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I’m OK are you OK?

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Lee Payton

Summer 2017

I’m OK are you OK?

‘Proton’ has had a busy month. One of the more notorious regional ‘taggers’ (members of society who spray their pseudonym in car paint on any surface possible), our so far anonymous rogue had covered many of the walls, garage doors and bridges along the Berkhamsted section of the Grand Union canal with his (or her) floral and flamboyant moniker. How he managed some of these without a boat was admirable, if not bewildering.

Scene of the crime

Recently, I discovered, he had ‘thrown up’ (the youth term for ‘placed’) his tag on our garden gates. There, in four-foot high black spray can, it was. ‘Proton’, in street style squiggle, on slightly faded shiplap. As therapists, we are not immune to the surprises of everyday life. This raced through my mind as I surveyed the carnage

Are you OK?

Thomas Harris, in his 1967 book ‘I’m OK – You’re OK’, considers the four life positions any of us may take, at any point, and your life position depends on how you transact, or communicate, with others. They map the four differing ‘I’m OK – You’re OK’ variations. The double ‘OK’ variant denotes that both parties or people are in a good place. The double ‘not OK’, not so. Transactional Analysis takes the view that an individual’s psychological state can change in response to differing situations. This typifies Transactional Analysis, an important part within Cognitive Hypnotherapy. If you can’t see it or there are not shifts, a therapist can help you discover why.

Well, are you?

On discovering Proton’s creation (and while muttering dark things about his paternity), I was not OK, and he certainly seemed quite OK. But as I went about assembling accoutrements required to remove waterproof car spray paint from a dull wooden
surface, a few things struck me.

I’m OK?

Firstly, I actually was OK. It was a gate, with some spray paint on. Nobody was injured, nobody was ill, or worse. Secondly, it was 16 degrees and sunny. What better day to scrub spray paint off a gate? And thirdly: what if Proton wasn’t OK? What if his need to represent himself in public was due to something missing at home, some shortfall in his happiness? What if he wasn’t understood? Suffering, or needing help?

Reframe, rinse and repeat

You see, we all have an element of choice over how we choose to feel. Cognitive Hypnotherapy concerns itself with exactly these areas. Change. The shift from ‘I’m not OK’ to ‘I’m OK’. And if you are not ‘OK’ in any part of your life, you can change it. Joan Didion said, ‘we are the stories we tell ourselves’, and it’s true. If we determine to stay in a certain story, we become a part of that story. The determinant is choice: choice plus motivation.

So, what?

So, there it was. Change within a moment. In a thought, a single notion led to a change in belief. A new story. A moment of ‘ELOC’ or ‘external locus of control’ of things happening outside of my domain, was over. I was back in a place where I felt ‘ILOC’, ‘internal locus of control’, back in the room (or rather, garden). I was not upset, not affected, not perturbed. Ready for the challenge ahead, prepared to roll my sleeves up. To find the solution to the conundrum (pressure washer and wire brush, if you’re interested). But none of us are immune. All of us face challenges. The motivation to change? That takes the effort. And you can do it, whatever ‘it’ is.

So, Proton, if you’re reading this, thank you. You gave me an opportunity to go inside. To reflect, to consider and ultimately: to change. I hope all is good in your world and that you are genuinely ‘OK’. There truly are no hard feelings. But please don’t tag my gates again.