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OKness in Context
The concept of 'OKness' is probably familiar even to people who have not read much transactional analysis (TA). This concept is the core of transactional analysis, both in terms of its philosophy, and of its contribution to the understanding of people and their interactions: the analysis of transactions. This article explores the extension of the existing two dimensional 'OK Corral' (Ernst, 1971), and Berne's (1972/1975) elaboration of the third-dimensional position in his last book, published posthumously.
It presents ways in which this three-dimensional model furthers our understanding of individuals and relationships within a social context, with particular reference to working in organizations.
OKness has been variously used to describe a philosophy of how we regard other people (Berne, 1972/1975), a frame of reference governing a person's whole outlook on life (op. cit.), and the minute-by-minute behavioural responses to what happens to us. (Ernst, 1971). It was Ernst who developed the 'OK Corral' which shows the four basic positions we can occupy in terms of the way we view ourselves and others. We can be either OK or Not OK with ourselves, and either OK or not OK with the other person.
No relationship exists in isolation. All of our interactions with one or more people take place in a variety of contexts - families, friendships, communities, teams, organizations, society at large and, increasingly, the global context. We may view ourselves as 'OK' within our family, for instance, where we hopefully experience positive relationships. Some people may experience bullying at work, leading them to move to a 'not OK' position for at least the period they are in, or on the way to and from, their work. They may identify with and adopt an "I'm not OK" position, because "We're not OK".
Three dimensional OKness
Berne (1972/1975) made brief reference to three handed OKness in which he referred to 'They' as the third hand complement to 'I' and 'You'. With the exception of the present author (Davidson, 1999, 2006), Summers and Tudor (2000) and, in a specific context, Jacobs (1987), the third position of this three-handed vision has been largely overlooked in the TA literature.
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