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Psychological games: what are they and what are they for?

Psychological games: what are they and what are they for?

September 25, 2022

How many times have you participated or dipped directly or indirectly in psychological games ?

I assure you that many, and none have found a good ending. You can be aware that you often fall into the same situations obtaining the same answers, but you are surely completely unaware of why this happens to you.

What are psychological games?

Two do not play if one does not want to.

Eric Berne , psychiatrist and founder of the theory of Transactional Analysis (A.T.) explained the psychological games as a dysfunctional form of communication used to cover the needs of attention, recognition and affection towards the person, although always in a negative way. We talk about games in mode no fun, that is to say, they are always lost, which entails an enormous emotional cost, both for those who initiate them and for those who join or participate in them.


In this type of isolation, gadgets are used to manipulate and persuade the receiver, unconsciously most of the time, but used repetitively until resentment and interpersonal failure appear.

How do you play?

In any psychological game there is a systematic action , that is, you start at Bait, which is the play made by the first player and then a reaction of continuity is present if the other person decides to participate. Bear in mind that the first player always wins. To understand more clearly how these games are established we can resort to a practical example with the use of the game: "yes, but ..."


Person A: I have many problems in my relationship, if we continue like this I do not know how we will finish ...

Person B: Why do not you part?

Person A: Yes, but if we split up, how will we share custody of the children?

Person B: You can reach an agreement and keep it yourself. By schedules you can combine it better.

Person A: Yes, but I have 3 children, I alone will not be able to take everything as I should.

Person B: You can find someone to help you ...

Person A: Yes, but it would be an economic expense that could not allow me

Person B: "Silence"

This silence offered by person B is the result of the victory of the one who starts the game . But still, the person A could finish the play adding "you see, I can not separate" In this case we see how Person A has joined the game after hearing the first yes, but ... has now introduced the new role of "I just try to help you"


Types of psychological games

The psychological games are varied, Berne classifies them according to themes and scenarios, but we can highlight from power games, to sexual or couple among others . The most prominent are always in marital, life, meeting or office settings.

In this case we can highlight the dramatic Karpman triangle contributed by R. Kertész to highlight the change of theoretical roles that two or more people can follow during the games, in this case the roles of persecutor, savior and victim will lead to characters of the type "Yes, but ..." "Explain your sorrows" or "Everything goes wrong", consecutively.

Objectives and purposes of psychological games

According to E. Berne the three main reasons why a person is unconsciously involved in these games are the following:

  1. To protect against the fear of being unmasked and that the true "I" is exposed
  2. To avoid discomfort that can foster intimacy
  3. To ensure that others do what they want to do

These are the main reasons given by the author, but in a general way we could say that they are used for the purpose of manipulating others instead of establishing healthy relationships and to demonstrate that one is in a certain way in front of others.

The reality is that the use of these games is learned at an early age and then repeated systematically throughout the person's life, until the user becomes aware of its use and tries to remedy it if he observes that these acts are holding back and damaging his lifetime. Most games they destroy the true personality and increase the vulnerability of the person, they affect most areas of life, consume energy and provoke really high levels of frustration, as well as the establishment of insane and degraded relationships, contributing basically discontent and conflicting situations for the individual.

How to detect when we are facing a psychological game?

Well frankly if we stay tuned it will not be difficult to discover the first signs of these games, however you can apply different questions to identify them more easily.

  • How does the game start?
  • As follows?
  • What answers do you get?
  • How you feel?
  • How does the situation end?

Once these questions are applied we can look for alternative behaviors to prevent or avoid falling into these games . Whenever we are aware of the existence of certain behaviors, it will be easier for us to orient ourselves towards a different situation and avoid certain errors.

How to limit and curb this type of games?

From the psychological point of view, breaking these games is the first step to overcome resistance and obtain situations and healthy and direct relationships with others.

  • We must know the dynamics and the functioning of the games to prevent and stop them
  • Reflect on the benefits of continuing to play the game or stopping it
  • Think of alternatives to cover needs and personal needs
  • Search mechanisms and tools to use when someone engages us in a game

Some games to keep in mind

"Why not…? Yes, but ... "

Purpose: The person seeks reassurance from a child's perspective, enclosing the father's position

"I'm going to prove it" or "Mine is better"

Purpose: Competitiveness to seek the final triumph

"We are going to fight you and him"

Purpose: The protagonist seeks to fight others without intervening him, thus satisfying his psychological position

"Look what you forced me to do"

Purpose: To avoid responsibility through justification and "I have no fault"

"How do you get out of this situation?"

Purpose: The person is involved in difficult or complicated situations to be saved

Some conclusions ...

In short, psychological games are searched through transactions between the father, the adult and the child represented in the transactional analysis, evidence the weaknesses of the other to achieve a final benefit , which is never achieved in a positive way.

The game itself is always a risk to the player
-Gadamer, 1970: 149

How to React When Guys Play Psychological Games on You (Remaining Unreactive) (September 2022).


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