When we talk about games that people play, our mind automatically registers a physical sport activity or a board game for leisure or on a professional basis.
'Games People Play' is the name of a bestseller which has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Written by psychiatrist Eric Berne the book is an exhaustive work on functional as well as dysfunctional social interactions between people. Through his work, Berne introduced the theory of 'transactional analysis' which describes three prime ego states in all humans – the child, adult and parent. He identified that many negative traits are as a result of confusion in understanding or switching of roles. In summary, Berne defined a 'game' as a series of body language, facial expression and speech interactions between people that follows a predictable series of patterns, often producing counterproductive results. In the end, only one person achieves a 'payoff'.
His theory uncovered the dynamics of human relationships, an extremely complex subject and the book is now recognized worldwide as the most influential and original psychology book of the modern era. It is an eye-opener to the 'psychological theatricals that humans play over and over again' in their relationship with others. The tremendous impact it generated drew a large following and several others used this to publish other works that threw further light on human relationships. Many readers revealed that the book helped provide a much better and deeper understanding of their own motives in their social interactions. Millions of individuals, in particular married couples, claim to have followed Berne's techniques to unlock and have greater understanding of the mysteries of human relationships.
In the decades that followed Berne's theory of transactional analysis, psychologists and human behavior analysts refer to it as a completely cognitive behavioral approach and an extremely effective way to deal with the notion of 'self and others' in addition to other psychodynamic matters. It is now understood that the life games referred to by Berne are "tools that an individual uses in his or her quest for energetic independence".
A modern understanding of Berne's theory is revealing even to a lay person who gets drawn into the machinations of others around who manipulate and steer individuals to achieve their own selfish needs. Today, when we see human relationships breaking down all around, it only emphasizes the fragility of human social interactions and the price we pay for the selfish way we use people around us to achieve our own goals. It is one of the important things to remember.