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After All These Years, I'm OK; So Are You

January 23, 1986|ROSELLE LEWIS

Staying OK by Amy Bjorak Harris and Thomas A. Harris MD (Harper & Row: $15.95).

Sixteen years ago, the Harrises' "I'm OK--You're OK," a guide to transactional analysis, popularized the interpersonal theories of Eric Berne. Over the years, their book, selling more than 15 million copies, launched at least a thousand spinoffs, which, in their bright dust jackets and hyperbolic claims for immediate happiness and mental health, proved the notion that imitation can be a form of very sincere flattery.

To their credit, the Harrises have waited for more than a decent interval to recapitulate the principles of transactional analysis. We are all, their theory runs, simultaneously child, adult and parent, with the conflicting desires, drives and needs of each. At the same time, every action and statement can be viewed as a "transaction," one that may be negative and hurtful, or the desired opposite, positive and helpful. Think about the difference between, "Your new haircut brings out your expressive eyes" and, "Who scalped you?"

Using terms such as "trackdown" (analyzing the source of one's emotional response) and "stroking" (essentially, practicing daily do-unto-otherism), the Harrises have also written a fascinating, if not controversial, chapter on "Building Children," in which they say point blank that one parent should stay home a minimum of six years, until a child is in school and can read, since this skill is the "primary tool of a child's independence."

"Staying OK" has its fair share of irritating charts, list-making activities and some rather superficial Pollyanna-type analyses of daily "transactions."

But it's a superior example of the self-help genre, full of integrity, perky common sense, expressed in such a sure and engrossing style that the reader immediately sets aside petty woes and realizes all's well with the world.

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