The need for psychological games

To be loved and accepted is a basic human need. As children we feel good about ourselves when we receive positive strokes from our environment. In the absence of which, we could enter into a pattern of behaviour to get these needs met.

A series of well-crafted transactions could help the person get what he didn’t get from his environment in the developmental years. This method of trying to gain love and acceptance leads to games which is an unhealthy way of getting physical and psychological needs met. The players are unaware of their game plan which comes naturally to them. This pulls down communication lines and in turn affects relationships.

A Game is an ongoing series of complementary, ulterior transactions leading to a well-defined predictable outcome.
-Eric Berne

Games have pseudo intimacy because there is an ulterior motive. It’s a familiar and comfortable position. It’s a rich source of strokes.

Here are some of the reasons why we choose to play games :

  1. Games are a way for us to reinforce our life-script using which we live out our childhood strategies. If we believe something to be true, we like to tweak the incoming information to match what we have already decided about ourselves and the world. Example : A person refuses to take help from anyone and later complains that nobody helps him. He could have a decision in his life script that says ‘people don’t help others’. To reinforce this, he could be unconsciously rejecting the help that is available to him. People like to believe what they know to be true.
  2. Games are played to satisfy the need for strokes. When a person doesn’t receive ample positive strokes in childhood it could make him act-out in different ways to receive negative strokes. Even a negative stroke is better than no stroke at all. For example, we sometimes see children acting out in order to get the attention of their parents.
  3. Games are played as a part of time structuring when people have nothing constructive to do. Example (true story): An elderly couple spends their time switching a light bulb on and off. The husband complains that there is no need to keep the bulb on and the wife returns and switches it back on. This goes on all day. When there is nothing significant happening, games creep in.
  4. Reinforce our life position (who is ok and who isn’t between you and me) : We have four life positions depending on whether we think we are ok and/or others are ok. To reinforce what we already believe to be true, we could end up becoming a player.

To reinforce our life script we play games. Because of games our life script becomes stronger. This forms a closed loop which gains strength over time.

When you are in a repetitive pattern leading to hurt for yourself or others you could be in a game. So next time you hear yourself saying, ‘This person always does this to me’ or ‘Why does this always happen to me?’, step back and re-examine. The actual question is, What are you playing?

(For more information on games please read the book Games People Play by Dr.Erc Berne. This is a second level book best read after TA Today by Ian Stewart or Born to Win by Muriel and Dorothy)