I am OK, you are OK
During my long gone, damn, it is so sad, brief time of being officially young, immersed in an under-utilized or misspent youth, take your pick, I came to read a ‘self-help’ book by TA Harris, titled I’m OK, you’re OK. I still find it to be really valuable. It is about transactional analyses, dealing with Parent/Adult/Child interactions. As a child, one is weak, without real power, tantrums not in contention, and what you could do to a nappy has nothing to do with real power. A child thus is overwhelmed by an adult that knows everything, what is eternally good for you and such a parent would bring a reeling child spinach for food. So, this is an example- a child make a wee little mistake in his pants that affects a surrounding area too, and this earthly ‘god’ comes in, reprimanding you severely. ‘You are not 6 months old anymore, you are twenty years old’, sorry, in most cases the child bespoken would be then about 2 years old…, ‘…so if I, Zeus ( being male or female), find you ever again doing this, you will either be severely whacked or will for sure lose your precarious position in my substantial developing will, so…don’t do this never ever again!’ Never, Daddy, Mommy, never again!
Macro and micro politics boils down to this, reprimanding finger pointing and a powerful ‘parent’ making mince- meat of a powerless ‘child’ that gradually become stuck in a meek, accommodating demeanour all his or her life. There are many grown-ups looking like adults, but behind the beard and or the mascara, they do subtle cringing right through life. Or, after taking all the harassment on a tearful chin, a child becomes a parent too and remembers his role model well. A child again turning into a forceful parent and the cycle is on for another vicious round around the cynic sun. Harris is still trying to tell us that the way of real engagement must be between an adult and another person also deemed to be authentically adult or leading another person in kindness into adulthood. My friend, a world famous and well respected mathematician, choosing me as his only friend… has worked out that I personally should get to the authentic field of emotional maturity at the age of about 93 and I am really looking forward to it.
So, what do we get in politics, in parliament? The ‘parents’ have the power and they can do what they want because they are the ‘parents’. Should another political party have the audacity to raise a critical question about the ways of the ‘parent’ or propose a better way, they will either be shouted down or will find themselves in a ‘child’s’ position with limited muscle power. It is not about the best way forward, it is about our way. To hell with complexities! How do our leaders in politics and business look? Like manipulating Parents, self-indulging Children or emotionally mature Adults?
Being childish, or to be successfully in brutish charge, based on unquestioned power, ruled the centuries, the decades and still rules the day. The complexities of life though is not correctly, inherently, understood through such a stance and we will just go on and on making mistakes, much bigger than a bit of weeing, that is to the detriment of all in society.
Take parliament again. You have seen the comic version from time to time of ‘parents’ fiercely yelling and finger pointing at another party that is also finger pointing and yelling to gain or regain the upper-hand to be a ‘real, better equipped’ ‘parent. Lower down in the ranks, people realizing their weak position, mellow into a ‘child’s way of accepting the rule of the ‘power guys’, trying to stay out of sight and enjoying the pudding.
Harris pleads with all of us, saying I can only be OK if you are OK. Yes, we are different, we come from different cultures, different social strata, different types of families that work in different ways with their children, conditioning them differently to face up to an un-captured awaiting future. We either lead children into maturity, so that they can handle complexities, to be empathetic and actively being kind, or we grow them up to run with various packs of wolves.
What do adults, not just been grown-ups, do when they engage with other people? When they encounter a person, a political party, a business entity that blindly run others into smithereens and calls it good business, or sharp politics, they realize that the only way to build bridges, to let others see the dangers ahead, the consequences of actions, are to engage with the others, looking for their hearts, their souls, their consciences, their compassion, their sense of balance. To talk them into adulthood.
That is no easy task. We humans tend to think that instinctively we know the best. We are conditioned from childhood for this and we prefer to point angry and ‘wise’ fingers at the other stupid people not knowing any better. We may get away with it for a long time, but never forever. Then life, sidestepping our dogmatized consciousness will throw more pain and havoc at us. Either we become adults dealing with others at an adult level and listening to different views, concepts, reasoning and then react in adultness with a higher level of balance, a mature synthesis of perspectives, or we will continue to make huge mistakes that will prolong suffering and leave us all vulnerable to remain people that can only operate with one-sided temporary power. Politicians, business people, ordinary people, lend me your ears!
It is a revelation, and quite entertaining at times to see how we all, I myself, gradually regress from striving adulthood, mature level-headedness, into either a ‘parent’ or ‘child’ demeanour, psychologically, often very subtly, harassing other people or just turn belly up. It is a sign of real maturity when a man and a woman, or man to man, woman to woman engage and have the necessary respect for the other to show in compassion how and when we, you and or me, start to operate in a less than humane and caring way. I can only be OK, if you are OK, and that is not a given, we must keep on with subtle ethical mining to get to that. We ordinary people, politicians, business people too. Adulthood has nothing to do with one-sided power, consuming greediness, it has nothing to do with this. Being an adult, being mature, acknowledge the lingering dark side in all of us, many subtle forms of cruelty posing as goodness. Emotional maturity is only activated when you deem the strangely other also okay and to be okay. I therefore do ask, how do you operate in life? Do you constantly strive to check yourself, to empower all people that you encounter so that they and all of us can be existentially okay? Or do power-play remains king, queen for ever and a sad day? Wim van der Walt – Bellville