¡Hola mi Gente!
It’s Friday and it’s all about sex (or something close to it). Have a great weekend!
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Games People Play
The one absolute in the study of human behavior is that people do things because they get something out of it. People's actions, however seemingly ridiculous, serve a purpose.
I once had a therapist tell me I had to learn how to parent myself. It may not sound particularly earth-shattering, but I had never even entertained that idea -- I never thought that could be possible. It was a liberating moment that also held some fear for me.
Modern research shows that the notion of being separate and apart is a myth. In fact, it's a very destructive myth, just take a look at what we're doing to our ecology and you quickly realize that the “me” attitude has dire consequences.
Along with the potential of being destructive the perception of ourselves as separate and apart from the rest of creation blinds us to the biological fact that we are all intimately connected, leaving many of us feeling isolated. Our neurology is a feedback loop. How infants interact with their mothers, for example, has a direct impact on the development of the brain. Infants need physical handling as much or more than food and those who are deprived fall into irreversible mental and physical decline.
Adults also need as much physical contact as children. In adulthood, sensory deprivation can lead to temporary psychosis, for example. But because close physical contact is not always available, we seek emotional fulfillment in other ways. A Facebook contact, for example, may seek emotional “strokes” from his or her friends list in the form of adoration or positive feedback. In the same way, a movie star may get her strokes from fan mail. A scientist may get hers from a positive commendation from a leading figure in the field.
In transactional analysis, the “stroke” is seen as the basic unit of social action. An exchange of strokes is a transaction and hence the phrase, “transactional analysis” describing the dynamics of social interaction. Bear with me here, there's a point to all this and one I feel you will find interesting.
For argument's sake, let's take this as a given -- that we have this psycho-biological need to receive strokes or intimate fulfillment. From this perspective, people consider any social participation -- even if negative -- as better than none at all. This primal need for intimacy is also why people engage in games as a substitute for genuine connection.
In short we play a game, defined as a series of transactions, to satisfy this inner hunger for intimacy, and it always involves a payoff. Still with me?
Let me take this a step further. As much as they will deny it, most people aren't even aware they are playing a game. For most, it's a normal way of interaction. “People games” are like playing poker in the sense that the better we can hide our inner motivation (essentially that we're all needy motherfuckers at heart), the more likely we “win.” In a professional context the payoff could be a raise or a promotion; people speak of the “real estate game,” or “playing the market.” In the relationship world the payoff is usually some emotional gratification or an increase in control.
I once worked with a participant, a former contract killer (a “soldier”), who once compared himself to a newborn infant in the following way:
You ever see when they first bring babies home from the hospital? How sometimes they have to put mittens on babies because otherwise they will scratch themselves? Well, that's how I feel sometimes. Like I can't help but hurt myself and I need psychological mittens to save me from myself.
Rewind back to the time with my former therapist and you can begin to see a model emerging. We all have within us different states or selves:
- The attitudes and thinking of a parental figure (Parent)
- An adult-like ability to rationalize and accept truth (Adult)
- The attitudes and views of a child (Child)
In any given situation, we can emphasize any one of these inner selves, and sometimes shift from one to another quite easily. For example, we can take on a child's wonderment, creativity, and curiosity, but also a child's tantrums and incapacity to empathize. The point being that within each situation we can adopt a role that can be productive or unproductive.
In playing a game, instead of maintaining intimacy to get what we want, we succumb to the temptation to act like a coquettish child, or take on the wise, rational aura of an adult.
Let the games begin! LOL
There are basic games people play. They may vary a little, but they're basically variations on the same theme:
The most common game between people in a relationship is the one in which one complains that the other is an obstacle to doing what they really want in life. For example, a person who may not be aware of her fear of real intimacy may choose to be with emotionally unavailable men and then complain of a lack of intimacy. The game then becomes, “If it weren't for you... ”
I believe people unconsciously choose partners because they seek to be limited. I do a lot of work around complaints. My experience has shown me that if you follow the breadcrumbs of your complaints, you will come face-to-face with your own bullshit. Playing the “if it weren't for you” game gives us the excuse of abdicating responsibility for our own lives, or looking honestly and compassionately at our own fears or character defects.
Another common relationship game is when, in response to a solution-centered suggestion, the partner responds by saying, “Yes, but... ” and then proceeds to find everything that could go wrong with the solution. In Child mode, this allows the person to gain sympathy from others for being inadequate to the challenge. In Adult mode, we would be more willing to examine and maybe even take on the challenge the solution presents us.
These games are like worn out loops of the same tape -- being played over and over. It's amazing how transparent the games appear on social media spots like Facebook or Twitter, with all the trespassing of boundaries, the naked grabs for attention, the openly desperate manipulation for sex. And the one common trait is that all involved deny playing the game.
These are the scripts we inherit from our childhood and though they are limiting and self-destructive, they are also a form of psychological comfort food -- a way for us to absolve ourselves from looking at our own issues.
For many people, games have become so integral to their way of being that they feel the need to create drama, or manipulate those they come into contact with because they fear they won't be as interesting. The more games they play, the more they expect others to play them too; a habitual game player will end up with a psychologically unhealthy tendency to read too much of their own motivations and biases in others.
My Name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization, motherfuckers… LOL!