The I'm (not) okay / You're (not) okay model

I'm currently doing IOP therapy and they use some pretty cool concepts/ models there, that I'm finding quite helful.

One is a model of how we view ourselves and others/ the world.

There are 4 options:

1. I'm okay, you're okay.
2. I'm okay, you're not okay.
3. I'm not okay, you're okay.
4. I'm not okay, you're not okay.

Option number "1" is considered to be the best/ healthiest in terms of therapy and in terms of being happy.

I spend a lot of my time in option number "2". It's how I survived childhood trauma and how I managed to salvage my self-esteem. I decided that I was okay and that the perp was an utter bastard and that anyone who didn't help me pretty much sucked too.

I see a lot of people I know opting for option number "3" cos they were taught during childhood that they're not okay, and that option number "3" is the safest option.

This okay/ not okay concept is from Transactional Analysis and from a book by Anthony Harris

Any thoughts?

Do you recognise yourself in one of the four patterns?


Do you recognise yourself in one of the four patterns?

Not that I don’t kick into all or nothing thinking, but when I do? It doesn’t look like any of those. The model has always struck me as being very teenage, somehow... the absolute surety, combined with a 2 dimensional prejudice (literally, pre-judging), to define both myself & others. It doesn’t allow for any kind of individual variation, complex people/situations, or neutrality. Shrug. So it’s not me when I’m able to see & work with the shades of grey, and see both people & situations as complex entities; and it’s not me when I kick into black&white thinking.

I know it speaks to a lot of people, it just doesn’t describe my world view, or way of thinking.


My T is a transactional analysis therapist (amongst others). And we've done some of this.

From what I understand, it's not concrete in that we can move form one to another?
And the "I'm okay" part isn't necessarily being okay but thinking we are.
Unless I have it wrong. As a lot of the TA theory does go over my head

I boughtthe book : Transactional Analysis 101
Which has helped me. I've re-read it a few times.
(And watched all the Bob Cooke videos. You posted one on a thread I started about TA theory and I found it really helpful).


I thought having all of them is the healthiest...and getting stuck on any of them indefinitely may be considered rigid. But I could be wrong. In the height of my symptoms days, I was more or less, I have no idea what you are feeling unless you tell me...sheesh. I have come a long way. It was safer for me not to assume or project..but that elusive way of avoiding mentalizing/empathizing did not work either.


I try pretty hard to stay in the I'm Okay/You're okay square - which I may not be remembering properly, but is akin to "I'm dealing with my stuff, and I'm letting you deal with your stuff"...?

Funny thing is that the second someone around me really isn't okay? My junk disappears, and I can be okay while I deal with a crisis.

But, I seem to recall that the literal "being okay" isn't what's being referred to. The early years of my 'recovery', post meltdown, it was all about "I'm not okay/You're not okay", which was panicking about my own situation, and implanting myself firmly into the mess of other people's lives as well. I couldn't accept my own situation, and I was having a hard time just letting people around me be who they were, mess and all. Everyone needing fixing - me and all the people interacting with me and the way they interacted with me.

I've worked pretty hard on self-awareness over the years, though, and I think I've shifted away from that.

Of course, in the literal sense, I'm not really okay. But in the sense of this particular theory, I like to think the I'm Okay/You're Okay box is where I spend most of my time now...I hope!
I seem to recall that the literal "being okay" isn't what's being referred to.
Yeah : )

It means "I'm an okay person, you're an okay person."

black&white thinking.

It's not black or white thinking, cos it distinguishes between the person and the behaviour.

So I may be critical of someone else's behaviour, or my own behaviour... But the theory is that it's about fundamentally accepting that all people are "okay" as human beings, no matter how flawed they are.

You could say it's about validating everyone, in a culture where we tend to/ were taught to invalidate people... including ourselves.

So basically validating ourselves and others as people, but then being nuanced/ critical about their behaviour.

And I can't say that I "feel like I identify" with any of the 4 categories either.

But I know myself well enough to spot the patterns in my thinking and I recognise that my thinking mostly/ generally/ often reflects that of the 2nd category.


You know. This is the thing about TA theory.
It's odd! And takes ages to get into!
I really don't understand a lot of it
The language is so odd:
Permission (I banned my T from using this word! And she hasn't for months! It was too close to the bone)

It's the language that makes it confusing for me. The theory behind it I get, but this "okay/not okay" thing. For it to make sense to me, I have to not use the language of it.

But I think I have been all those states.
And I think I am still a couple of those states.


Oh... I understand the theory, just fine. It’s an expansion on the Psychoanalytic theory of Id, Ego, Superego... specifically focusing in on the Ego... and even more specifically looking at how we relate to the world via how we view ourselves in relation to others.

I simply don’t fit in the paradigm as presented.

Case in point? It’s incrediably common with trauma victims to take the stance of “everyone is a threat” (you’re not okay).. whilst at the same time believing in their absolute justification of doing so (I’m okay). Metric shit tons of examples along the same lines (all men are rapists, all women are abusive, whatever). The stance/outlook with that type of thinking neatly dovetails into TA theory. It’s just a (series of) cognitive distortions (& possibly core beliefs) wrapped up neatly into one cohesive whole. Which is certainly useful as f*ck for a lot of people, in a lot of different ways. One way? it’s broad enough that the same pattern can be identified in countless environments & situations, observed how that plays out, & can be really effectively worked on... ALL without having to deal with the individual pieces of it, until long after you’ve already got some good traction on it and smoothed out some of the sharper edges. Very similar to exposure therapy, in chipping away at triggers & stressors, simply in a different context.

One of the places TA breaks down? When there isn’t a value judgement placed... at all.

Try using TA on “I’m blonde” “Youre brunette”. Doesn’t work, right? Not unless you ascribe some kind of value system on blonde & brunette. Either or both being desirable, or undesireable.

MY tendencies uder stress in the way I relate to the world?
- Me & Mine // Everyone Else

I’ve kicked it with some psychodynamic peeps who’ve tried -for fun- to break that down INTO some kind of value judgment, that fits the paradigm, and nope. It can’t be. Not even by half a dozen grad students and a couple few professors tying to Tetris shit around, with no regard for client fragility (because I wasn’t a client)... just to see if it could be done. Because that was the game. We were poking holes in various psychological theories. Psychology? Is a super duper SOFT science. Most theories not only have holes big enough to drive trucks through... they cheer the trucks along. Because there is no single unified theory of mind that fits “everyone”. And most people who study people? Find that just as fascinating as incrediably effective theories that fit “most” people.

TA itself, is an example of exactly that. It isn’t attempting to be a universal theory of mind. It’s an “expansion pack” on the Ego. Generally speaking, most people fall under 1 of the 4 quarters in how they relate to others and view the world. The creator was kicked out of the psychoanalytic community for his theories... as they were so far from cannon. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not useful... for a lot of people. But nothing -to date- in useful, much less correct, for everyone.

TA doesn’t happen to be correct for me. Neither in my normal dealings with the world, nor under stress.

Which doesn’t mean that I never operate out of one of those 4 quarters... just that it’s not my MO. So if I’m looking to understand my own behavior better? (Or someone else is) TA isn’t a good model for that.

... But the theory is that it's about fundamentally accepting that all people are "okay" as human beings, no matter how flawed they are
Sure, I’ll just ring up the pedophile to babysit, shall I?

Otherwise known as I’m going to disagree with this statement, a bit ;)

Understanding what ego-state someone is operating of in order to understand their behavior better? Doesn’t mean that one “should” view everyone else as okay. It DOES correlate with generalized happiness... people who basically view themselves and others as “okay” STRONGLY correlates to the overall happiness. I am going to be profoundly unhappy if I don’t view pedophiles as okay (I don’t) and they’re the only people available to babysit. Conversely, if my babysitters are amazing trustworthy people I can utterly rely upon? I’m going to be MUCH happier.

Using TA, you can look at 2 young mothers... 1 stressed out and exhausted, 1 happy and relaxed... and easily find the only difference in their parenting is that 1 regularly uses babysitters in order to get time to relax and the other doesn’t // as 1 has people in their life they view as okay & the other doesn’t. Now, the babysitting mom may BE handing her child over to pedophiles (and be perfectly fine with that), and the non-babysitting mom may just VIEW “everyone” as potential pedophiles, but actually be surrounded by amazing and trustworthy people. Both of those outlooks? Are clearly problematic to the Nth degree. Or exhausted mom may be living with my former in-laws, and happy mom living with awesome people. Which means that it’s not the outlook that’s problematic... but the situation.

TA isn’t saying that everyone is/should be okay. It’s simply attempting to better understand behavior by outlook, is all.
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