The Aim of the (Psychological) Game is namely in the Pain
How do we know with certainty that we've witnessed and/or participated in a psychological game? The critical sign is that there is no "real" outcome other than pain (from disappointment to human tragedy). The aim or purpose of playing the game is to inflict, cause and experience some level of pain. Political games may end tragically but do so anywhere from disappointment through economic recession to acts of terrorism to war.The use of the word "games" should not give the impression that such activities are necessarily fun or played light-heartedly. The outcomes, though predictable, can be very damaging and distressing depending upon the level of intensity of those who play.
The ostensible ultimate aim of the primary player in such games is to achieve some sort of payoff - usually some kind of emotional reward. The early moves are set up so as to maximize the likelihood of this payoff being achieved. The true or psychological aim of all of the game participants is to always to move somewhere in the pain spectrum from discomfort to physical pain or damage (depending upon the degree of game intensity).
Once these types of games are pointed out , most people get an "ah-ha" moment when they realize just how much of their own lives are tied up in playing them.
The Drama Triangle (Karpman, 1968) is a model to help you think about what kind of role you may be adopting in the games you play. In describing the ‘roles’ capitals letters are used to differentiate them from actual persecutors, rescuers and victims.
Rescuers (R) are the people pleasers and the typical starting role for the politician. These are those of us who try to keep people happy. They often will do ‘more than’ the other person wants, or they will behave in a way that is disempowering to the other i.e. doing things for them – this is often not helpful as the person does not learn to take responsibility and do things for himself e.g. a parent who does their child’s homework for them.
Persecutors (P) (judges, Supreme Court, political whips) are often angry and can put people down. These are those of us who get angry and criticize others from a one up position, believing we are ‘right’ and they are ‘wrong’ They are blaming and do not take responsibility for their part. I.e. a Republican that blames Democrats for all the problems in in the world.
Victims (V) , the role of the public, often feel powerless. These are those of us who can feel unable to do things or tackle a problem. They often expect others to take care of them (or persecute them) or do things for them in a non-direct way. I.e. someone who says ‘ I can’t iron I am really bad at it (inviting the other to ‘do it for them’)
We take up a position on the Drama Triangle and unconsciously (or outside of our awareness) search out people that are willing to take up one of the other positions. We then play out a game, (see below) and at some point one or both of the parties involved can switch positions on the Drama Triangle. At different times and in different situations we can visit all of the position(s) but there are likely to be two that we are more comfortable with.
There are also many different psychological games that we can play. Here is an example of one called
‘Why don’t you…………..Yes But’
Person 1 Spends time complaining about how awful this recession is and that they are unhappy, their job is boring, their relationship unfulfilling and they think they might be depressed
Person 2 listening in a supportive way for a while
A dialogue might go like this
Person 1 –(V) ‘My life’s terrible, I wish things could be different, I always hate my jobs no matter what I do and my partner never supports me.’
Person 2 – (R) ‘Why don’t you change jobs?’
Person 1 – (V) ‘Yes, but it will just end up the same as all of my jobs.’
Person 2 – (R) ‘Well how about working out a plan to deal with your unhappiness?’
Person 1 – (V) ‘Yes, but it won’t make any difference.’
Person 2 – (R) ‘Well, why don’t we go out tonight and have a good time to take your mind off things?’
Person 1 – (V) ‘Well, we could but I wouldn’t enjoy myself.’
Both people then switch positions.
Person 2 – (P) ‘Well, let’s not bother then’ (in an raised angry voice and flounces off, saying to themselves – nothing I ever do is good enough).
Person 1 – (R) Rushes to the other person apologizing and saying they really do want to go out. (Saying to themselves – there we go I have upset someone again – I am such a horrible person)
The final position of ‘feeling bad’ at the end of the game is what we call the Game payoff. Although this is an uncomfortable position at a psychological level it meets our human need for both for attention and stimulation. As game playing progresses over time, they are often played with increasing intensity and the final outcome is death or tragedy of some sort until the player realizes that they can take charge of their own lives.
What we can do
Firstly we can become aware of what role(s) and games we play and take responsibility for our part. It is also useful to know what sort of people we are more likely to get into games with and be especially careful with these types – For example do you Rescue Victims or do you feel like a Victim and find people Persecuting or Rescuing you?
We can learn to stay out of games. We are also more likely to get into Games if we are low, stressed, ill or under pressure. Games are outdated methods of getting our needs for attention met and we can learn new ways to get what we need in a healthy way.
THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY & HOW WE BECOME EMBROILED
In Part 1 of Transactional Analysis: Getting Off The Drama Triangle, we looked, again, at the games people play; the roles of those who persistently involve us in their unhealthy interpersonal relationships; and we touched on the process of putting a stop to it all. I wrote, anecdotally, about my personal experience on the Drama Triangle, and admitted that it had taken me years to recognize my role, and even longer to understand how I might do something about it.
Today, in the hope that you may avoid the cycle that I went through, I’m going to use an acronym to describe the process: something that you can easily call to mind; something that you can act upon whenever necessary. This memory aid is 2B FREE (Two, Believe, Forgive, Exchange, Encourage) and this is how it works:
- Two people are involved! Think of a game of tennis. Remember that the other person on the Drama Triangle – whether it is your partner, colleague, offspring or friend – can only play the game if you take part too. Take responsibility for your part in this debilitating practice.
- Believe in yourself; believe that things can change. It will be a long process – especially if the other person in the conflict resolution process doesn’t recognize the pattern, or refuses to acknowledge the need for change.
- Forgive yourself and others in these dysfunctional relationships – read my articles on The Art Of Forgiveness: Is It Achievable? and Healing & Forgiveness.
- Recognize the damaging roles of Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor – I’ve described them again below.
- Exchange them for healthy roles – as described below.
- Encourage your partner on the Drama Triangle to do likewise. But be patient! As I said earlier, they may not recognize the need for change.
EXCHANGE YOUR VICTIM ROLE FOR A VULNERABLE ONE
- Name your malaise: The Victim role appears to be helpless but is one of manipulative power.
- Recognize your symptoms: self-pity, hopelessness and helplessness. Alternatively, you may find yourself basking in the admiration of those who tell you how well you do - given your circumstances; the neglect you suffer from those who should ‘rescue’ you; the bullying you receive from those who ‘persecute’ you.
- Change your name: from Victim to Vulnerable.
- Disable harmful influences: You are not helpless as those who want to play Rescuer would have you believe. Nor are you hopeless, as those who want to play Persecutor want you to think. You can’t stop negative thoughts in a vacuum; but you can change your thought process from helpless to hopeful by reminding yourself of what you have achieved. And by setting yourself small tasks to accomplish in the day ahead.
- Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Being Vulnerable means being honest in naming and assessing your situation. Being Vulnerable means admitting your symptoms. Being Vulnerable means asking for help where it’s needed. Being Vulnerable means being open to suggestion from those trying to help you. Being Vulnerable means acting upon those suggestions rather than expecting others to Rescue you.
EXCHANGE YOUR RESCUER ROLE FOR A RESOURCEFUL ONE
- Name your malaise: The Rescuer role appears to be helpful but is one of manipulative power.
- Recognize your symptoms: a people-pleaser, sticking-plaster, knight-in-shining-armor mentality may make you feel good about yourself but it robs those to whom you’re ‘doing good’ of their right to self-sufficiency.
- Change your name: from Rescuer to Resourceful.
- Disable harmful influences: Do not allow yourself to be drawn into guilt trips – either self-imposed or forced on you by Victims or Persecutors. You are not neglecting someone by encouraging them to think and act for themselves: this is ‘tough love’ in practice. Remind yourself, over and over, until you believe it, that practicing ‘tough love’ is a kindness. You are being kind.
- Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Being Resourceful means ‘being there’ for your loved ones, but recognizing that this means allowing them to be themselves. Being Resourceful means accepting that not everyone is your responsibility: use your practical and creative skills to empower those in need to help themselves. Being Resourceful means acknowledging other people’s abilities and encouraging them to believe in themselves. Being Resourceful means giving power to Victims and Persecutors to help themselves – even if the way they use their resources is different to your way of doing things!
EXCHANGE YOUR PERSECUTOR ROLE FOR A POTENT ONE
- Name your malaise: The Persecutor role appears to be self-sufficient but is one of manipulative power.
- Recognize your symptoms: blaming and accusing those in the Victim and Rescuer roles is simply a means of making yourself feel better. What you’re doing, in effect, is ripping up a ten dollar bill (the person you’re accusing) in a sorry attempt to give yourself (a one dollar bill) greater value.
- Change your name: from Persecutor to Potent.
- Disable harmful influences: Do not allow yourself to be drawn into ‘You’ arguments and accusations (i.e. You are lazy; self-pitying; controlling etc.)
- Be Pro-active – treat your malaise: Instead, adopt a Marriage Enrichment technique: ‘I have a problem when you appear to want me to rescue you. Can you help me to / can we, together, arrive at a satisfactory conflict resolution process?’ Make ‘I’ statements such as: ‘I am going to make inquiries about . . . so that I/you can get the help I/you need.’ Being Potent means having the power of self-discipline. Being Potent means showing strength and influence for good in any situation. Being Potent means using your energy effectively, for the good of all concerned. Use your Potency for problem-solving.
Whichever role you normally adopt in your relationships, make a decision to change; resolve not to be drawn back into the Drama Triangle; make up your mind to stick to it! It will be hard – but not as hard or as draining as this constant war of attrition. Find other methods of conflict resolution; methods that suit you. Learn to be yourself 2B FREE. Because 2B FREE you need to learn to be you.
Do something positive for You - take a Free Personality Test
Conflict Resolution, Relationship Psychology, And Creating Fictional Characters
The Drama Triangle & The Games People Play
Part 1 of Transactional Analysis: Getting Off The Drama Triangle
Remember, if you’re a writer of fiction, this model of interpersonal relationship, is invaluable for creating fictional characters in need of conflict resolution.
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© Mel Menzies: USED BY PERMISSION
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