WIR #20: Games People Play

Games People PlayBerne, Eric, M.D. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. New York: Ballantine Books. Copyright © 1964 by Eric Berne. Copyright renewed 1992 by Ellen Berne, Eric Berne, Peter Berne, and Terence Berne

Eric Berne's web site:

In one of Jack M. Bickham's books, he recommends a couple of pscyhology books. Eric Berne's Games People Play is one of them. The full title of the book is Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. I've been wanting to read and to learn more about characterization and this is the first of several such books that I plan to read over the next few weeks: I own the second book recommended by Bickham, as well as three other books whose focus is characters/characterization in fiction, one of which is written by a psychotherapist who also makes use of Berne's famed theory of Transactional Analysis.

Other writers have commented on Berne's book, as well, including the veritable Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, who, in Life Magazine, wrote:

An important book. . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue of the psychological theatricals that human beings play over and over again. The good Doctor has provided story lines that hacks will not exhaust in the next 10,000 years.

Dr. Berne himself is quoted as saying:

Therapy should be like a poker game. In other words, the result is what counts. . . . You either win or you lose. . . . You've got to know what's happening in each hand. . . . A lot of the game depends on getting to know the other guys and what they are doing. So maybe what I'm saying is that big words are hiding the reality of what's going on between people.

On the back cover of the book, the following question is asked:


IFWY (If it weren't for you) • Sweetheart • Threadbare
• Harried • Alcoholic • Rapo • Debtor • Schlemiel
• Uproar • SWYMD (See what you made me do)
• Corner • The Stocking Game • Wooden Leg • Cavalier

Of Dr. Berne himself, the blurb on the back tells us:

Dr. Eric Berne, as the originator of transactional analysis, attained recognition for developing one of the most innovative approaches to modern psychotherapy. In his writings and teachings, Dr. Berne outlined the principles of his system in such works as Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, Principles of Group Treatment, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry, and What Do You Say After You Say Hello? Before his death in 1970, he was a practicing psychiatrist in California and held many important posts in psychiatric professional organizations and clinics.

Although I haven't done so, I've read that some writers recommend subscribing to Psychology Today for the insights it can offer into people and why they do the crazy things that they do. I've even known pastors of quite conservative Protestant churches subscribing to this magazine, as well, and not just for the purpose of bashing what many fondly call "pscyho-babble."

I think I'm going to enjoy reading this.

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