Friday, January 21, 2011

Games People Play....finishing up.

Games People Play goes back to the library today. At times it's a little dated. It never quite gets away from the smug certainty of the 1960s (Did you know you can solve everything from schizophrenia to indigence with transactional analysis?) and there were points where the underlying sexism and other prejudice made me uncomfortable. The author goes out of his way to explain that he uses the pronoun "he" as a default, unless the nature of a game is such that it would obviously be played primarily by women. The moral of the story seems to be that many women are manipulative, crazy bitches. But I don't think you can condemn the entire book for that. I didn't live in the 1960s or experience those kind of strict gender roles. As a modern reader, I think it's useful to stretch your imagination and see where it could just as easily be the man pouting at home while his wife goes out, or even two men or two women having that fight, but I won't blame the book for not doing enough of that originally.

Overall, I think it's a useful book. Some of the games that he describes I believe in more than others, but most of them seem to be accurate descriptions of human behavior, and accurate descriptions of the ulterior motives of people that it's helpful to be able to recognize and understand. Oddly, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the one and only psychology book that Dr. Phil has ever read. If you've ever watched his show...and I assume most of you haven't...part of his schtick is turning to people who are complaining about their lives and asking them, "What's your payoff?" And he doesn't let them claim that they don't get any kind of payoff, that they're pure and utter victims, because clearly they're making choices that put them in whatever situation for a reason, even if it's a counter-intuitive one like feeling victimized. The point of the book, (and Dr. Phil) is that if you can recognize the games you and others are playing for what they are, you can try to avoid the more self destructive ones. This didn't seem particularly revolutionary to me (possibly because it was on channel 7 every day at 4 PM while I was in high school...I dunno, sometimes I don't have the most high brow taste), but if it's not something you already do the book might be useful.

If anyone's curious, the game that I am by far the most guilty of is this one. The author points out that this one can be played either as a game or a pastime (that is, without ulterior motives), and I think I generally play the more innocent version....but it is a bad habit of mine. It remains to be seen if I'm likely to do anything about it.

And as far as simmering thoughts go - one of the things that I was bothered by in the book, aside from the datedness, was the Freudian need to tie everything back to sex. I'm starting to think that this might be a problem with a lot 20th century popular thought, not just in psychology but also in biology; that there might be better ways to think about evolution than focusing on the genetic successes of Ghengis Khan.  The thought still needs some fleshing out though, so consider this the blog equivalent of a really bad cliff hanger.

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