HOW TO STOP PLAYING GAMES WITH TOXIC POWER DYNAMICS AND REINVENT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS


Football Soccer Players Dressed In Shorts And T-Shirts COATED In Mud All Approach The Man With The Ball To Try To Wrestle It Away From Him While He Tries To Curl Around It, A Pictorial Metaphor For Relationship Game-Playing, Fighting, Explaining, Power Plays, Transactional Analysis
Playing Relational Games / Fighting / Explaining Often Leaves You Just Like This: Covered In Filth Thanks To Other People, Harassed, Ganged-Up On, Bowed Down, And Getting Your (Emotional) Arm Twisted

“More productive than figuring other people out is figuring ourselves out. If we know our motives in joining games, we don’t need to know other people’s at all.”

--TheraminTrees


The problem with being un-self-aware and coming from a dysfunctional home is that you don’t know what you don’t know.


Being a life-long relational game player, you would think I would be a world champion know-it-all on the subject, but I always found myself losing.


I avoided making friends or getting close to people because my Past Self intuitively understood that I was not yet capable of having healthy relationships where I wouldn’t end up sabotaging it and looking like a psycho. I also had trust issues and had been groomed to assume the worst of others. This "knowing" led to me rejecting connections knowing that I would be inevitably be rejected. Why try when you know you don't even know how & that failure is guaranteed?


When I did get in a relationship with someone I loved very much, I was selfish, inconsistent, created no-win situations, abdicated responsibility and expected them to take care of all my needs (known and unknown). I couldn’t understand why the few good times, some compliments, and “I love you”s weren’t enough to make up for daily misery-making and constant petty criticism, joining in on escalating every fight, not speaking my mind honestly and instead pathologically lying and taking passive-aggressive revenge, and so on.


All I knew was that I nearly ALWAYS felt uncontrollably upset, endlessly unhappy, constantly hurt, heartbreakingly misunderstood, habitually misjudged, hopeless, confrontational or avoidant in turns at all the completely inappropriate moments. My emotional homeostasis was unsubsiding fear I could lose everything that mattered to me at any second because I had absolute belief in abandonment / failure as fate and consistent commitment as the stuff of “The Weekly World News”. Even though I *knew* something about me was dysfunctional and out-of-control, I didn’t understand. I just.couldn’t.stop. putting on my blindfold and playing “Pin the blame on everyone else”.


I was the ugliest, worst, most extreme illustration for the definition of “oversensitive” and “brittle”.


Like the regular nightly dreams I had of being trapped in a mind-of-its-own racecar that always plummeted me over the edge of an impossibly tall bridge…


I wanted out of my own out-of-control game-playing that always resulted in emotional, mental, reputational, and relationship suicide, over and over.


That is one reason I created this blog: to make it easier to help others find the answers and be able to give themselves the self-awareness that took me years to discover. It’s really easy to give bulleted general common-sense advice (which is why you’ll find TONS of vague and insultingly obvious self-help listicles...oh, Hi WikiHow!)...but that doesn’t help someone with no healthy inter-relational frame of reference and little self-awareness whatsoever, someone who needs a formulaic break-down of human interactions so that they can make a CHOICE in their dynamics instead of operating from habits, survival patterns, and conditioning so deeply ingrained that it is literally invisible, hidden (to the game-player) in plain sight (to everyone else).


Enter Transactional Analysis*, discovered by Eric Berne in the late 1950s. Interactions are exchanges where the participants come from one of 3 spectrums of ego-states, which determine how they will act to get their needs met.

*A huge thank you to TheraminTrees for their YouTube series on Transactional Analysis.


If you have always felt like the answer to ending self-sabotaging and living the life with the relationships you always wanted has been as inscrutable as a riddle from a devious sphinx…

you’re right.


“What walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs at mid-day, and 3 legs in the evening?” --The Sphinx


Answer: A day is analogous to the lifetime of a human; 4 legs is a crawling infant, 2 legs is an upright bipedal human who has learned to walk, and 3 legs is an elderly person assisted by a cane in the “twilight” of their life.


So too the 3 spectrums of ego-states in human interactions: THE CHILD


THE ADULT


THE PARENT/SAGE


Alternatively, Stephen Karpman has something similar-but-different called “The Drama Triangle”, with 3 possible categories of participants:


THE PERSECUTOR (feels superior by persecuting)


THE RESCUER (feels superior by helping)


THE VICTIM (feels weak and inferior)


And “The Empowerment Triangle”


THE CREATOR


THE CHALLENGER


THE COACH


This is very important because these are the variables in the formula of human exchanges; you can only choose which variable YOU get to be, but you CAN CHOOSE whichever variable you WANT to be. That choice will change how that interaction goes. Each ego spectrum has its place and can be used well, and we transition between all of them frequently in a way that makes sense to us at the time. The following was adapted directly from TheraminTrees’s video on Transactional Analysis 2. Understand the fundamentals, and you get to choose which ego spectrum approach is REALLY best for the outcome you want:


THE CHILD SPECTRUM (VULNERABLE, INFERIOR, GREEN)


The Child Spectrum covered the extreme ends of being immature and inferior (in some way) and everything in between, from:


ADAPTED:

+positives

Co-operative

Accomodating

Assertive


-negatives

Fearful

Helpless

Compliant/Appeasing

Rebellious

Self-Destructive


to


UNINHIBITED/FREE:

+positives

Creative

Playful

Curious/Open/Receptive


-negatives

Egocentric and Self-Centered

Wild

Careless

Thoughtless

Short-sighted

Inconsiderate


The Child Spectrum perceives self as inherently beneath others, more vulnerable than others, and less competent than others (although they may plow ahead with their own decisions anyway, they don’t feel entitled to this “right”). In response to disapproval, the child feels fear (like fear of abandonment), guilt and shame, and like hiding in a hole. They feel everyone else knows something they don’t, but at the same time they want what they want in the moment without calculating consequences. Whether they want to or not, whether they choose to rebel or not, as unequals in the dynamic they see following authority and obeying rules of the person they pedestal as “authority” as their job.


THE ADULT SPECTRUM (EQUAL, DRAWS ON ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE IN THE PRESENT):


The Adult Spectrum is balanced. The Adult is objective, reasonable, and comfortable in their own skin. Because of this, they neither try to control, need to control, nor want to be controlled by others. They control the only person they can: themselves. Because they are in control where it counts (and not where it doesn’t and never will), they can also use unique, spontaneous approaches to each interaction instead of regressive, emotional-based patterns and irrational conditioning. In response to disapproval, they evaluate with judgement drawing from their entire life experience and decide what to take or toss; they do not internalize criticism as personal or identify themselves as defective, or overcompensate with grandiosity. As an equal to others, the Adult approaches helping as a friend, guiding or assisting using empowerment a fellow traveller in finding their own way.



THE PARENT/SAGE SPECTRUM (AUTHORITATIVE)


The Parent/Sage Spectrum covers the extreme ends of being superior in some way, and everything in between, from:


CONTROLLING:

+positives

Constructive

Organized

Instructive


-negatives

Dictatorial

Fault-finding

Dismissive

Overconfident