on 27 July 2002
This book is a gem. While it lacks a coherent structure, and leaves the reader sometimes puzzled by gaps in the exposition, overall it is original, insightful and amusing. Dr Berne's 'game' theory of human relationships was later refined by him, but this slim book outlines his main argument (the principles of Transactional Analysis) and is the first of the books that gained him public acclaim.
Dr Berne's theory is based on the idea that 'Games' provide a means to an end. They structure our time, and enable us to 'belong' to social groups: an important factor in survival. However, they are limiting, in the sense that they are almost always negative; learned from our parents, or based on narrow influences. The games have names such as: 'See What You Made Me Do' ; 'Ain't It Awful'; and 'I'm Only Trying To Help You'. It is easy to recognise games in action, having read the book. Ultimately, the individual has the choice to continue to play games, or to stop playing games (not easy) and to strive for autonomy.
It is hard to believe this book was written in 1964 - it feels so modern. 'Timeless' is probably the best way to describe it. Are you 'Waiting For Rigor Mortis To Set In', or (essentially the same) spending your days playing 'Waiting For Santa Claus' ?
Read this book, and see how many games you and yours play in your daily life - and why! This book is a must for anyone interested in psychotherapy, or in books which aim to help the individual live a more rewarding life.
on 19 December 2002
Years ago I chose not to pursue an education in psychology, but I retain a strong interest, if only to make sense of a world where motivations are often misguided and true intent is hard to perceive.
'Games People Play' explains and analyses, with pertinent real-life examples, the continual stuggle between our inner child, parent and adult to dominate a social situation, colloquially termed as 'games'. It explains that the outcome of these games are a fundamental human requirement, and by understanding the way these games are played we learn to understand the motivations of ourselves and our peers.
The first time I read this book, I instantly recognised real life occasions where the information contained was relevant and useful. If you have only a passing interest in psychology, you will still occassionally sit upright while reading and say to yourself - 'So this is why people act like that'.
Some of the passages are eminently quotable - "Everyone carries a little boy or girl around inside of him", and at the very least by remembering some of these key phrases, you will begin to understand the desires and reactions of others.
This is no pop-psychology rubbish - it is clinical psychology explained at a fundamental level, and crafted to be accessible and useful for everyone. The book is rarely dry and monotonous, and I was pleased to find some extremely humorous passages.
I challenge anyone to read this book and not find a revelation or two inside.
on 16 July 2003
I had heard of Transactional Analysis as part of a self-development training course at work, where TA was used to explain how conflicts in the workplace occur and what can be done to prevent them.
With some serious relationship problems outside the workplace, I bought Games People Play with the hope it could help to explain some of the things that have been going wrong. I wasn't disappointed, and quite apart from help me do some self-analysis, it has allowed me to see just how many "games" are played by others.
As well as being of great personal benefit, I found descriptions of some of the games (such as Alcoholic and Courtroom) very interesting. Alcoholic, in particlar, is given several pages, as one of the most complicated and destructive games that people play - and even goes some way to explaining how and why AA are effective in helping people.
If the book has a down side, it's perhaps only that it doesn't work as a self-help title without some serious thinking, honesty and soul-searching by the reader. However, it is really not meant as a self-help title and it would be wrong to judge it as one.
On the whole, though, a very interesting study of human behaviour and a good set of "worked examples" for anyone trying to understand Transactional Analysis.
on 6 January 2005
Its difficult to know whether it is the subject or the writer that makes this book such a facinating and enlightening read.
Berne clearly explains what games are and goes through clear examples of some of the more popular ones that people may play.
After I read it I immediatatly realised several "games" that people had been playing with me and that I had been playing with them. This is pretty easy to do after you actually think about things and is also very satisfying.
If I were to level a slight criticism it would be that I had to use the dictionairy every third page as he does tend to use alot of "big" words and I had to read it twice or three times to take it all in.
Well worth a read, it will change the way you think!
on 15 October 2007
In "Games People Play", Eric Berne:
1) Had moved away from his original psychoanalytic background (having studied with Erik Erikson) and by this time originated transational analysis, which he presents for lay people with this book.
2) Focuses on three "ego states", Parent, Adult, and Child. Each of these ego states is appropriate in certain situations (e.g Parent when teaching a child, Child often for creativity).
3) Presents people as having being driven by stimulus hunger (e.g. the need for strokes, which is shaped into recognition hunger as one gets older.
4) Defines games as one way of satisfying our hungers through social interactions. Other ways include procedures, rituals, and pastimes, all of which are honest ways to relate. Games, however, "a series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome" are basically dishonest, with motivations being concealed.
5) Games may involve 2 players of more. Each step in a game (and hence the e entire set of transactions comprising the game) can be diagrammed by showing which ego states are involved for each player at each step. More than ego state can be involved in a step. Transactions can be complementary (e.g. Adult-Adult), crossed (e.g. Adult-Child directed from one person and Parent-Child directed from the other), or ulterior (e.g. two interactions at one such as Adult-Adult at the social level and Child-Child at the psychological level). Each player may shift ego states at any time. So, given the combinations of ego states, the possible multiple interactions at any one step, and the possibility of multiple steps, a game can become quite complex. Berne presents quite a few games, which he gives simple names to (avoiding psychiatric jargon) and categorizes, e.g. Life Games, Marital Games, and Underworld Games.
6) Berne presents a desired goal beyond games for the individual of autonomy: awareness, spontaneity, and intimacy. It sounds surpisingly like the Tibetan Buddhist teaching Dzogchen.
Major contributions by Berne seem to be the move to simple terms and one simple model and using it to show many examples of how dishonest interaction occurs and can be destructive (but not necessarily, there is room for constructive playfulness). That he was able himself to free himself from all the psychoanalytic teachings he had learned and find and share a simple way of understanding our interactions is no small achievement: "Games People Play" is valuable if only because it models simplicity. As a lay person, I find that helpful.
on 8 June 2002
There's a refreshingly distinct lack of diplomacy in this book. Primarily reference material, it's straight to the point, with no apologies or gentle persuasion for the faint at heart. Paradoxically, I suspect that the very people who need this book the most will find it the least attractive, since it brutally exposes the ulterior and selfish superficiality of Human nature. Even though Games People Play is written for the psycotherapist, it is still compelling reading for the layman, who will find many concepts in the book analogous to his own behaviour. So don't be put off by its clinical style - Games People Play is a strong foundation on which to build a program of personal growth, using techinques and concepts that anyone can understand.
on 27 December 2007
Watch out! You'll see your relatives in this book - or perhaps it's just mine. I'll leave myself out of it. It's a bit like 'The Dog Whisperer' except for people - we see behaviour in a new light. It's not science, exactly, but an intelligent and coherent interpretation of human motivations.
This is a guide to human behaviour which is accessible to the non-specialist and can be used to improve oneself and one's understanding of others. The games we play (Dawkins would classify these as a type of meme, I think) are potentially destructive of human relationships and happiness. Seeing the games in others, and hopefully in oneself, it should be possible to avoid at least some of the pitfalls of human relationships. I'd introduce it as a subject at secondary school and in parenting classes.
Later writers following in Berne's footsteps have gone on to dicuss the idea of 'life scripts' which emerges from Berne's approach.
An entertaining and useful book for to anyone interested in some of the mechanics and motivations that are part of the human condition. It is concise and has sound academic underpinnings that put it above the self-help /pop-psychology type of production. The central theme is that of ‘awareness’. By this I mean that as individuals and groups of which we are a part we form strategies and narratives about ourselves in order to explain and justify our behaviour. In standard parlance, we can assign ourselves various roles –‘child’, ‘parent’ and ‘adult’ depending on our past experiences and ideas on how we can best negotiate life. Our willingness to use such strategies amounts to a ‘game’. It is interesting to note that some strategies can be wilfully self-destructive, others might be more positive in outcome. Some strategies might advance the cause of a person, others merely establish a status quo that suits themselves and the parties with whom they are interacting.
It all sounds very mechanistic and to some extent it is. Are we really all just playing ‘parts’, consciously or otherwise? Surely, elements of culture, religion, situation and expectations all have their part to play? As much as we might be able to determine the course of and satisfaction we derive from our lives, we are born into a particular environment and this must shape us in some way. I also worry that the ‘professionalization’ of awareness and if you like, the guidance required to achieve ‘useful’ life habits and attitude orientation, means that in some way the individual is absolved from responsibility for achieving their own version of happiness and feelings of worth. This is not the same as the ‘pull yourself together’ argument. It suggests that through the ages philosophers, religious and what might be termed ‘thinkers’ like Michel de Montaigne, have wrestled with issues to do with appropriate conduct, feelings and intuitions and understandings of Humankind and their place in the World, why should lesser mortals be surprised that we face the same doubts and issues. The stress has always been on how the individual responds to the questions and problems that life poses. Obviously, there are cases where the psychiatric professional is required, but not nearly as often as many practitioners would have us believe. After all, they too have an interest in creating an arena where we can feel free to seek ‘help’.
The ‘pay –off’ comes naturally at the conclusion of the book. Here notions such as ‘awareness’, ‘spontaneity’ and ‘intimacy’ are introduced. The suggestion is that we can be in ‘transactionship’ with others, but that we should be seek if at all possible, some degree of authenticity. That we can work towards some sort of ‘adult’ awareness of ourselves, our lives and those of others. It is in this embrace of ‘life’ as opposed to the adoption of strategic poses that some kind of fulfilment or journey towards fulfilment might begin. A good read, jargon free and enlightening.
on 24 February 2010
A good guide and excellent introduction to TA (Transactional Analysis). Some of the language/scenarios do seem a little dated as well as rooted in American culture, yet this remains a classic analysis of human relationships. Why do we do what we do with other people, and why do we seem to keep on doing it? Berne looks at the reasons why we can become rooted in destructive patterns of behaviour, and offers us the awareness to break out of them.
on 14 March 2000
A readable and interesting book. It introduces some concepts in Transaction al Analysis and gives lots of examples of different games people play. Reading these are enjoyable and though the topic is serious the writing is so good, that you can slip it in yuour coat pocket and read a bit on the bus on the way to work. Some psychology books are so full of jargon and heavy going it is a real battle to finish them. Not this one!