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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Games Presidents Play: The Psychology of Political Behavior

Games Presidents Play: The Psychology of Political Relationships

How do you feel when you lie?
Straight faced while people cry
How do you feel when you promise something
That you know you'll never do
Giving false hope to the people
Giving false hope to the underprivileged
Do you really sleep at night?
When you know you're living a lie
To you it is just a job
To the people it hurts to the bone

Ooh political games that they play x 4

What do you say to the orphans?
Of the women and men you sent to war
What do you say to the widows?
Of the men you sent to war
Telling them it is good for the country
When you know it's good for your ego
What a shame.
Do you really sleep at night?
When you know you're living a lie
You talking tough, you talking sincerely
Giving false hope to the infected
Giving false hope to the affected.
To you it is just a job
To the people it hurts to the bone.

Ooh political games that they play

Lyrics: Political Games, Lucky Dube

We think we’re relating to ... people–but actually we’re all playing games.

Forty years ago, Games People Play revolutionized our understanding of what really goes on during our most basic social interactions. More than five million copies later, Dr. Eric Berne’s classic is as astonishing–and revealing–as it was on the day it was first published. This anniversary edition features a new introduction by Dr. James R. Allen, president of the International Transactional Analysis Association, and Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant Life magazine review from 1965.

We play games all the time–sexual games, marital games, power games with our bosses, and competitive games with our friends. Detailing status contests like “Martini” (I know a better way), to lethal couples combat like “If It Weren’t For You” and “Uproar,” to flirtation favorites like “The Stocking Game” and “Let’s You and Him Fight,” Dr. Berne exposed the secret ploys and unconscious maneuvers that rule our intimate lives.

Explosive when it first appeared, Games People Play is now widely recognized as one of the most original and influential popular psychology book of our time. It’s as powerful and eye-opening as ever.

Psychological Games

This is an approach to relationships that developed around the 1960s, coming to popular light with a book entitled "Games People Play" by Berne. It is a way of looking at the interaction between people - identifying what seems to be fixed scripts in a seemingly spontaneous conversation. One person says something which seems to illicit a certain type of response from the other person, and the response seems to demand yet another particular response from the first person. And on it goes, as if the two people were following a script that someone wrote.

There are different types of games - some of which are harmless and even essential to social interaction - such as the Greeting Game ("Hello, how are you?" "I'm fine, how are you?"), the Meeting Game ("So pleased to meet you") and Thanks, it was great ("Thank you for inviting me. I had a wonderful time.") Other games are not so harmless, however. They point to less than satisfactory interaction and communication. The harm is that they keep a relationship from developing to a more real and important level. Still other games can actually be destructive, as they are played by persons with deeper psychological needs and motivations. The intent may be power, control or manipulation, or some other not-expressed dynamic. There is an ulterior motive to the seemingly innocent exchange between two people. The interaction is not spontaneous, because there is a goal, and intention on the part of the manipulator to get the other person to do what they want.

The manipulation may be conscious or unconscious. That is, some persons set out to manipulate others for their own reasons. But others may not realize that they are being manipulative. They are acting rather from an emotional script. Like a child that wants something, and does all sorts of things to get it, some game players act from their own internal desires, not realizing the effect their words and actions have on other.

Perhaps we are all guilty of that at times. We vent our anger at a person by making them feel uncomfortable in a situation, or making a statement that is hurtful. We are temporary game players. But some persons are permanent game players. The continued use of games by an individual, or in a relationship indicates serious communication problems, and most likely personal problems.

"LHHIT" - Look how hard I'm (I've) Trying (Tried)

The payoff for the game is relief of guilt. Although both partners state that they want to improve their relationship through therapy or improved communications, the game player is not committed to the change. He or she goes through the motions without any real dedication and then says, "Look how hard I've tried; there's nothing more I can do". This game may be used in collusion with someone playing "Why Don't You…Yes, But" or "Corner".

CORNER - The corner game is one in which the manipulator places the other person in a situation where anything he or she does is wrong - they are backed into a corner and are "damned if you do and damned if you don't." It is extremely frustrating to the person who is cornered, and may be the cause of many serious emotional disturbance: a person was continually cornered. Example: would be the President who complains to the GOP that never support any legislative efforts. Yet when they do, the politicos say, "What took you so long?" or "Your proposal is still a mess."

Of course, the Republicans are playing IT'S YOUR DECISION - This game is played by people who want to escape the responsibility of making a decision. "It makes no difference to me." "Whatever you would like to do is fine," or "You know so much more about this than I do, you decide." Although actually very much concerned about the outcome of the particular decision, the game player insists that he or she is not and thus escapes the responsibility of facing the consequences of the decision. Then when something seems to go wrong, they can say, "Are you sure you know what you are doing?"

COURTROOM - Democrats and Republicans (e.g. Obama and the GOP0 play this game with a third party (the media and/or the public. One Party is the plaintiff and accuses the other of wrongdoing. The other plays the role of defendant (victim) and insists on innocence, justifying their behavior, and counters with accusations against the opposition. The third party is the judge. Each party wants the judge's approval of their actions. The communication is directed toward the judge rather than toward each other, which prevents a mutual understanding and solution. They are more interested in proving who is right and who is wrong than in solving their difficulties.

CAMOFLAGE - This technique involves the President who sends a message that seems on the surface to communicate one idea but actually is intended to communicate something else. One Senator or political figure hints about something rather than giving the message in a direct, clear manner. The Camoflage is used to avoid confrontation or negative responses from another - a means of self-defense. However, the hint may be so indirect that the other person doesn't get it. The game player then become frustrated and resents the other for being so indifferent and stubborn. The President is responding to the economy. The GOP blames him for adding to the deficit, but insists to their constituents that they are helping the local economy while Obama is destroying the national economy. Instead, they camoflage their criticism of the local benefits received by the stimulus while. "Isn't it just unbelievable how our economic problems are due to the President's stimulus package" "We've resolved our local problems and we're doing great." The public may never realize these remarks are directed to confuse and obfuscate.

MARTYR - Martyr is a game in which one person appears in some way to be mistreated or to be sacrificing a great deal in life for another. The person playing martyr talks very often about how he is sacrificing. However, it is often the case that the game player deliberately makes the sacrifices in order to play the martyr. For example, a President who works long hours. He will miss few opportunities to remind his public of how hard he works for them and how much he as done. This gives him power, because others feel he has given up so much for them. The payoff for the martyr is to gain admiration and sympathy, or to make others look guilty.


Games indicate a lack of trust in the other person, an avoidance of reality, and a fear of close relationships. There is a lack of willingness to communicate with the other person directly. In the most innocent cases, they are played in an attempt at politeness, or genuine concern for the other's feelings (trying not to hurt the other). However, even these well-intended games don't always have a good end. There is a lack of "real" communication whenever a game is played. And even innocent games may reflect an unwillingness to confront something - either in themselves or in others. Self-disclosure requires an atmosphere of trust and sincerity. Game playing, even at its best, does not create that atmosphere of trust.

Game playing is expected in some situations. Everyone involved knows that it is a game, and what is expected. A politician plays a game of pleasing their constituents but there is only so much they can do directly for each supporter A politician claims that they know what should be done and the best way to do it. In certain formal social situations, conversation is a sort of game. Business deals may be described as games, with some amount of fixed scripts. In all these cases, the game player creates an impression. The game players say things which are not sincere but are ways and means of getting what they want. We know this but are nonetheless disappointed when it happens so often.

At their worst, games are a way for an individual to retain power in a relationship, because their own personal feelings are not revealed. The person who uses games for their own advantage is likely to be someone who has few close friends (and he or she probably doesn't play games with close friends). They are likely to have some kind of resentment, anger or fear that is a major part of their present personality. They need to win a game to feel good about themselves - at another person's expense. The types of Manipulators range from Dictator (who always has to be in charge), to the Calculator (manipulates through deception, such as con artists), to the Bully (who manipulates through hostility, cruelty and fear), to the Mr. Nice Guy (who exaggerates care and love for others to get what he or she wants), to the Protector (oversupportive or overprotective). For these games to stop, the game player needs to realize the harm they do, and to change the desire to harm others to a more healthy view of others. There may be deep development issues that are raised in trying to change. The stakes are very high for this person, so it is hard to change.

Some game players don't realize they are playing games. These persons have so many psychological needs that fulfilling their desires overshadows everything else in a relationship. For example a woman who is very insecure. She may, without thinking, play the "You make the Decisions" game. She doesn't want to be wrong, so she will never state her own opinion, or her own preference. Even when put on the spot, she will "weasel" out of it, almost without thinking. Another example may be a person who needs to be the center of attention. They will both consciously and unconsciously find ways to be the center of attention. The games this person will play are more likely to be ones in which they take the role of a weakling, or the abused, or confused - someone who needs help, someone who is a dependent. The Weakling politicians, for instance, allows others to dominate because it makes them responsible for problems and failures in their life. They allow others to dictate, control and abuse; then they CAN complain about how abusive and unjust the opposition is in an attempt to make them appear guilty. For this game player to stop playing games, it is necessary to address the underlying problems and resolve them. The politician probably wants change, but is not willing to let go of something that gives him or her comfort (the game) without having something else to replace it.

Some games are played out of habit. For whatever reason, a form of interaction develops between two people, and it continues, even when the persons involved don't want to play games. They may not know how to get out of it. And some game players may resort to games out of legitimate self-defense - they became involved in a situation which is psychologically and even physically uncomfortable, but are unable to withdraw from the situation for some reason.

What Games point to is that the issues of communication are not always straight forward. As helpful as it is to identify the different kinds of talk (in Olson and DeFrain) - small talk, control talk, search talk, and straight talk - and the elements of good communication - self-disclosure, good listening, metacommunication, avoidance of mixed messages and double binds - there may be other elements involved in the communication process which cannot be resolved by being a good communicator.

The buzz of politics lingers in the background of culture like a perpetual muzak but on a daily basis it pretty much slips under the radar screen of the nation’s collective interest.

Most attention is focused on the increasingly newsworthy roller coaster ride of financial markets. Wall Street has replaced Washington (and even Hollywood) as the major national obsession.

But every four years politics takes center stage as the two parties "brand" themselves to appeal to the masses. During this time that perpetual background hum of politics gets crafted into short, sharp advertising sound bites.

The popular view is that our two big parties are involved in a clash of ideologies. Democrats stand for equality and greater federal control. Republicans represent freedom and greater state control. Most of us know the slogans and "talking points" of the two parties pretty well by now.

Yet while ideologies have traditionally defined our political parties, the real difference may be more psychological than ideological. It may really be one between psychological types rather than political ideologies. The distinction may seem subtle but it is important.

The notion of psychological types was originally set forth by Carl Jung in the early decades of the 20th century. It centered on what Jung identified as the four major psychological functions: feeling, intuition, sensing and thinking.

Over the years, rather than fading into some sort of esoteric oblivion, the idea of psychological types (as well as the concomitant concept of the psychological attitudes of introversion and extraversion) has offered society a practical and effective method for evaluating people. It is at the core of the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as well as the Keirsey Temperament Indicator.

But while becoming a successful and unique method of personal evaluation, it has seen little use in evaluating groups, institutions or, for that matter, particular periods of history. It is one thing to call someone a "feeling type" but seldom has this term been extended to corporations or organizations. William Bridges has been one of the first to look at corporations this way in his important but little known 1992 book The Character of Organizations.

Politics has been one of the major institutions to escape examination from the perspective of psychological functions.

In this sense, the traditional view of Republicans and Democrats suggests that the major difference between the two parties is an ideological one. They simply think differently about issues. But a much more fruitful and enlightening perspective considers the two parties as different psychological types. One party thinks about issues while the other party feels about issues.

The subtextual conflict of America’s two major parties might really be between two key psychological functions rather than between two ideologies inside one psychological function.

In effect, the real conflict might be more psychological than political in nature - between a thinking Republican perspective, for instance, and a feeling Democratic perspective.

This divergence of psychological types seems to go much further than divergence of ideology in explaining the historic split in American politics at the beginning of the new millennium.

In her famous book Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand envisioned a world where the "engine" of the world simply stopped, where the "Prima Movers go on strike." A world where thinking stopped. This act is clearly the prototype of Republican/Conservative behavior. ~ Bear

Welcome to our image based, sound bite, short attention span culture of 2001.

In many ways, it is the world Rand created in Atlas Shrugged, a world where thinking and its "Prima Movers" has gone on strike. It is a culture defined more by the brief comings-and-goings of "drive by" emotions than even a meager edifice of cobbled out thought. Those ancient meta-narratives which held up major ideologies for so many centuries have crumbled into bite-size postmodern emotions of relativism. The culture pops these short up-and-down emotions in its mouth like nuggets of frosted morning breakfast cereal or happy-day drugs like Prozac.

Our culture is one much more in tune with feeling than with thinking. This is not to suggest there is such a great amount of feeling in contemporary culture but more to point out an almost total absence of thinking.

The Republicans have won the immediate political day but the ultimate success of Republicans will be in acknowledging and trying to understand in some way the Democratic postmodern culture of short, flashy images and icons.

Hollywood understands this attitude. Madison Avenue understands it. Wall Street understands it. The Democrats exude it. Will the Republicans make an attempt to understand it? Or will they try to change it rather than understand it?

While the differences between Republicans and Democrats began to crystallize during the campaign and election, these differences came to a head in the post-election Florida fiasco.

The Democrats were able to craft an emotional message of just three words in their continuing chant of "Count every vote." It provided an appealing ad headline based on emotion a lot more than thought. Like a successful business idea "elevator speech" it was something that could be grasped quickly and emotionally. It was the perfect easily remembered slogan for a dumbed-down American culture where Idiot Guides have become the new bestsellers.

Republicans vs. Democrats
Ideology (Ideologies=Thinking)
Feeling (Psychological Functions)

A contrast Between Psychology Rather Than Ideology

Faced with the difficult task of throwing a thoughtful logic at emotion, the Republicans were only able to come up with crafty wordsmithed phrases like "Sore Loserman." For the most part the three word emotional advertising headline chant of the Democrats was an ad headline copy that performed much better than any Republican "talking points" during the post election period.

Republican pundits went on all the television shows to try to explain the Republican position. But their "thinking approach" never let them develop a short emotional phrase like the Democrats. They were never able to develop an advertising headline, an emotional battle cry slogan that could send their troops to war.

By the time the Republicans had explained their position they had lost that short attention span of many Americans. Even other Republicans if truth be told. Yes, Republicans might have staked their claim on the high ground of rational thought but few were willing to make the trek up the hill to reach this particular high ground.

And the phrase "Count every vote" was such an American three words. So patriotic. So much a bullseye hit at the paradoxical heart of the American dream boasting the emotion of equality over the idea of freedom.

Yes, Republican political forces have won the presidential election and placed George W. Bush in the White House. But this does not mean that Republican political forces have won over that great fickle mass of American popular culture.

The Republican camp is like an island of ideology in the middle of an emotional sea of pop culture. Such is the symbol of the initial Republican assault on Washington after the election. Rather than a great tsunami wave rolling in over the nation’s capitol and sweeping in new values, the new leaders seem more like a group surrounded on all sides, their every move watched and monitored by an angry, emotional popular culture.

An hour north of San Francisco there is a narrow short little valley west of Napa’s wine country called the Valley of the Moon. A 1950ish two-lane road runs through the Valley of the Moon. At one point along it there is a fading political billboard promoting the Gore-Lieberman ticket. No one has bothered to take it down. What is the use? But it still seems to have some symbolic significance you can’t quite put your finger on. In a way it is like that billboard in The Great Gatsby rising over the "valley of ashes." Maybe its purpose is simply to remind by its persistent presence that while ideology and Republicans have won a big battle, the war is not yet over.

The storm clouds of this war are beginning to build just below the immediate horizon and soon they might roll in over the land. They might bring with them the real "storm of the century" in another great civil war for America. This time the war will be greater than the daily buzzings of those persistent, pesty cultural wars. This time the grandness and pervasiveness of psychology rather than the comings and goings of fashionable ideologies might serve to define the new armies fighting for the soul of our land.

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