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Forum Home > Book reviews > Im Ok- Youre Ok By Thomas A Harris M.D

Posts: 22

This book written by a psychiatrist, applying the principles of transactional analysis offers a structured way of sorting through our mental processes and making decisions based on reality. The Parent- Adult- Child (PAC) model is an interesting way of analyzing our mental baggage. The Parent is that part of our brain that stores information in our childhood. The do and don’t that our parents and guardians told us when we were little. It underscores the importance of the first five years of a person’s life. The little child absorbs their surrounding and what is happening without the necessary data to process it any further. The Child is predominantly the feelings; the fear or joy that a little child feels. The Adult is the rational part of a person that develops as a child grows. It is that part that can look at data stored in the adult and assess the feelings of the Child and then make a decision based on the current reality. Ultimately this is a theory on human behavior. Dr. Harris explains that the small child is usually in a state of I’m not Ok: You’re ok. This is because they view the adults as the one who knows and they are constantly being reprimanded or directed. The adult ideal state is that of I’m Ok: You’re ok, a state in which one feels accepted and self-confident. It is also a state when one is free of the past experiences and can make decisions based on reality and not on a fear or some past demon. A strong adult can learn to recognize your child and its vulnerabilities and fears. A strong adult can recognize the parent and its fixed positions and admonitions. He also compares this state to the grace of Jesus of Christ. No one qualifies for grace; it is acceptance into the kingdom of God despite our past. Of course this is the simplistic view of grace.

Transactional analysis definitely has an important part to play in understanding human behavior and offering solutions on how we can change it. The way we were raised plays an important role in our adult behavior. It is apparent in our prejudices, be these racial, the inferiority and superiority complexes that dominate relationships between black and white people across the world. If these are not analyzed by the Adult, based on the current situation, we perpetuate the same prejudices into the next generation. This is why we need to be careful how we raise our children because unless they also develop an emancipated adult, they can be chained to the way we raised them. This of course is not to say all actions have a causal relationship with the past because man has the capacity to look into the future.

Self-awareness and self-knowledge are necessary for one to make full use of their adult. Because unless and until you know what is stored in your parent data, and acknowledge what the child is feeling, you have a difficult time exercising your adult. The good thing is that developing a strong adult is a choice a person can take. It can be learned and practiced. According to Dr Harris, ‘blaming your faults on your nature does not change the nature of your faults. Thus ‘I am like that’ does not help anything. ‘I can be different’ does’

This does not mean that our parent and child states are always at fault. They can be good sources of data. Without the child, we can deny ourselves the great feelings of joy and empathy. Our parent data can sometimes give us the moral compass we need. The important thing lesson we get from this transactional analysis is the realization and acknowledgement that we cannot change our past. We must start where we are. We can only separate the past from the present by using the adult, by distinguishing between life as we were taught (parent), life as we felt it (child) and life as it really is and can be (adult). Thus PAC can be a liberating force, a powerful leadership tool that can be used to train leaders. This can be especially so in the African context where we can get to leadership positions with so much baggage and hatred from our historical past that can cloud our judgment and stop us from making progressive decisions. In conclusion I will paraphrase the implications that PAC has for us and our relationships with others as explained in the book. By understanding the hold the Parent has on us, by understanding the terror in our own Child,, then perhaps our Adult conversations will sound a little different.




February 10, 2013 at 2:56 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Luther Gwaza
Site Owner
Posts: 9

This is indeed an interest book, a must read for anyone, in terms of personal, relationship, communication and leadership development. It is useful for personal development in terms of understanding self (sorting yourself out!), analyzing human behavior and understanding different personalities. As Gamu mentioned, this books highlights the importance of parenting and profound influences of our upbringing, especially during the first 5 years of life and how all this shapes our thinking, behavior as we grow up. Although, this may sound frightening that the experiences in childhood ? the parent & child in us, appear to be fixed early on in life, we can change how this influences us in adult life. First by acknowledging it, and then allowing the adult to take charge and avoid responding based on feelings or the automatic responses coming from the parent and child in us. The PAC concept is one of the important things to take away from the book. Interesting to note that in every person, there is parent, child and adult persona. The three personalities can explain the way we communicate, respond and behave in response to different situations we encounter in life. As you pointed out, developing and strengthening the adult is a conscious decision that one has to make. The book further elaborates how one can easily, with practice, understanding transactions between people based on the words, tone of voice, body gestures and facial expressions. So next time, watch yourself when you put those hands on the hips, put on a horrified look, and automatic use of the words such as ?nonsense?, ?should? ? in combination these are clues for the ?parent?! Not so good when you are talking to colleagues and adults who are ?I?m not ok?, because you are likely to hook their parent or child and the end result is an argument! Apart from the benefits mentioned by Gamu of each of these three personalities, typical parent transactions proceed without benefit of reality data, judgmental exchanges, blaming and faulty finding. The book also gives some very practical examples of the different transactions that can occur, how each can affect the communication between the two people and the end typical outcome. What is important is not just self-awareness, but ability to understand the different personalities in others when they communicate with you and how to respond accordingly i.e. in a way that builds relationship and better communication. When one looks at this approach, this can solve some of the problems encountered in relationships i.e. at home or work.

February 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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