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People tend to live their lives by consistently playing out certain “games” in their interpersonal relationships. They play these games for a variety of reasons: to avoid confronting reality, to conceal ulterior motives, to rationalize their activities,or to avoid actual participation. These games – except when they are destructive – are both desirable and necessary.
Dr Berne offers a thorough and fascinating analysis of thirty six games, which he categorizes under seven headings; life games, which transcend a specific mode of response in a given situation and pervade the player’s every action; martial games, which two people may use in order to sustain a frustrating or unrewarding life ( a favourite martial game id “Frigid Women”, in which one of the two players provoke an argument, leading to anger and alienation of feeling to avoid sex); sexual games in which someone provokes sexual reactions in another person and then, as in the game ‘Rapo”, acts as though he or she were the innocent victim (exhibitionism – “The Stocking Game” is another common sexual game); party games, which by definition are social and move from the perpetual gossip to the chronic complainer; underworld games, such as “Cops and Robbers”, which are most often played for material gains but can also aim at psychological advantages; consulting room games, which can be played by a patient with a doctor in order to avoid getting cured.
In this book Dr Berne is developing and elaborating on a concept which he has already described for the specialist and which he employs in his new, unified system of individual and social psychiatry, in which group therapy is used as the basic method and the analysis of games is a major element in the treatment. He shows the concept can help people achieve a new self awareness and put them on the way to leading more constructive lives.