“I’m OK; You’re OK”

The OK Corral

How many people do you know; family, relatives friends, work colleagues, whom you can safely predict, as sure as houses, will react the same way, time and again when things don’t go right for them or when they don’t get things their own way?

We notice in some people the consistency as obvious.  We can guarantee witnessing the same display of emotions time after time. They do themselves down with the same self-critical put downs, protest the of blame of others or even constantly shout against life itself perceiving it’s their fate to live with frustrated and failing.

How many people do you know; family, relatives friends, work colleagues, whom you can safely predict, as sure as houses, will react the same way, time and again when things don’t go right for them or when they don’t get things their own way?

We can even guess what they’re feeling and saying about themselves inside.

We have a name for this fall-back position of thinking, internal feeling and behaving in times of stress. We call them Racket Feelings

How we react when things don’t right for us or when we don’t get our way frequently gives us a clue as to a person’s Life Position

To be human is to compare

What is a Life Position? A Life Position is a description of a person’s own image of themselves as compared with others.

A Life Position can describe our core existential sense of self; that is the feeling we get when we think of our experience of being alive. It’s how we compare against others the richness of our ‘aliveness’ and about our entitlement and others to live a life of richness in the here-and-now.

Our existential sense of self tends to remain constant over a person’s lifetime. I like to think of it as a low background crackle of radio static we can hear when we tune  between radio stations.

I liken this ever present, existential sense of self, running in the background of our minds, to that fraction of the radio static that Cosmologists identify as constantly around us, originating from the birth of the universe in The Big Bang and which has  been travelling since, forever onwards, throughout time and space.

Although of low frequency, our core sense of self has the power to steer our daily thinking, feeling and behaviours. It operates like white-noise on the value we place on ourselves, the value we place upon others and how we respond to them.

Remind me again, who I am?

In the field of Transactional Analysis psychology (TA) we have a more informal way of referring to this unique sense of self. We talk of a person’s feeling of ‘Okayness’.

You might have heard of the landmark self psychology book, “I’m OK, you’re OK”, written by Thomas A. Harris M.D in 1967, which has sold millions worldwide since.

Just as the microwave background radiation was created in the early life of the Universe, our sense of ‘Okayness’ was formed in our early years of life.

We’ve talked of how, along our journey through life, we each have a tendency to be drawn towards – even engaging in seeking out – interactions with people the quality of which serves to reinforce our own sense of how we fit-in with world. We do this through our Racket Behaviour when we set-up encounters with people. Our secret end-game is to remind ourselves of how ‘OK’ we feel we are. And how ‘OK’ we perceive others to be.

This is end-game so secret it passes by our consciousness unawares. Not until our Racket Feelings are stired once again to the surface do we feel the familiar reminder of how we perceive ourselves; ‘OK’ or ‘Not OK’.

It is a principle of TA psychotherapy theory that we are each as entitled to be alive, free, healthy and respected as everyone else. It’s also a principle of TA that part of our being ‘OK’ is in accepting that others are equally as entitled to feel the same about themselves.

If we feel this, we can say our Life Position is reflected in the statement, “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

Imperfect Childhood

But not everyone feels like this. Few of us do. Some people experience themselves as “not OK” and have felt like that throughout their whole life. They cannot remember a time in early childhood nor since when they haven’t felt inferior, less deserving, more guilty or insecure.

Still others have developed a sense from early times of grandiosity. When their backs are against the wall their Racket Feelings are those of superiority. They come-out feeling more deserving, think themselves to be more justified, their point of view to be more worthy and they behave stubbornly self-assured. You will probably recognise someone who typifies this response to some degree.

Shootout at the OK Corral

Frank Ernst created a diagrammatic way of visualising the possible Life Positions. He called it the “Okay Corral”. This is a pun on the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral; the Wild West shootout between outlaws and the posse of lawmen including the legendary duo, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

There are five combinations in which we can feel about ourselves and others to create a statement of our Life Position. These are:

  • “I’m OK, you’re OK
  • “I’m not OK, You’re OK”
  • “I’m OK, You’re not OK”
  • “I’m not OK, You’re not OK”

People who have a healthy sense of self also tend to have a healthy respect for others. They have a Life Position of “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

Someone whose experiences have caused them a feeling deep-down of unworthiness may hold a Life Position of “I’m not OK, you’re OK”.

In contrast some people, who, when things get tough, tend to fall back on feelings of superiority, may hold a Life Position of “I’m OK, you’re not OK”.

Notice I say, ‘may’ here.

Playing a Racket on ourselves

Remember that a Racket Feeling is a fake feeling. They’re the feelings we’ve conditioned ourselves as being allowed by our upbringing to feel when life tests us.

Racket Feelings are those we learn to display in infanthood as most likely to gain us attention and approval from our parents. They are displays of emotions, our way of thinking and behaving we learn to adopt and then maintain in order to feel our own unique sense of belonging with parents, family and carers prominent in our limited infant world.

The seeds of our Life Position are sown from our Racket Feelings.

Later in life, just as the outcome of our repeating arguments and ‘go nowhere’ conversations serve to reinforce our Racket Feelings, our sense of Life Position is reaffirmed too.

Because this reaffirmation comes from Racket Feelings, which are unproductive feelings, the Life Position we’ve adopted is also likely to be unproductive, since it comes from a time when our choices were restricted by us having too limited information and options. Rarely will this archaic Life Position be an ideal one for us to have for us to flourish in the here-and-now.

The benefits of ‘Okayness’

When we feel neither ‘OK’ with ourselves nor ‘OK’ with anyone else we experience our Life Position as bad. People will experience their life as disappointing. They feel they’re always being let down by others. They feel inadequate themselves and disappointed with others.

When our Life Position is built on fake Racket Feelings of superiority we perceive ourselves as ‘OK’ and others as ‘Not OK’. People with this Life Position find themselves ever striving to feel they possess the upper hand against others in order to feel secure. They also feel they have to be in control since no’one other than themselves is ‘OK’ enough to get things right.

When our feelings however are genuinely reflective of a Life Position in which we ‘OK’ with ourselves and ‘OK’ with others, we’re able to interact with the world with genuine autonomy. We’re alive to our own thinking and feeling and able to discern whether our perceptions are accurate or just out of date misconceptions. We can choose our behaviour the benefit ourselves whilst remaining respectful of others.

Now “I’m Okay; You’re Okay”; it’s going to work out fine

If we understand our own Life Position we can notice the character of those people with whom we seek out interactions or are drawn towards. We can see how the quality of outcome of these encounters serves only to reinforce an unproductive sense of who we are in relation to others.

Where these interactions are repetitive arguments or ‘go nowhere’ conversations we can learn to steer the outcome of these encounters from a positive Life Position. We can hold a more healthy, positive and autonomous sense of who we truly wish to be and bring about outcomes that nurture reinforcement that sense, leading to a life of greater richness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can even guess what they’re feeling and what they’re saying about themselves inside.

 

We have a name for this fall-back position of thinking, internal feeling and behaving in times of stress. We call them Racket Feelings.

 

How we react when things don’t right for us or when we don’t get our way frequently gives us a clue as to a person’s Life Position.

 

To be human is to compare

 

What is a Life Position? A Life Position is a description of a person’s own image of themselves as compared with others.

 

A Life Position can describe our core existential sense of self; that is the feeling we get when we think of our experience of being alive. It’s how we compare against others the richness of our ‘aliveness’ and about our entitlement and others to live a life of richness in the here-and-now.

 

Our existential sense of self tends to remain constant over a person’s lifetime. I like to think of it as a low background crackle of radio static we can hear when we tune between radio stations.

 

I liken this ever present, existential sense of self, running in the background of our minds, to that fraction of the radio static that Cosmologists identify as constantly around us, originating from the birth of the universe in The Big Bang and which has been travelling since, forever onwards, throughout time and space.

 

Although of low frequency, our core sense of self has the power to steer our daily thinking, feeling and behaviours. It operates like white-noise on the value we place on ourselves, the value we place upon others and how we respond to them.

 

Remind me again who I am?

 

In the field of Transactional Analysis psychology (TA) we have a more informal way of referring to this unique sense of self. We talk of a person’s feeling of ‘Okayness’.

 

You might have heard of the landmark self psychology book, “I’m OK, you’re OK”, written by Thomas A. Harris M.D in 1967, which has sold millions worldwide since.

 

Just as the microwave background radiation was created in the early life of the Universe, our sense of ‘Okayness’ was formed in our early years of life.

 

We’ve talked of how, along our journey through life, we each have a tendency to be drawn towards – even engaging in seeking out – interactions with people the quality of which serves to reinforce our own sense of how we fit-in with world. We do this through our Racket Behaviour when we set-up encounters with people. Our secret end-game is to remind ourselves of how ‘OK’ we feel we are. And how ‘OK’ we perceive others to be.

 

This is end-game so secret it passes by our consciousness unawares. Not until our Racket Feelings are stired once again to the surface do we feel the familiar reminder of how we perceive ourselves; ‘OK’ or ‘Not OK’.

 

It is a principle of TA psychotherapy theory that we are each as entitled to be alive, free, healthy and respected as everyone else. It’s also a principle of TA that part of our being ‘OK’ is in accepting that others are equally as entitled to feel the same about themselves.

 

If we feel this, we can say our Life Position is reflected in the statement, “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

 

Imperfect Childhood

 

But not everyone feels like this. Few of us do. Some people experience themselves as “not OK” and have felt like that throughout their whole life. They cannot remember a time in early childhood nor since when they haven’t felt inferior, less deserving, more guilty or insecure.

 

Still others have developed a sense from early times of grandiosity. When their backs are against the wall their Racket Feelings are those of superiority. They come-out feeling more deserving, think themselves to be more justified, their point of view to be more worthy and they behave stubbornly self-assured. You will probably recognise someone who typifies this response to some degree.

 

Shootout at the OK Corral

 

Frank Ernst created a diagrammatic way of visualising the possible Life Positions. He called it the “Okay Corral”. This is a pun on the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral; the Wild West shootout between outlaws and the posse of lawmen including the legendary duo, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

 

There are five combinations in which we can feel about ourselves and others to create a statement of our Life Position. These are:

 

“I’m OK, you’re OK”

 

“I’m not OK, You’re OK”

 

“I’m OK, You’re not OK”

 

“I’m not OK, You’re not OK”

 

People who have a healthy sense of self also tend to have a healthy respect for others. They have a Life Position of “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

 

Someone whose experiences have caused them a feeling deep-down of unworthiness may hold a Life Position of “I’m not OK, you’re OK”.

 

In contrast some people, who, when things get tough, tend to fall back on feelings of superiority, may hold a Life Position of “I’m OK, you’re not OK”.

 

Notice I say, ‘may’ here.

 

Playing a Racket on ourselves

 

Remember that a Racket Feeling is a fake feeling. They’re the feelings we’ve conditioned ourselves as being allowed by our upbringing to feel when life tests us.

 

Racket Feelings are those we learn to display in infanthood as most likely to gain us attention and approval from our parents. They are displays of emotions, our way of thinking and behaving we learn to adopt and then maintain in order to feel our own unique sense of belonging with parents, family and carers prominent in our limited infant world.

 

The seeds of our Life Position are sown from our Racket Feelings.

 

Later in life, just as the outcome of our repeating arguments and ‘go nowhere’ conversations serve to reinforce our Racket Feelings, our sense of Life Position is reaffirmed too.

 

Because this reaffirmation comes from Racket Feelings, which are unproductive feelings, the Life Position we’ve adopted is also likely to be unproductive, since it comes from a time when our choices were restricted by us having too limited information and options. Rarely will this archaic Life Position be an ideal one for us to have for us to flourish in the here-and-now.

 

The benefits of ‘Okayness’

 

When we feel neither ‘OK’ with ourselves nor ‘OK’ with anyone else we experience our Life Position as bad. People will experience their life as disappointing. They feel they’re always being let down by others. They feel inadequate themselves and disappointed with others.

 

When our Life Position is built on fake Racket Feelings of superiority we perceive ourselves as ‘OK’ and others as ‘Not OK’. People with this Life Position find themselves ever striving to feel they possess the upper hand against others in order to feel secure. They also feel they have to be in control since no’one other than themselves is ‘OK’ enough to get things right.

 

When our feelings however are genuinely reflective of a Life Position in which we ‘OK’ with ourselves and ‘OK’ with others, we’re able to interact with the world with genuine autonomy. We’re alive to our own thinking and feeling and able to discern whether our perceptions are accurate or just out of date misconceptions. We can choose our behaviour the benefit ourselves whilst remaining respectful of others.

 

Now “I’m Okay; You’re Okay”; it’s going to work out fine

 

If we understand our own Life Position we can notice the character of those people with whom we seek out interactions or are drawn towards. We can see how the quality of outcome of these encounters serves only to reinforce an unproductive sense of who we are in relation to others.

 

Where these interactions are repetitive arguments or ‘go nowhere’ conversations we can learn to steer the outcome of these encounters from a positive Life Position. We can hold a more healthy, positive and autonomous sense of who we truly wish to be and bring about outcomes that nurture reinforcement that sense, leading to a life of greater richness.