Transactional Analysis - Life Positions

According to TA theory, every person falls into one of four life positions.  Although we are capable of moving between different life positions depending upon the situation we are in, generally, we will always favour one over the others and spend a majority of our time in that position. 



  • I am not OK, You are OK – This is the most common life position, where you see yourself as being less important, worthy, or holding less value than other people.  Usually people in this life position will suffer from confidence issues and will put other people’s needs and wants above their own.  Usually people in this position would have experienced a lack of recognition and encouragement in childhood.  They may have also felt unable or been restricted from socialising and making friends in those early years.  People in this position need assistance to “get away from helplessness” and are the most likely to seek help from therapy. 


  • I am not OK, Your are Not OK – This life position is quite rare, but feels completely hopeless to those inhabiting it.  As well as feeling that they have no value or worth, they also see the world around them as negative, bad and unworthy.  People in this life position often struggle to seek help as they don’t believe that anyone is capable of helping them (as everyone is equally helpless).  Usually people in this life position may have had abusive or severely neglectful parents.  They are likely to be projecting their negative thoughts about themselves onto others and are likely to have experienced poor relationships in adult life. 


  • I am OK, You are not OK – This life position is when you see yourself as being superior to others (essentially the opposite of “I am not ok, you are ok”).  People in this position will look down on others and will often make comments designed to put people down and make them feel inferior.  Anger will be quite a common feeling.   People in this position will often have been spoilt during childhood, or made to feel that they are “better” somehow than other children.  In adult life, parents, managers and others in a position of power can often fall into this category without realising it.


  • I am OK, Your are OK - This is the ideal life position to hold.  It means that you believe in your own sense of worth and you recognise your own value (I’m OK).  At the same time, it also means that you recognise that everyone else has value and is a worthwhile human being. Seeing others as worthwhile can be quite a difficult concept, especially when you think about criminals, etc.  However thinking about someone as worthwhile doesn’t mean you agree with their behaviour or views or that you like them, but just that you understand that they have a value as a human being.  And as a human, they have the potential to improve their life and join you in this life position. 


The first three life positions are all unconscious.  We find ourselves in those positions because of our previous life experiences and they carry on outside of our awareness.  The last position is in the conscious mind.  You need to gain conscious awareness and understanding of where you are from, where you have been and how life has affected you before you can move to this awareness that you are valuable and worthy, just as everyone else is.