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"Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis

Posted: July 30th, 2014, 7:48 am
by Underwater
I've been reading Berne's Games People Play and while interesting enough on it's own merits I've been digesting it with the intention of integrating transactional analysis into more believable scenework, especially in the domain of character relationships. I was wondering if anyone familiar with these concepts could speak to their own understanding of this.

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: July 30th, 2014, 10:31 am
by Brad Hawkins
I'm not, though I do remember a book my parents had when I was a kid, explaining TA for kids. I remember the sides of a person's personality being grouped into something like Me-Child, Me-Adult, and Me-Parent, which I later realized corresponded to the Freudian ideas of Id, Ego, and Superego... that's really all I remember about it, though. Can you elaborate a little on what you're thinking of?

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: July 30th, 2014, 4:12 pm
by Spots
What Brad said. I'm not terribly familiar but curious.

Do you mean categorizing scenes like this?

1. I'm not OK and the world is not OK.

2. I'm OK and the world is not OK.

3. I'm not OK and the world is OK.

4. I'm OK and the world is OK.

My first impression is that pivoting through scenes that way is more in the realm of a personal game (character etc) over finding the game of the scene. But I do like its similarities to straight absurd so I might throw it at some improvisers on saturday and report back to you.

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: July 31st, 2014, 8:30 pm
by Underwater
Brad, TA for kids? That’s awesome! Now I’m imagining “Transactional Analysis for Kidz” in big, bubbly rainbow letters and a friendly, cartoon Dr. Berner on the cover…

Spots, I’m not familiar with the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” model you mention, perhaps it’s later in the book or a similar, related psychological concept .

Okay, I’m going to try to summarize what I’ve learned so far as succinctly and clearly as I can:

The first point Brener makes is that regular social contact, be it through physical touch or communication, is crucial for our well-being; that, analogous to how nutrition is necessary for our physical health, social contact is necessary for our mental health.

So in a 'social transaction' between two people, each sends a 'stroke' (or, a 'unit of interaction') to each other. The ego states that Brad mentioned are the ‘Parent’, ‘Adult’ and ‘Child’. This is the part that, once I really started to grasp what he was saying, has really contextualized everything behavior-related in my life! Keep in mind that all three states come into play, regardless of your age. The Child state (as I understand it) is your primal feelings. “I’m sad”, “That is funny”, “I want ice cream”. The Parent state is the non-inherent values instilled upon you when you were young & didn't question them, like “friends share with each other”, “Vote Republican” or “Don’t run with scissors”. The Adult state is that mature, ‘let me take a step back & think about this’ position you develop when you're older. This is when you consider and decide things critically, like “Buying this wouldn’t make sense financially” or “A two-party democracy is bullshit”.

Each stroke comes from one ego state and is directed to another. In a Parent-to-Parent stroke a person might say “Kids these days don’t appreciate nature/music/whatever like we used to”. A Parent-to-Child stroke might be an instinctive “No dessert before you finish your vegetables!” with the kind of inflection that I’m sure isn’t hard to imagine. Adult-to-Adult might be “drill a hole five inches from the top” or “Perhaps I should change career paths because my current job is too stressful”. The key thing isn’t necessarily what is being said, but by what motivation in you the message is coming from.

With this model you get permutations of different types of transactions, some of which harmonize and others which conflict. For example, consider:
“Have you seen my cufflinks?” (Adult-to-Adult send)

Good, Adult-to-Adult response: “No, I haven’t seen them yet”
Bad, Parent-Child response: “Maybe if you were better organized you could find them!”
Also bad, Child-Parent response: “Find them yourself.”

It’s not too hard to see how these principles would have immediate benefits for character motivation in improv. How you can play around with these states in a scene and see how they motivate your character, but I haven't tried anything out myself yet.

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: August 1st, 2014, 1:33 pm
by kbadr
I believe Keith Johnstone has mentioned/referenced this book frequently, in connection with his work on status. It basically lays out various status interactions.

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: August 1st, 2014, 2:56 pm
by Spots
I think I'm in love with this construct.

Re: "Games People Play" by Eric Berne, Transactional Analysi

Posted: August 8th, 2014, 3:51 pm
by Underwater
I figure I'll post more notes as I understand this better...

As we are assuming for this system, all people need interactions. The question is how to structure the time in these interactions. Berne breaks it down into six different categories.
Withdrawal. The least amount of interaction with others, which is to say none at all. This is daydreaming, fantasizing, etc. It is a way of interacting with yourself.
Ritual. Very structured & superficial, ultimately just about recognizing each other. Saying "hello" to each other politely, making a statement about the weather, etc. (Structured meaning if an acquaintance says "Hi" you know exactly how you are expected to respond)
Pastime. Giving mild opinions but still not conveying much. Think being polite at a party with acquaintances while still demonstrating your opinions. Berne gives the example of 'car talk': "I think Ford is better because blah blah", "Well, I think Chevy is better because blah blah". You are revealing yourself, but still in a predictable, safe way.
Activity. This is actually physically creating or accomplishing something with someone (like sports or building a boat!). Less superficial than a pastime because something is being produced, but still the interactions are directed towards the activity rather than to each other.
Game. The big one! Structured interactions with the goal of a 'payoff' for one of the people. Ironically this payoff can be feelings of guilt or anger, but the point is to gain a little bit of intimacy with minimal vulnerability. (Obviously there's a lot more to games than this as it is the subject of the whole book.)
Intimacy. In which we talk straight to each other. As Berne puts it "Intimacy is a candid child-to-child relationship with no games and no mutual exploitation. It is set up by the adult ego states of the parties concerned, so that they understand their contracts and commitments with each other." The most gratifying, but risky interaction.

Notable to the existence of these categories, Berne says that given a pair of people who are instructed to interact with each other, but without their actions being under the withdrawal, ritual, pastime, activity or game categories, they will behave according to the intimacy category.