In my teens and early twenties, I became very interested in what are called, “self-help books”. At that time, as a Christian, I noticed how the church I was in looked at these books with disdain. They were ridiculed as “pulling-yourself-by-your -own- bootstraps” books. And, understandably so, these books do tend to excuse personal responsibility, avoid the subject of sin and neglect the existence of God.
God was not mentioned as necessary in the process of knowing yourself and maintaining mental health. These books, of course, are non religious and therefore encourage the notion that each individual can be fully in charge of his own success and destiny without the inclusion and blessing of his Creator.
As I read these books, I kept that in mind, but I did gain some insights on human nature and why I behave the way I do.
I also read these books at the time because of class assignments while I was in college. I have seldom referred to them since. Therefore, I am not here encouraging anyone to read them today.
One of these books, I’m Ok, You’re Ok by Thomas A. Harris was of particular interest to me. I recently took it out of the city library in order to refresh my memory a bit and because I want to leave you some of my impressions about this book as it relates to the Christian way of viewing God, the world and one another.
Most of you are familiar with Sigmund Freud and his theories on how the mind in us human beings work. He is who I would call the “father of psychoanalysis”, which became the springboard of the counseling methods we see today.
He was an Austrian doctor who treated patients having psychological problems. He discovered that some of peoples’ problems could be traced back to their childhood experiences. He arrived at the conclusion that his patients had blocked out unpleasant moments in their lives and that they would be helped if these hidden memories were brought out to the open. Freud encouraged his patients to discuss whatever came to their minds. He also studied their dreams in order to find the source of their ongoning difficulties.
The Parts Of The Mind
What is most significant about Dr. Freud’s work is his dividing the process of the mind (the psyche, in psychology) into three areas. He called these parts: the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego. As theory, they are defined: 
- The Id is that division of the psyche that is unconscious and is the source of where the psychic energy comes from.
- The Ego is that division of the psyche that serves as the mediator between the organized conscious person and reality.
- The Superego is that portion of the psyche that is only partly conscious, represents internalization of parental conscience and the rules of society. It’s purpose is to reward and punish through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt.
 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1973.
I’m OK – You’re OK
This book, however, I’m OK-You’re OK, discusses another approach that goes beyond Freud’s psychoanalysis method. It is based on Transactional Analysis, or TA. TA is today one tool of many used in understanding emotional and psychological problems people have in life.
TA is another theory and method developed by Eric Berne (1910 – 1960) in counseling people which was expounded by Dr. Thomas Harris in this book. It looks at each person as having three states of mind. These states are similar, but not identical, to Freud’s. Freud looked at each person as having three states of mind, whereas Dr. Harris looked at each person having three states of the ego.
Also, whereas Freud focused on how the patient’s way of thinking developing internally, TA (Dr. Berne’s method) focuses on how the mind was influenced by outside interaction with others. These three ego states are:
- The Parent – This is our internal voice of authority, acquired by conditioning, learning and attitudes which came to us from authority figures of our youth. We were conditioned by our real parents, teachers, older people, next door neighbors, aunts and uncles, etc., to behave as they wanted us to behave. Our Parent inner voice within us is made up of a huge number of messages that we consciously and unconsciously stored and repeatedly playback to ourselves. Typical messages we playback consist of phrases and attitudes starting with: ‘this is how to’, ‘under no circumstances’, ‘you must always’, ‘never forget’, ‘don’t lie’, ‘don’t cheat’ don’t steal’, etc, etc. Our Parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.
- The Child – Our internal reaction and feelings to external events from the past form the Child. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data that are stored within each of us. When anger, fear, insecurity, or despair dominates our reasoning , the Child is in control. Like our Parent we can change it, but it is not easy.
- The Adult – Our Adult is our ability to think and determine action for ourselves. It is our thought process based on data we inwardly digest and analyze as we receive information from what see and read around us? The Adult in us, according to Dr. Harris, begins to form at around ten months old, and is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child we must do so through our Adult.
1) I’m OK and you are OK. The person in this position is seen as being the healthiest. He is the self-controlled Adult. He is mature, stable and thoughtful. Those running their lives in this position have a sense of well-being and competency about themselves and others.
When I read this book, I believed this was the state of mind that each Christian should automatically have as he/she interacts with the church brethren. Did not Christ and later the apostles command that we love one another as God loves us? Are we not to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31)?
2) I’m OK and you are not OK. In this position, I would feel good about myself but I see others as imperfect or inferior to me. It is usually not a healthy way of relating with others that often results.
People who would fall into this category include: narcissists, sociopaths, and manipulators. Within churches: some pastors, some rabbis, some laity, some popes (historically, so far) have or have had this type of mindset. In government: some prime ministers, some presidents, some US Senators, some congressmen, Caesars, and dictators are in this group. Those with a superiority complex would be seen here.
The church I used to belong to, I believe, may have had this position. That church, in her theology, felt she was OK while other Christian churches were not OK. I remember constantly being indoctrinated by her that “Our church has the truth and all other Christian churches do not.”
I see many, if not all, of the Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and scribes in Jesus’ day being trapped in this mindset.
3) I’m not OK and you are OK. In this framework, the person sees himself as the weak person in a given relationship. He views others in life as inordinately better than himself. The person who holds this position will unconsciously accept being taken advantage as OK.
People who fall into this category are many who are: introverted, shy, fearful. They also include many who are angry or jealous at the wealth of others. Also included are: those who are suffering a co-dependency, those abused, those who tend to isolate themselves from society, those who are fearful to speak out assertively in a given situation that would help them, those who are intimidated by bullies. The list is endless here. (Please remember, these are just my thoughts and impressions about this book.)
Question: Does esteeming others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) fall into this category of I’m not OK – You are OK? Answer: I do not believe so. There is the factor of love mixed into this verse’s equation that must be considered.
How about those who constantly feel guilty because of sin – after repenting and asking forgiveness? Are they in this category?
4) I’m not OK and you are not OK. This book asserts this is the worst position to be in. It means, for example, that I believe that I am in a unlovable state and so is the rest of the world. Consequently, the extreme outlook in life is that there is little hope and no one to help me.
Those in this category include: some going through depression, some who have been incarcerated. Others include: many drug addicts, many snared in sex trafficking, some suffering terminal disease and some who are homeless – just to name a few.
The human mind is much more complex than what I have elaborated in summarizing this book. Only God, who created our minds fully comprehends it.
The Mind of God
You may be wondering why I am bringing this book up. Months ago, I posted The Mind Of God, and how God thinks. I have also been studying on the subject of the Trinity. Both of these subjects have fascinated me. I am still learning and asking questions!
This book triggered the thought that our mind may be a reflection of the Trinity who is three persons who are One. The Father would be the Parent, the Son would be the Child, and the Holy Spirit would be the Adult. All three persons deeply understand their relationship and purpose with each other yet they are maturely One and in one accord in purpose, goal, deed, love, mission, etc, etc., etc. (Big topic here.)
1) Regarding the Bible teaching on justification (Romans 5:1), does justification mean that “I am OK – God Is OK”?
2) Was the Law taught in the Old Testament “the Parent” that we Christians are no longer to be under?
3) Did God in the Old Testament instill a Parent dependance into the minds of the Israelites?
4) The Bible teaches absolutes that are our way of life. Can being OK go outside those absolutes? What does “OK” mean? Is OK relative to the norms of the society around us?
5) How about your relationship with God? Do you feel God is OK and you are not OK with God? Should a Christian feel this way?
6) Does the mind of Christ in us (1 Corinthians 2:16) consist as: Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
7) How is the Holy Spirit the “spirit of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-8)?
8) Should a Christian avoid counseling if he/she needs help, encouragement and support? How can a Christian find good counselors?
9) What kind of mind does Satan have? Does he influence “the Parent” in us? Does he influence “the Child” in us?
10) In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said we are to become like little children, but the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 to put away childish things. Is there a conflict here? For an answer to this, click on Mary Whelchel’s article (and radio broadcast – 8/6/16), Is Your Faith Child-Like or Childish?
Again, these are just my thoughts here. I can go on and on with this. This is a huge topic that you can perhaps study further and discuss among yourselves or in groups.
For now, from the three of me (LOL), may God be with you.