“Three things make people want to change. One is that they hurt sufficiently. They have beat their heads against the same wall so long that they decide they have had enough. […]
Another thing that makes people want to change is a slow type of despair called ennui, or boredom. This is what the person has who goes through life saying, “So what?” until he finally asks the ultimate big “So What?” He is ready to change.
A third thing that makes people want to change is the sudden discovery that they can.
― Thomas A. Harris,
I’M OK – YOU’RE OK by Thomas A. Harris, M.D. is a behemoth in the Self-Help genre. In the late 1960s, the book brought the groundbreaking Transactional Analysis of his mentor Eric Berne to the masses. As a student, he learned well and shares his knowledge in this book.
And that, my friends, is about as scholarly “book reportish” as I plan to get. Untangling Berne’s relationship to Harris and why Berne himself didn’t write this book was a conundrum and gave me a bit of a headache.
By the way, Berne did write a book on the same subject, called Games People Play. If the numbers I’m seeing are correct, Harris’ copies sold clipsed Berne’s by nearly twice as much, with the paperbacks included. To be clear, however, Berne is the man called the “Creator” and “Founder” of Transactional Analysis.
Oops, lapsed into the school book report voice. Sorry.
While I always thought the theory was fascinating, I disliked the title of this book. That’s why I titled this blog post as I did. I know the title was catchy but to me, it was also super-annoying. To me, it feels like… well, I’m going to say the word I’ve always thought and you can tell me I’m full of crap… the word is pablum. You know, like baby food? To me, the title lightens up the weight of Berne’s theory to make it … what? Agreeable? Catchy? Ugh. Something I clearly didn’t appreciate at the time I first read it.
Listen, this is an excellent book, if you can get beyond the title. Clearly, my “not OK” self could not, so I tossed the book years ago, which is why I have this ugly copy I picked up at a thrift store for 50 cents. It’s a little worse for wear on the outside but the insides are still good. Kinda like me. Par-ump-ta-dum! *cymbal*
I love the visual of the three circles (I’m OK – You’re not OK, I’m not OK – You’re OK, etc.) and how they interlap into each other. I’m OK – You’re OK is the place you want to end up (“a mature adult, at peace with themselves and others”). Love that, too.
As I’ve read through and collected links for this post, I realize how incredibly silly I’ve been. This book is golden, for self-helpers.
Wait. Big digression!!! I’ve been thinking about something and it’s just come to the top of my mind again. It’s the moniker, “self-helper” which… yeah… no ring to it. Like, I follow Mortician Caitlin Doughty who calls her followers “Deathlings,” which is adorable. I mean, if you like that kind of thing. I do, because I’d very much like to be a grief counselor and may still be heading that way. Anyway, I can’t think of a darned thing that’s as catchy as that for self-help folks. Can you?
How about “Selfies”? Oh, wait. That’s taken. I make me laugh. “Self-Helplings?” Yikes! That sounds like a buffet or potatoes of some kind. Ideas? I’ll keep thinking, too.
This book really is excellent. Ignore the title, if (like me) you find it obnoxious. The insides are good. Really good.