For many of us, the past two years have been a time of radical turbulence, shaking up everything we thought we knew about ourselves and our communities. In an environment of change that is not of our choosing, where the beliefs and values that guide our lives may feel open to question or even vulnerable to attack as they never have before, it can be difficult to make space for our most empowered, wise and flourishing self. It can be difficult to find a point that feels OK.
Psychologist Eric Berne, pioneer of the field of Transactional Analysis, posited that we all carry within us the models of our childhood (the “child” state) and the responses of those who cared for us as children (the “parent” state) which, as we become older, we integrate into our fully “adult” selves. In any given interaction with others or the world, we might be acting and reacting from our child, parent, or adult perspectives, and the people around us respond from one of those states. In TA, our “adult” self is where we are centred within our full resources as a person: we have access to our child and parent models but we’re fully integrating all our desires, resources and capabilities to respond in the moment rather than limiting ourselves to the scripts of what worked (or didn’t) in the past. Thomas Harris built on this theory in his 1967 bestseller “I’m OK, You’re OK.” “I’m OK” is the default perspective of the adult self with full access to all its integrated capabilities; the book’s title refers to two adult selves meeting in an ideal interaction where both are grounded in their most empowered, wise and flourishing perspectives.
One great aspect of TA is its recognition that even when we’re pushed into one of our reactive states (parent or child) we always have our adult self available to us, we just need to find our way back there. To quote the programme where I did my coaching training: “As human beings, all people are intrinsically OK, even though their behaviour may not be.” Another great thing about TA is that it recognises people’s ongoing need for learning, self-development and growth throughout our lives. As we expand our life experiences, the “maps” we use to guide ourselves change to suit the new territories we discover. The turbulence of the last two years may have been an especially radical departure from your previous life map, and that can be frightening. Even in moments when we lose sight of it and we’re not, in that moment, acting OK, we’ve always got our wise, powerful, flourishing adult self with us.
One goal of coaching is to help us recognise moments when we slip into our reactive states and remind us that we have the choice to act and react from our fully adult, OK perspective. In times of turbulence, finding our inner OK is one of our most powerful resources.