Saturday, April 3, 2021

Games People Play - Eric Berne

Eric Berne was a psychiatrist famed for his theory of Transaction Analysis. In this book, he explores social transactions. Its tag line - The Psychology of Human Relationships. What a lovely book.

We begin as children hungry for positive strokes or intimacy and never grow out of it. Stimulus Hunger, where, if we are not stroked, we shrivel, guides us. This also develops into Recognition Hunger. A stroke then becomes the fundamental unit of societal action. An exchange of strokes is called a transaction which is the unit of social intercourse. Humans have Structure Hunger - the need to structure their lives, what to do, how to structure their time. Time structuring is a natural need.

We operate on two levels - Social Programming and Individual Programming. Social Programming includes traditional rituals, manners etc. Pastimes and games are substitutes for real living of intimacy. Individuals structure time on activity or fantasy. In social programming, we rely on rituals, pastimes, games, intimacy, activity. Our goal is to obtain as many satisfactions as possible from our transactions. The more accessible we are, the more satisfactions we have.

Analysis of Games

The three main ego states are Adult, Parent and Child. Everyone carries his parents inside him, has an adult in him and carries a little boy or girl inside. The Child state is about creativity, spontaneity, the adult state is about survival and the parent state is about making response automatic to conserve time and energy, survival of human race. 

Simple Transactions - Superficial relationships - activities, rituals pastimes

Ulterior transactions - Games

Procedures and Rituals - are the simplest form of social activity. Procedures are a series of simple, complementary, adult transitions directed towards manipulation of reality. A ritual is a stereotyped series of simple complementary transactions programmed by external forces. It is either guilt relieving or reward-seeking. It employs strokes to increase or decrease intimacy. Procedures and rituals are stereotyped and predictable. Those who aren't adept at rituals avoid social interactions - they are normally seen helping the hostess serve or cook.

Pastimes - Simple pastimes are a series of semi ritualistic, transactions to structure an interval of time. Typically played at parties before the formal meeting. Pastimes include - PTA, Psychiatry, Ever Been, What Became, Man Talk (Compare cars, Sports), Lady Talk (Kitchen). Man talk and Lady talk don't mix, are exclusive. Pastimes are played based on roles, persona, which result from positions taken. Our positions are taken early, by the 7th year of our life itself. Some more Pastimes are - Me too, Aint it awful, Why don't they, Let's find.

Games - are an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to well-defined predictable outcomes. They are a recurring set of transactions. Games differ from procedures and rituals because of the ulterior quality and pay off involved in games. "Procedures may be successful, rituals effective, pastimes profitable but they are all candid. They do not involve conflict. Games on the other hand are dishonest and have dramatic outcomes." An operation is a simple transaction or set of transactions for a specific, stated purpose.

A typical game - "If it weren't for you - I'd have done that", commonly played out in marriages where wives feel that because of their husbands they cannot do more with their lives. Thesis (prohibitive), antithesis (permissiveness), aim (reassurance). As the players become more adept, moves are eliminated. Games happen because there is little opportunity for intimacy in daily life. The essential feature is in games is the payoff. 

Games are classified based on 1. No of Players 2.Currency 3. Clinical types 4. Zonal 5. Psychodynamic 6. Instinctual. Games have different degrees based on Flexibility, Tenacity and Intensity. In the first degree, the game is socially acceptable. in the 2nd degree, there is no permanent damage but the game is concealed from society and in the 3rd degree, the game is played for keeps, ends in surgery, courtroom or morgue

Types of Games

Life games, Marital games, Sexual games, Underworld games, Consulting room games and Good games

Life games - Alcoholic (how bad I have been, see if you can stop me, aim- self-castigation), Debtor - (try and collect), Kick me (Please don't kick me, why does this always happen to me, my misfortunes are better than yours), Now I got you, you son of a bitch (justification, see what you made me do, vindication, I am blameless)

Marital games - Corner (whatever I do I am cornered, Courtroom (no resolution, aim reassurance), Frigid woman (afraid of sexual intimacy), Uproar (beat me daddy, uproar in foreplay, aim vindication, see if you can seduce me, I'll try, if you stop me), Harried Housewife (too many roles, takes on everything and breaks down in time), If it weren't for you (look how hard I tried, ulcer, wooden leg, keeps it secret, aim - vindication), Sweetheart (calls the other sweetheart but says derogatory things)

Party Games - Ain't it awful (sick suffering, doctor, surgery), Nowadays, Broken skin (what pity, horrible situation), Blemish (I am no good), Schemel (mess up things, I'm sorry, expect them to stop me - aim absolution), Why don't you, Yes but (aim - reassurance)

Sexual Games - Let you and him fight (a woman has two men fight over her), Perversion (first-degree rapo or kiss-off), Pursuit of a woman (aim-malicious revenge), Stocking game - (I've a run in my stocking, exhibitionism, no judgement, makes women angry, men aroused), Uproar - (domineering father, teenage daughter, leads to courtroom)

Underworld games - Cops and robbers (kleptomaniacs, see if you can catch me, aim - reassurance), How do you get out of here (escape, good behaviour, sabotage and not released), Let's pull a fast one on Joey 

Consulting room games - Greenhouse (joke about psycho problems), I am only trying to help (look what you made me do aim - the alleviation of guilt, masochism, I'll make you feel inadequate), Indigence - (welfare, don't get jobs, no one wants to leave), Peasant - (Gee, you're wonderful Prof), Psychiatry - (I treat but god cures), Stupid- (I laugh with you at my own clumsiness and stupidity), Wooden Leg- (What do you expect if I have a wooden leg)

Good games - Bus Man's holiday - (go on vacation and help people there), Cavalier - (Courting women within limits, mutual admiration), Happy to help - (helps with some ulterior motive), Homely sage - listens, They'll be glad they knew me

'Human life is mainly the process of filling in time until the arrival of death. For some, there is awareness which transcends all classifications of behaviour, which arises out of past programming and that is spontaneity, and something more rewarding than games, intimacy. For the unprepared, these three ways may be frightening and even perilous.'. 

Games are passed down from generation to generation. Raising children is teaching them games. Games are played most intensely by disturbed people. Autonomy manifests with the recovery of awareness, spontaneity and intimacy. Jerk - how we'll look to the boss, lack of autonomy.

Awareness - living in the present moment
Spontaneity - means options, freedom to choose, liberates from playing games, have only feelings one ought to have
Intimacy - spontaneous, games-free candidness of an aware person, the liberation of an uncorrupted child living here and now

Classification of behaviours

Class I - Internally programmed (Dreams, fantasies, fugues, delusions, involuntary actions)

Class 2 - Productivy programming - activities (professions, trade, sports, hobbies)

Procedures (data processing, technology)

Class 3 - Socially programmed (rituals and ceremonies, pastimes, open manouvres, games - professional games, social games)



Superb stuff. I can see so many of these behaviours in me and around me. Wonderful. Now to cut the crap and head for awareness, spontaneity and intimacy. Thanks Dr Berne.

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