For those of you growing up several decades ago, you may remember the book entitled I’m OK, You’re OK. I never read it (I was a little young for self-help), but I sure remember seeing it in airports, and whatever talk show was popular at the time. My mom may have even had a copy sitting on her desk.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea that we are all, fundamentally, actually ok. This may be a no-brainer for you who are reading this, but for me, growing up there was illness, both physically as well as emotionally in the form of family disfunction. Question marks hung over me as I subconsciously never really new if things were okay.
In my present life, it continues to be a theme as a parent as I look to my son and his eccentricities and question whether things are alright or not regularly. My dear one has not had an easy path, with challenges from his fetal life to his birth, and on into his young life as a toddler as I struggled with a liver disease that eventually led to liver failure and transplant.
Over the past 18 months some attachment issues began to be more prominent, coupled with fits of rage, shyness and sensorial difficulties (aversion to loud noises, textures, etc). We found a good play therapist as well as a cranial osteopath who reassure me that after what he has endured emotionally the signs of delayed distress are not surprising, however, seeing one’s child struggle with social settings and managing emotions like disappointment and fear can be more anxiety producing than any modern day self-help book can describe. I had become anxious about why my son did not appear to be a happy and grounded little boy, about how his day would go, if he would have an ‘episode’ of anger or deep upset and do something he would regret, or worse, hurt another child by saying something unkind or by physically lashing out.
The cranial osteopath we go to treats us together. On each occasion she reassures me that we are okay. “You and he are fine”, she says. “You are okay.” This is followed with an explanation that we have been through rough waters and we have some work to untangle ourselves from the tale of clenching on for our dear lives. We missed the natural separation point that happens between mother and child so there are aspects of our relationship that have not yet been delineated, and frustration on his part with wanting to be independent but not fully knowing how. There are habit patterns that have taken over and need to be broken. We each have a chance to step into our own shoes, but doing that takes an act of bravery and responsibility.
At home, I am in the practice of remembering all this. With each tantrum or panic attack that takes over my son, I give myself the time not to react, but rather to ground myself. As a natural problem solver my own pattern is to want to do the work for him, to make everything okay instead of seeing that everything is actually okay already, and not everything is my responsibility to sort out.
We are all okay, but many of us forget that in some fundamental way. Whether we are walking around in fear that someone may set off a bomb, or sucking our guts in to appear the way we think society will deem us more desirable, managing a health issue or tiptoeing around a difficult conversation that needs to be had, many people have fear or expectations of self and other that lead us into a state of projecting things not to be okay. We waste a lot of time analyzing and speculating, when we could be out there enjoying ourselves, and all of those around us who are okay too.
The next time you encounter someone, how would it change your dialogue to see that person as perfect and okay, exactly as they are? No back context, affect or judgement, just seeing them as okay. It is possible, and it starts with seeing yourself that way. I’m OK, and you are OK too.