Three Favorite Ego Games

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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

Transactional psychologist Eric Berne wrote a seminal book about the innumerable games the ego plays. He called it Games People Play. Dovetailing his pioneering work, here are three identified patterns of ego activity or meta-games, that is, the form across all ego games or the ego’s game of games, that clearly run across the games being played by the ego:

1. Two or more egos playing projection catch: one ego throws something that it cannot bear to face or accept (i.e., a projection) “at” or “to” or “onto” a second ego who typically catches it in its craws and then sends back its own reactive projection, that is often the polar opposite of what the first ego sent, to the first ego who catches it; this so continues;


2. Two or more egos in collusion: one ego dreams up a “story” that it deems, declares and verbalizes to be “right” and tosses it “at” or “to” or “onto” another ego who joins with the first ego in that story being right. So long as this state of affairs continues, both egos are happy as clams in brine. If sufficient feedback from reality or other egos explodes the story being right, then criticalness and blaming finger-pointing ensues along with self-righteous, after-the-fact “I told you so’s,” making up reasonable-sounding reasons and plausible excuses along with angry attacks, scapegoat finding and other distraction maneuvers until a revised “right story” or a new “right story” comes on board and the collusion so continues;

3. One ego gets swelled with itself and power plays its own upsetting drama: one ego all by itself, having consciously or unconsciously “made up” its desires, wants, needs, goals, expectations, intentions and attachments, comes across a thought, belief, behavior or anything that it perceives to be a threat, attack or danger to what it had made up, a fully dramatized “ego attack” ensues. Here the ego takes its psychic mental energy and either turns it in emotionally (i.e., acting in) to shove into the body or somatize these fearful, angry and hurt feelings and progressively produce bodily upsets and disease processes, or turns it outwardly emotionally and behaviorally (i.e., acting out) to project “at” or “to” or “onto” others and things in their environment in a defeating, dysfunctional and destructive manner, or both simultaneously or reciprocally. Other egos sometimes join into the fray with “collective ego” mayhem occurring, other times avoid and deny what is happening, and at still other times get scared and call police or other authorities to lock up this insane-acting ego and get it far away from them.

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