes in Charlotte, San Francisco and Boca Raton, as well as their own siblings in Spokane and Bethesda.
June’s last and most beloved church family was at the Lake Toxaway United Methodist Church, shepherded by her dear friend Pastor Marcus Dodson. June was a woman of profound faith: a student of the Bible, a lover of Jesus, and a true servant of God. She was a great writer of prayers and psalms, and a joyful practitioner of contemplative prayer, steadfast in her ongoing efforts to deepen her relationship with the Lord.
June was a voracious reader and a gifted author of short stories and whimsical family tributes. She relished watching movies and enjoyed arranging flowers, a pastime for which she had a special gift. She loved the trees, animals, and natural beauty of the Pisgah National Forest and Blue Ridge Mountains, which in her later years served as backdrop for her continuing focus on worship, Bible study, and fellowship with her church friends.
June was treasured for her playfulness, keen wit, kindness, and gentle spirit. She charmed everyone she met, and touched many over the span of her 83 years. She was endlessly loving and nonjudgmental, and generously expressed affection to family, friends, and strangers alike. June was the embodiment of unconditional love; her warmth, gratitude and grace set an example for us all.
June leaves behind a rich legacy of family and friends who will miss her greatly, but who will always carry cherished memories of her love, kindness and acceptance in their hearts. Her body will be laid to rest at Forrest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Ft. Lauderdale, next to that of her daughter Lucine Alise, who passed in 1975. June is survived by her husband, Diran M. Seropian; her sons Diran V. (Nicole) and David Seropian; her daughter, Lisa Seropian; her granddaughters Katherine and Sarah Seropian; and her sister Kathleen Mears.
God bless and keep our Junie. May He hold her in the palm of His hand until we meet again.
This blog post is about having what you want in life. This is a big presupposition, that we can live the life we want. And really, why shouldn’t we?
Two things can prevent us from living that life. One is that we made decisions early in life, outside of our awareness of today, that still limit us. These decisions were often made at times of stress or trauma, and we re-create some version of that experience unconsciously.
Seems illogical that our early decisions, that didn’t really solve things back then, can still be the source of issues today, and yet, that’s the way we write our life scripts.
Some coaches insist they deal only with the present and future, and don’t get into that stuff from the past.
It’s not about rehashing the past, or even remembering all the details. We can recognize the tracks of the past in the present, and clear them up. Much energy is released when we clear out old decisions.
The second way we prevent ourselves from living the life we want is that we haven’t envisioned it. Life script change is not just letting go of past decisions, it involves making new ones, and then enacting them day by day.
When we made our early decisions, we had no idea of the possibilities our lives could hold. Now we have a chance to explore, learn from others, and create lives based on consciously chosen assumptions.
This whole concept of choice is pretty radical. Whether we have some things in our life that we don’t want, or want some things that we don’t have, this is what we are choosing today.
The TA (transactional analysis) belief that we are all OK includes the idea that we are at choice – if we can get in touch with the internal decision-maker who wanted to stay OK, and made limiting decisions in service of that goal.
That decision-maker is grown up now, and can be the designer of a happy life, with much more knowledge than he or she had back then.
You can access online and in-person courses about TA and other positive psychology methods, if you want to re-connect solidly with that OK self to make new decisions, and maybe help others do the same.
Whether you are new to TA or are already experienced with it, and whether you are learning for yourself or to expand what you can do with your clients, please join USATAA, understand the decisions you’ve made and their impact on your life, and find out what life you really can live.
You may contact Lucy at email@example.com
Toni Rey of Lake Zurich, IL announces a monthly TA support group for therapists,
meeting the third Friday of each month from 10:30 AM to 12:00 noon in Lake Zurich, IL.
For more information call Toni Rey at (847)847-7644.