Berne's games people play

and Freud's lies


1.  Living Fairy tales

2.  The games you play

3.  Fritz’s Magic Chair

4.  Many ways to avoid and deny





Yes, you can be Cinderella or the ugly ogre


Some day you will be old enough

to start reading fairy tales again.

C. S. Lewis


Our culture provides many ready-made scripts that shape our lives.  Berne believes many are found in the fairy tales of childhood.  For instance, our society has many, many Cinderellas and Snow Whites---along with a few Frog Princes.


Perhaps you know Cinderella.  When young her favorite game is POOR LITTLE ME.  She waits patiently for Prince Charming to come make her life beautiful and exciting.


But as the years roll by and fairy godmother and the handsome prince don’t show she begins to trade in her stamps---mostly reds and whites.  She gradually changes from a quiet martyr to a bitter old biddy.  She has obviously been cheated and somebody's going to pay.


If you’re lucky or smart you find ways to get rid of your negative scripts.


You get tired of waiting for Prince Charming---wake up, jump off that hard, cold slab in the middle of Darkwood--- run out into the warm sunshine, and create a full and happy life for yourself.


Men have negative myths as well.  You’re the ugly frog that’s never kissed.  You’re afraid to climb the beanstalk because you’re pretty sure that giant ogre is going to have you for lunch.  You spend a lifetime looking for the foot that fits the glass slipper.


The princess gives you a kiss, or you realize you really don’t need her kiss to be a prince.  You climb the beanstalk---the ogre isn’t nearly as big as you were told and you have a cold beer together.  You throw away the glass slipper---it squeezes, squishes, and hurts when women try to put it on.


Any fairy tales influencing your life?









I got the poison apple, and I’m on the cold slab.  I take after my father more than I thought.  I have to go back to the beginning and try the natural child exercise again.  My parent squashed the poor little kid. Going to try again.  What do I have to lose?  Parent says I’ll be embarrassed and it won’t work.  Interesting battle coming up.  Wonder who will win?



Peter Pan of course.  A kid who never wants to grow up.  Why do I have to?  Who says?  I’m not gonna and you can’t make me.






Fun gotcha moments

You play games so much better when you know you are playing---Eric Berne is a great teacher.


Berne defines a game as a series of maneuvers with a payoff or catch---a gotcha moment.  We play games to control closeness, to keep one-up and avoid being one-down, and for fun.


What games you play depends upon what ego states you and those around you favor.


One of the greatest games of all time is NIGYYSOB (Now I've Got You, You Son-of -a-Bitch).  I well remember an afternoon long ago in San Francisco when my favorite uncle caught me in a quick game of NIGYYSOB.


We were sitting on a park bench and he asked me what the rotors in a jet engine did.  I was a young would be brilliant student at the University of California across the bay and not knowing a thing about jet engines didn't stop me from explaining what they did.


After my quite brilliant dissertation, he looked at me without a change of expression and said that he had just been looking at the model of a jet engine in one of the nearby airline offices.  And…well…the rotors of the model didn't seem to do the things that I said they did.  He didn't crack a smile, but I knew I'd been had.


I started Adult explaining how the rotors worked.  He added a touch of Parent to his Adult and let me know I was full of beans.  He hooked my rebellious Unnatural Child, but a few moments later I went back to Adult---I realized I shouldn’t have tried to explain something I knew nothing about.


My Uncle was a kindly man and wasn’t out to get me so he played a soft game of NIGGYYSOB.  He could have shifted to heavy Parent and really hooked my rebellious brat, or beaten down kid.  When played hard the game seriously harms relationships.


I've run into a few women who enjoy a quick game of RAPO.  They signal availability but when you make a move they are shocked, shocked---“I thought you were different”.  She starts by playing Natural or Rebellious Child, hooks one of your Children, you start to play---she makes a quick switch to heavy Parent.


No one gets badly hurt in a soft game of RAPO, but I nearly got caught in a hard game at a dude ranch in Colorado when I was a naive lad not long out of high school.  A bunch of my fraternity brothers and I were staying free because the mother of a member was thinking about buying the place---asked her son and his friends to try it out.


At a square dance one night, one of the girls shocked me by coming on sexier than any have before or since.  First I was confused, then excited, and we agreed to meet in a smelly horse barn!


Lucky for me one of my fraternity brothers calmed me down and let me know that the girl was married---her husband was an extremely jealous man—big---and had better not find me in the horse barn with his wife.


The girl feeds her rebellious brat by easily showing how dumb and stupid men are.  And she would have so enjoyed watching her husband make horse manure out of me.


Here are a few more of Berne's games that you'll likely play now and then.


In SCHLEMIEL you irritate people in petty ways until they get mad. Then you grovel with apologies. The payoff for you is to be forgiven and to make them feel guilty for getting angry at you. You play Unnatural Child and hook their Parent.


You probably have a friend who sometimes asks for advice and then plays a quick game of YES, BUT.  You give very good advice and he patiently explains why every suggestion you make could not possibly work.


Your friend gets his payoff when you give up.  "See, I knew you couldn't help me". That makes you feel inadequate and furthers his basic assumption that no one can help him---poor kid.


The game is played with you as Adult or Parent and your friend as beaten down Unnatural Child.  There is usually a rebellious brat laughing in the background.


Here are a couple of games you can play if you want to avoid responsibility for yourself.  In IF IT ONLY WEREN'T FOR YOU, you would so like to do that, but your friend, mother, first husband, second boyfriend, whoever, is stopping you.


You have a good excuse for not doing something you didn’t want to do anyway.


PEG LEG is a closely related way to avoid responsibility.  Here you blame something about yourself that stops you from doing what you really, really want to do.  Maybe you had a lousy childhood, are too shy, too fat, too skinny, etc.


You may have noticed that it usually takes two to play---either two ego states within yourself or with another person.  Unless you have at least a semi-cooperative partner, the games won't work.  Like if your wife tries to play IF IT ONLY WEREN'T FOR YOU and you stay Adult, no game.  But of course you're going to play---she wouldn't have married you if you didn't play her favorite games.


For the most part, people marry and spend time with people who play complementary ego states and like the same games.  Marriages and friendships usually deteriorate or break up when someone stops playing.  Or you grow up together.


Many children learn early how to play games with their parents---parents are usually very cooperative, like making UPROAR a big success.  The game usually starts with everyone in their Adult.  Daddy carefully explaining to his daughter why she can't have birth-control pills.  She calmly and rationally explaining why she just has to have them.


Then with amazing speed, Daddy changes into red-faced, pompous Big Daddy, and daughter becomes  Loud Mouth Brat.  When the emotions are thoroughly stirred, one or the other stomps off to room or den.


The payoff for Daddy is feeling self-righteous Parent because he is obviously right and his daughter is a brat.  The daughter feeds her rebellious Unnatural Child---and a little later, when the little drop of urine on the paper strip turns the wrong color, she can play IF IT ONLY WEREN’T FOR YOU.


For real fun try LET’S YOU AND HIM FIGHT.  Suppose daughter decides to get big Daddy after he stomps off to his den---go get Mama.  Shed a few tears and tell her how Daddy was so mean and how he shouted and called her bad names.


That should hook mama's protective Parent, and maybe her rebellious Unnatural Child as well.


Rant and rave together for awhile, and once Mama is sufficiently riled, push her into the room with riled up Daddy---that should do it.  Daughter can watch with a gentle smile.


lf the parents get upset enough by their daughter and deteriorating marriage, they can go see a psychologist.


If she's any good she'll know the first game they're likely to play is COURTROOM.  They present their case to this wise woman, who will tell them who is right, who is wrong, and what to do.


In the process of presenting their case, the family usually go through a few other games like IF IT ONLY WEREN’T FOR HIM, PEGLEG and LET’S YOU AND HER FIGHT.


If the wife is lucky during the opening arguments, she may even trap her husband into a quick game of NIGYYSOB---Daddy goes UPROAR and stomps out the door.


Mama can then feel such warm feelings of self-satisfied victimhood as she looks across the desk at the psychologist---“See?  What can I do?”


A bad psychologist will agree---a good one will plot strategy for shortening the next courtroom recess.


What games do you play

and where do they come from?








Insights  Surprises  Epiphanies

The Magic Chair accesses your thoughts, feelings and behaviors differently than usual, creating insights, surprises---maybe even a few epiphanies.  It Frees the Flow between your conscious awareness and the rest of your mind.


Sit in a chair with another in front of you.  Put anything that bothers, interests, or puzzles you into the Magic Chair and ask a question.  Like if you wonder why you have trouble flowing with your body, put your body in the Magic Chair and ask.  Go sit in that chair and answer.


If you’re not satisfied with the answer go back to the first chair and start a dialogue.  Go back and forth until you are satisfied.


Don’t try to make anything happen.  Allow the dialogue to flow in the NOW.

Open and Receptive.


Then use Words-Data-Logic to process and integrate what you find.


He’s working on it.









I put the other pack in the empty chair.  Ok.  I’m scared of the other pack.  My girl friend is in the other pack, but I’m not scared of her.  I’ve been too tight.  Grab onto things too tight.  Think I’ll see if I can make better friends with her pack and get a little looser in my talking points and narratives.  Sex is such a great incentive.



Well I don’t know if I did this right but I put that bitch and bastard in the other chair and let them have it.  My poor little kid needed to do that for a long, long time.




Reality is a bitch


It’s normal and healthy to use defenses to reduce unpleasantness.  As Elisabeth Kubler Ross put it: There is a grace in denial.   It is nature's way of letting in only as much as we can handle.


Problems come when defenses are used too much.  Then you waste time and energy denying, ignoring, misrepresenting, deconstructing and reconstructing yourself and the world.


The ideas, fantasies, impulses and emotions you deny remain unchanged over the years, greatly reducing your capacity for love, joy, creativity, and adventure.


The fewer needless defenses you have, the more accurate your awareness of yourself and the world---the more valid your Maps of Reality.


But be careful!  Strong defenses are not there for nothing.  They may well have made an ugly, horrible world less awful.  Maybe the world has changed, maybe not.


If you begin to sense danger, stop and go get a nice dish of chocolate ice cream, or use Words-Data-Logic to analyze, analyze, analyze.


Or use one of Freud’s defenses.

Denial is simple to use, and a necessary component of all the defenses.

Did you ever hit your little sister?

No, never, and whoever told you that is a damn liar!


Intellectualization works well with brainy people. I do not believe that I would use the term hit to describe the event you may have in mind.


Displacement. No!  No!  No!  It wasn’t my sister.  I hated that bitch Dorothy.  She bullied everybody and got what she deserved.


Rationalization.  Yes, I did hit her once.  She was out of control and I had to do something.  I love her and only did it for her own good.


Humor.  Oh yes, it was so funny.  She shrieked and woke up the whole neighborhood, and everybody had a good laugh.


Obsessive-Compulsive.  I’m not sure what you have in mind.  The word hit is not at all clear.  It might be a tap or a strike.  Yes, at times my sister and I did not always get along, but I think your using the word hit is in error.  Perhaps you can be a little clearer what you mean. Words can be so slippery.  It is so difficult to adequately define a vague word like hit, but let us try and see where it might take us.


Reaction Formation.  Oh no, never!  I loved my sister so much.  She was such a nice, nice person.  I was never angry at her.


Projection.  You project onto others or the environment aspects of yourself you don’t want to admit you have.


Many relationships are based on old, unfinished business from the past.  We pick people because their defenses and needs fit nicely with our own.  Sometimes such a relationship works to the advantage of both and they grow together, using each other to work through old unfinished crap and create a more satisfying life.

Or maybe only one is able to grow up and the relationship deteriorates or ends.

Or they die unchanged.

Maybe, just maybe, you found a defense or two you use?  Often awareness is all that is needed to begin to shift away from using a defense, if that furthers your life.  But sometimes more is needed.  If so, try Fritz’ Magic Chair.  Put the defense in the Magic Chair and ask why you are using it so much.