Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships Paperback – 26 Jul 1973
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Do you realise you, and all the people you know, play games? All the time? Sexual games, marital games, complex games that you're not even aware of as you go about your usual life? You might play games like 'Alcoholic' or 'The Frigid Woman' at weekends, or perhaps 'Ain't it awful' or 'Kick me' while you're at work. First published in the 1960s and recognized as a classic work of its kind by professionals, the bestselling "Games People Play" is also an accessible and fascinating read. It is a wise, original, witty and very sensible analysis of the games we play in order to live with one another - and with ourselves.
About the Author
Dr Berne's other works include 'The Structure and Dynamics of Organisations and Groups' (1963), in which he discussed the application of transactional analysis to group dynamics; 'Principles of Group Treatment' (1966); 'A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis' (1968); and 'What Do Yo Say After You Say Hello?', written shortly before his death in 1970.
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Games are based on a structure such as ‘con’ and ‘gimmick’ and eventually involve a ‘switch’ and ‘payoff’. Each of these concepts are still alive and kicking in our modern world. The names of the games may have to be updated, but their dynamics are still sound. There are still ‘Persecutors’, ‘Rescuers’ and ‘Victims’ albeit people may believe they are the ones who self-identify with the roles. Berne intended that others do the identifying, hence the real usefulness of the concept lay in therapy groups where others decided whether you were the real Victim or were Persecuting from a Victim position (i.e. a cry bully).
Our modern world is too invested in Critical Theory (Where everyone is either an Oppressor or Oppressed) to perhaps appreciate the true genius of Eric Berne. He analysed the dynamics of human interaction in terms of an in-depth knowledge of psychoanalysis – he was humanistic but did believe that malevolence existed. He would have been at odds with some modern views that believe that people are fundamentally good as long as they are oppressed or allies to the oppressed – otherwise they are fundamentally bad. He would have seen this as ‘splitting’ and not a realistic way of understanding the healthy human psyche.
Whilst I thoroughly recommend this book for its ideas, it does need an update to bring it into modern-day context.
(As an aside, if you combine the game-recognition in this book with the techniques in Nonviolent Communication, you can help others and yourself).