Understanding the Games People Play

Over the next three weeks I will explain a little more about how we can recognise patterns using transactional analysis models and then how you can start making some changes.

We often talk about people playing psychological games with each other and wonder what is really going on. The idea of games is explored a particular way in transactional analysis. A game is described as a repetitive but unsatisfactory interaction with another person or group of people. There are a number of elements to a game that can alert us to its presence:

  • Repetition.
  • Predictability.
  • Ulterior transaction.
  • Switch.
  •  Negative payoff.
  • Out of awareness.

These games are a specific way to identify some of your self defeating patterns of behaviour. These patterns will have disempowered you and prevented you from accessing your full potential. The first step as I mentioned in previous weeks it to become more self aware.

A game may last just a few minutes or may last years. A game can only continue if both parties are willing to “play”. This willingness occurs at a subconscious level. There are a number of games that could lead to aggression if they get out of hand, here are a couple of examples.

Yes but….

A problem is mentioned, solutions are offered. For every solution there is a reason why it won’t work. Eventually the person offering suggestions gets exasperated and may become angry. Alternatively the person with the problem becomes angry and accuses the “helper” of being controlling and nosey.


This starts as a sensible discussion proceeding to a formidable argument. The psychological temperature increases and polite norms break down as each tells the other what they really think of each others ideas. A real potential here for violence.

There are many other versions of common games and many Transactional Analysis books will give you whole lists to help you identify your own ones. Next week we will use the “Drama Triangle” as a way of exploring games from a slightly different angle.

About Melody @ GWizlearning

Melody spent fourteen years gathering experience of the business world working in banking, telecommunications and the public sector before co-founding The GWiz Learning Partnership in 1993. Melody has a Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, a degree in Psychology and a diploma in Psychotherapy. She is an NLP Master Trainer which allows her to run NLP Practitioner, NLP Master Practitioner and NLP Trainer Training courses certified by the Positive School of Intrinsic Neuro-Linguistc Psychology. She is also a qualified Myers Briggs practitioner and EI practitioner and added to all this is five years Transactional Analysis training, meaning she is able to help organisations access the hidden potential in their staff. She is also in demand for her work in transforming average or even troubled teams into high performers. Melody is a visiting lecturer at University of East London, teaching "Wellbeing and Positive Psychology" to undergraduates. Additionally, she is a member of the CIPD and is ILM accredited. Melody's interests are many and varied. She has a keen interest in personal development, canine and wolf psychology, conservation, movies and running. She also enjoys western horse riding, walking the GWiz dogs, nature watching and stage combat (particularly sword fighting).
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One Response to Understanding the Games People Play

  1. Pingback: Am I a lost cause? | Trauma and Dissociation

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