Games People Play Summary – The Psychology of Human Relationships

Author: Eric Berne

Games People Play (1964) is a self-help guide that will open up your mind to various tactics and manipulations used by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally. By learning about human behavior, you will be able to let go of your toxic patterns and enjoy fulfilling relationships.
games people play summary

Detailed Summary of Games People Play

Games People Play summary will teach you how our reactions depend on the stages of our ego. Being humans, we react to different situations in different ways. Sometimes it is hard to make sense of our reactions, but Games People Play shows us how we are unconsciously acting to fulfill our ulterior motives.

Sometimes we act rationally and logically. On occasions, we act as parents who are aggressive or possessive, and sometimes we become our childhood selves. All of these ego stages make us act differently.

As you learn about these stages of ego and tricks of manipulation, you will know how to secure yourself from such games and not let people take advantage of you.

The author also advises his readers towards the end that if we try to ignore such games and trickery and base our relationships on honest interactions, we will be able to cultivate relationships that last longer and bring more meaning to our lives.

Games People Play Summary Key Points

During a person’s lifespan, one will go through millions of emotions. These emotions led one to do things one didn’t want to and mean to. In every situation, we confront our two different personalities.

Sometimes a person becomes childish even though he is grown up enough, and sometimes he behaves like an aggressive teacher who treats one strictly just because his teacher used to do this in his childhood. We can call this feeling a reflection of childhood. To tackle these feelings, the author shared some good key points so one can have self-control.

You might also like to read Nonviolent Communication Summary to master the art of speaking.

It’s All Games and Play

If we are being brutally honest, it will be hard for you and me to find the last social interaction where we were completely honest and straightforward. Before you contradict me, I am also talking about the last time you did not change your words into more suitable ones so that you could sound good and the words match the atmosphere of the conversation. Hard to remember, right?

This is the exact point Eric Berne puts forward. Interactions are like games. We play the suitable moves. Moves that can get you what you want. Moves that can help us achieve our ulterior motives sometimes, we play these games intentionally sometimes, and we are not even aware that we are playing the game or being played.

All of us say things that take us closer to our goals, not honest things. As a senior, you might want to yell at your subordinate that he is slacking or being a pain for you. But you know that saying this will not let him do your work or improve himself.

So, you might propose that he make more friends at the office and try hanging out with Josh more. Josh is the guy who is also your subordinate and whose work you like very much. See, it is all about games and playing whether you like it or not.

Parental, Adult, or Child ego state; Your State Decides Your Actions

Eric Berne observes that our states largely define all human interactions. He names and defines these states as Parental, Adult, or Child ego states. When we are in the parental stage, we crave power or control. For most of us, this state is influenced by our own parents.

For example, if you had a parent who was rarely expressive while growing up, you would find it harder to express your feelings to your child. This behavior will also repeat when you try to hide your true feelings from your partner or try to displace or masquerade them by lashing out or getting angry.

The adult ego state is, however, linked with rational thinking. It tries to find the reason and logic behind everything. This includes the instances when you try to find rational solutions for your problems. For example, when you learn to set up a new device.

 The child’s ego state includes her true feelings and emotions. This is the state that you were born with. That is why it is pure and intimate. This includes the feelings you have when you surrender yourself. You are neither acting like a rational adult nor as a parent.

I am Only Trying to Help You: Sincerely, Your Therapist

Often couples go to therapy to solve their relationship problems or improve their marriage’s state. But according to the author, the therapy is also not beyond games. Inside a therapist’s room, one spouse acts like a child, constantly complaining about his partner, while the therapist acts like a parent trying to solve their problems.

Similarly, when a person goes to a psychotherapist, sometimes the psychotherapist only wants to reinforce her identity as a parent. So, he gives advice he knows will not work, so the patient comes back asking him for help again. This allows the therapist to blame the patient as they would blame a child.

Games People Play Quotes

“The past effect people—some let it decide who they are, while others make it part of what they will do.” ― Eric Berne

“A game looks like a set of operations, but after the payoff, it becomes apparent that these operations were really maneuvers; not honest requests but moves in the game.” ― Eric Berne

Games People Play Summary Review

Games People Play is a fantastic read with lots of wit and sarcasm. The author presents several social interactions in which humans pretend and try to manipulate, which calls for the readers to be more vigilant while communicating with others. You will thoroughly enjoy the verbal illustrations the author creates to explain the different games people play.

To Whom I Would Recommend Games People Play Summary

  • To the forty-two-year-old mother who struggles to express her feelings towards her children due to an abusive parent in the past.
  • To the thirty-two-year-old guy who feels excessive rage when he is at work.
  • And to anyone who wants to learn about human psychology to improve their relationships.