Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships

Eric Berne, a renowned psychiatrist, was the creator of the field of
Transactional Analysis. In this short book he describes the key
aspects of this field. This book is said to be as relevant today as it
was during its first publishing 55 years ago (1964). Berne postulates
that a lot can be learnt about the psychology of a person by
observing his social interactions – or “transactions”. He defines the
three “ego states” of a person – namely Parent, Adult and Child –
and explains which state causes which behaviours.
The basic hypothesis is that people always – consciously or
unconsciously – have ulterior motives hidden behind their actions,
hence social interactions are like “Games”. By studying the game a
person is playing, we can gain clarity on their psychological
Although the premise seems cynical, the writing style and observations are neutral. He maintains the
tone of a true non-judgemental analyst throughout.
This book is divided into two major parts, the first part contains the theory of Transactional analysis
where the reader is introduced to the basic concepts, methods and goals of analysis. While this is
quite thorough and is a gold mine for people interested in psychology on a professional level. The lay
reader might be put to sleep with such detail and complexity.
The second part – more interesting for the common reader! – is a list of common games people play.
I might have recommend skipping straight to this part, but unfortunately unless you have the
foundation laid in part 1, most of the insights brought out in this part will be overlooked.
The games are divided into groups such as Life games, Party Games, Marital Games etc. The thesis of
each games is described, the final payoff the players seek and the antithesis – how one could
possibly break the game or behaviour.
The games listed out are quite exhaustive. There will be at least one game that you will find yourself
guilty of playing – even if only unconsciously. This book is an eye opener in this sense, you will find
yourself being aware of the games you and the people around you play.
In summary, although it is a fascinating and important book, it is almost like reading a textbook from
back in college. Unless you are really interested in the subject you may consider skipping this book.

Anuj M Nichani (L&T Construction)

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