THE BOOK BY ERIC BERNE – GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
Eric Berne’s book “Games People Play” (published in 1964) revolutionized the field of psychology by introducing the concept of “games” as unconscious, manipulative interactions between people. Berne identified various games people engage in to gain attention, avoid emotional intimacy, or manipulate others. While the book has been influential, the list of games has evolved over time, and different sources may provide different lists.
In the original book, Berne describes dozens of games, which are broadly grouped into three categories based on the degree of severity:
1. Life Games: These games have a significant impact on a person’s life, often with severe or tragic consequences.
>Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch
2. Marital Games: These games are typically played between spouses or romantic partners and can contribute to relationship dissatisfaction or dysfunction.
>If It Weren’t For You
>Look How Hard I’ve Tried
3. Party Games: These games are generally more light-hearted and occur in social situations.
>Ain’t It Awful
>Cops and Robbers
>I’m Only Trying to Help You
>Let’s You and Him Fight
>Look at Me
>NIGYSOB (Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch)
>See What You Made Me Do
>Why Don’t You, Yes But
4. Sexual Games: These games involve sexual motives or behaviors, often with an underlying emotional agenda.
>Frigid Woman (also listed under Marital Games)
>Let’s You and Him Fight
>The Stocking Game
>The Three-Handed Game
5. Underworld Games: These games are played by individuals involved in criminal or otherwise antisocial activities.
>Cops and Robbers (also listed under Party Games)
>How Do You Get Out of Here?
>Let’s You and Him Fight (also listed under Party and Sexual Games)
Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and the interpretation of these games may differ among various sources. Additionally, more games have been identified and studied since the book’s original publication.
Here’s a brief explanation of the first four life games mentioned:
1. Alcoholic: In the Alcoholic game, the person with a drinking problem (the alcoholic) engages in self-destructive behavior and denies responsibility for their actions. They manipulate the people around them, who often take on roles such as the Persecutor, Rescuer, or Enabler. The alcoholic may feel guilty or ashamed but doesn’t change their behavior. Instead, they continue to create chaos and drama, drawing attention and sympathy from others. This game reinforces the alcoholic’s self-image as a victim while allowing them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
2. Debtor: The Debtor game revolves around a person who constantly borrows money or incurs debt, failing to repay on time or at all. The debtor avoids responsibility for their financial situation and often blames external circumstances or other people. This game typically involves a rescuer (e.g., a family member, friend, or financial institution) who enables the debtor’s behavior by providing financial support or assistance. The debtor may feel a sense of control or satisfaction from manipulating the rescuer, while the rescuer may feel needed or morally superior. This game allows the debtor to avoid dealing with their financial problems and reinforces their victim mentality.
3. Kick Me: In the Kick Me game, a person deliberately behaves in a way that invites criticism or punishment from others. They often appear to be seeking help or advice but then reject any assistance or suggestions. When others inevitably react negatively or become frustrated, the person playing the game can feel justified in their self-perception as a victim or martyr. The game allows them to avoid taking responsibility for their actions and reinforces their belief that the world is against them.
4. Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch (NIGYSOB): In this game, a person sets up a situation where they can catch someone else making a mistake, breaking a rule, or doing something wrong. The person playing the game then pounces on the mistake, expressing anger or indignation and using it as an opportunity to blame, criticize, or punish the other person. This game allows the person to feel a sense of power and control over the other person, often masking feelings of insecurity or inadequacy. It can also serve as a way to justify their own negative behavior or to avoid addressing their own shortcomings.
While the games described by Eric Berne in “Games People Play” still apply today, workplace dynamics have evolved since the book’s publication. In 2023, some common workplace games include:
1. Office Politics: This game involves maneuvering for power or influence within an organization, often at the expense of others. Players engage in tactics such as gossip, manipulation, and alliances to advance their careers, undermine rivals, or maintain their positions.
2. Blame Game: When something goes wrong or an error occurs, the blame game starts. Players try to shift responsibility for the problem onto others, avoiding accountability for their own actions. This game can create a toxic work environment where people are more focused on self-preservation than on finding solutions.
3. The Perfectionist: In this game, an employee sets unreasonably high standards for themselves and others, causing unnecessary stress and often leading to burnout. The perfectionist may constantly criticize or belittle the work of others, leading to a negative work atmosphere.
4. Yes-Man: In this game, an employee agrees with everything their superiors say, no matter what the consequences may be. They may suppress their own opinions or ideas out of fear of being seen as insubordinate or jeopardizing their job. This game prevents honest communication and stifles innovation.
5. Meeting Hero: The Meeting Hero dominates meetings by speaking at length, often repeating the same points or focusing on their own achievements. They may interrupt others or dismiss their ideas in favor of their own. This game is about asserting power and control, often at the expense of meaningful collaboration and progress.
6. Procrastination: In the Procrastination game, employees delay or avoid working on tasks or projects, often leaving them until the last minute. This game can create a cycle of stress and poor time management, affecting not only the procrastinator but also their colleagues who may have to pick up the slack.
7. The Martyr: This game involves employees taking on excessive workloads or responsibilities, often sacrificing their personal life or well-being. The Martyr seeks validation and recognition for their sacrifices, reinforcing their belief that they are indispensable. This game can contribute to burnout and negatively impact work-life balance.
8. Passive-Aggressive Behavior: In this game, employees express their resentment or frustration indirectly, through subtle comments, sarcasm, or nonverbal cues. This game can create a tense and uncomfortable work environment, making it difficult for teams to collaborate effectively.
It’s important to recognize these games and strive for healthy communication and collaboration in the workplace. Addressing and resolving these games can lead to a more positive and productive work environment.