FIRST published in 1964, Games People Play is one of the lasting texts on the ways in which we manipulate one other. My folks even used to have a copy lying around the house… which I shan’t pass comment on.*
In any given scenario you might act as child, adult or parent – these are your ego states – and it’s the child and parent personas that can be most misused. While the different interactions Dr Eric Berne identifies might all elicit a sheepish “aw, yeah” response in the reader, his refusal to be personable himself makes this a slightly patronising rumble through his various classifications.
I reckon if I’d gone to see him way back in the day, he’d have sat at his mahogany desk with leather inlay, fiddled with his fountain pen, cleared his throat a lot and looked distantly over my head before prescribing some Valium. His script would be inscrutable and his hands would smell of cigarettes, brandy and cologne, much like my father’s…
But anyway, I digress. I’m going to observe how many Berne-approved games I play in one day.
6.25am, on the train
There are no seats left, so a man and I are forced to lean in the corridor opposite each other. Even though I am concentrating on tapping this sentence into my iphone, I cannot help but notice through years of experience that he is glancing at me. Damn his eyes. I’d like a kraken to swoop down and peck them out of his skull. Without pause, I respond with a sweeping look that also manages to take in his shoes and fly. I think I only need to do that once.
Game: Second Degree Rapo, more colloquially known as Buzz Off, Buster. (I didn’t come up with these names, incidentally.)
Adult rationale: My fellow commuter has nowhere else to look and is probably feeling awkward, having not had the foresight to bring a book or his own form of entertainment. Alternatively, he might be playing a hand of Kick Me. I’ll give him a civil smile… oi, you fucking pervert, what are you looking at? Oh dear.
8.30am, at the coffee stand
It’s not that I’m needy, but I do find it odd that that the French bloke who serves me my coffee every morning not once gives me a flicker of interest or recognition. I mean, it’s not just that he’s French – he seems to actually lack the ordinary human impulses that make us ponder “yes, no, maybe” when interacting with a member of the opposite sex. I’m simply curious as to what personality disorder he might have, which is why I hold his gaze a fraction longer than is necessary.
Game: I’m Only Trying To Help You.
Adult rationale: He’s probably gay.
6.30pm, driving lesson
I’ve had heaps of trouble with instructors. They get a bit… clingy. This one’s not too bad but he always keeps his foot on the brake, so that I mysteriously slow down whenever taking a corner. This attention-seeking tactic provokes an indignant reaction from me, which thus allows him to apologise profusely, thereby making me feel bad, which then allows him to get away with further behaviour, like critiquing my parallel parking. Foul!
Adult rationale: As soon as I pass I can go as fast as I like.
Keeper? In troublesome situations, I intend to keep asking myself: “What would an adult do?” Deal me…
* This was a quick demonstration of Now Look What You Made Me Do.