The image above is taken from the front cover of I’m OK – You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris – a pretty old book. This book has a personal significance for me because it was the first book I ever read about transactional analysis (TA) which continued to resonate when many years later I chose TA as my preferred therapeutic approach and decided to qualify as a TA counsellor and to continue advanced Clinical training.
In my early adulthood I had originally come across this book in my father’s library. Even when reading it all those years ago, I had recognised its use of rather out-dated language and examples (feminist friends, be warned!) from the 1970s. And yet, despite these limitations, I still today refer to chapters in this book for the accessible way in which he introduces the concepts of transactional analysis.
Even on first reading I found that this book offered a comprehensible guide to transactional analysis; its sensible non- technical language was a revelation for a young man seeking to understand his patterns of behaviour, hoping that there were real possibilities for change in himself and in others, – namely changing the dynamics contained in our interactions (or transactions).
When I was asked recently about my stance on clients who come to see me with their various histories, problems and behaviours, I replied: “Using TA, my ways of working – no matter what the client brings – are to be as close as I can to an ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ attitude”.
A TA colleague has defined this as meaning:
When things go wrong:
• I don’t blame anyone
• I hold on to my power
• I actively wish for you to hold on to your power
• I seek relationship with you
• I respect you and me equally
• I seek to problem solve
• I stay off the Drama Triangle
• I use emotionally literacy to resolve our issues
• I agree to disagree, respectfully for all of us
• I say no when I mean no
Even for those not in therapy, these are useful pointers on how to improve one’s relationships with others, and are worth bringing to mind.