One of the underlying principles of transactional analysis, is that we are all ‘OK’. By this, we mean that everyone has value and worth; I accept myself as me and I accept you as you. Sometimes we might behave in ways which are unacceptable, but this does not mean that our existence does not have value; I may not like your behaviour, but I still value your existence as a human being.
We are all equal, no matter what our gender, ethnicity, age, religion etc.
What a beautiful statement! Imagine how different the world might look if we all lived by it, all of the time. Unfortunately, being the flawed human beings that we are, even with the best of intentions, we don’t always live by it.
Eric Berne suggested that as children grow up and make sense of the world, they make decisions from their observations about themselves and the people around them. When we’re young, our capacity to think isn’t fully developed and we make these decisions based on how things make us feel. For instance, if as a baby we cried and nobody came, we might have ‘decided’ that we aren’t worth coming to.
The beliefs we arrive at in childhood are likely to stay with us throughout our lives. In terms of our beliefs about our value and that of other people, we arrive at various decisions:
- I’m OK, or
- I’m not OK;
- You’re OK, or
- You’re not OK.
By putting together these perspectives about ourselves and others, we have four statements which we call life positions:
- I’m OK, you’re OK;
- I’m OK, you’re not OK;
- I’m not OK, you’re OK;
- I’m not OK, you’re not OK.
Life positions in adulthood: the OK Corral
Each of us has a favoured position in life (numbers 1 to 4 above), a way of being and seeing the world. Franklin Ernst came up with a means of showing how we move between these different life positions from moment to moment. He called this the OK Corral. This is represented pictorially below: