Christmas is such an interesting time I think. As the evenings draw in we tend not to look after ourselves well. We eat too much, drink too much and don’t get enough exercise. We put pressure on ourselves to get things done before school or work breaks up. To find the perfect present, to spend time with family members who we may avoid the rest of the year. And then we wonder why we don’t enjoy it!
It is a perfect recipe for psychological game playing at Christmas. The theory of games was developed by Eric Berne the founder of Transactional Analysis.
We all play Games. They are unconscious and repetitive. We learn to play Games in our family of origin as a way of getting our needs met when we are young. Although once they may have been useful to us they generally are not useful anymore. We are much more likely to play them when we are tired, run down, stressed or with others who will play them with us. At Christmas we often put ourselves back into our families of origin where we first learnt to play them.
Steve Karpman, a student studying under Eric Berne, developed the Drama Triangle to help us look at Games. When we are in a Game we are on this triangle and as the Games progresses we move to a different position.
When we are in the Rescuer position we are taking care of, looking after, doing more than the other person. We are really doing more than we want to. Have you ever experienced this at Christmas? Doing things you don’t want to? Spending time with people you would rather not spend time on? Spending money on things you don’t want to buy? What often happens when we Rescue we build up resentment.
When we are in the Persecutor position we are generally angry, we have a go at the other, put down, belittle and undermine others. We feel that we are right and they are wrong. We offload our frustrations onto another person, even if we are not frustrated with them.
When we are in the Victim position we are in a victim role. This is different from actual victims who do not invite what happens to them. Here we are undermining ourselves, believing we cant do things. we are powerless and unable. We might say things like “I cant find the right present” “It’s all too much for me”.
When we are in a Game we unconsciously seek out others who will play the opposite roles and then play out our Games.
In my life my adult children come home for Christmas. It always amazes me how my grown up children, who are very capable adults in the world regress back to being children as they walk through my door.
I haven’t seen them for a while so I want to make it a great Christmas for them. I shop. I cook. I clean and spend time thinking about what they would like to eat, receive as a gift. I plan and bake and wrap. I buy the biggest tree, decorate it and put a pile of presents underneath. I wear myself into the ground and I am tired. I wonder what position I am in?
My daughter comes in from having fun with her friends and says “It’s so boring and quiet here”. If I was thinking rather than just reacting to her I would realise she is in a Victim position. It is not up to me to provide her with entertainment, she is an adult.
What do you think I might feel?
I feel angry and move into the Persecutor position. If I play this Game out I will probably start having a go at her, possibly telling her she is ungrateful, after everything I have done for her etc etc etc. We would both go away feeling bad.
There is a whole range of different Games we can play. It depends which ones we learn when were young. Look out for the Games you might play, at the end of them we always feel bad in some way. You can help yourself to not get into psychological game playing at Christmas by really taking care of yourself both physically and psychologically, not doing more than you want, expressing frustrations before they build up and realising you can do things for yourself. After all it is Christmas.