Eric Berne, M.D.’s Games People Play, the Psychology of Human Relationships (1964) is on my plate: my food for thought in respect of adults’ play. Adults play, of course they do. Berne knew this (though in different ways to the simple phrase that is: adults play). He called what we adults do ‘games’. We’re all wrapped up in games with one another. Berne listed whole categories of games: life games, marital games, ‘party’ games, sexual games, ‘underworld’ games, consulting room games, and ‘good’ games.
So, for the uninitiated in this area, paraphrasing Berne, a ‘game’ is, simply and generally, a communication between people with expected returns but also with hidden messages.
A quick overview of some of Berne’s games, for example:
How bad I’ve been; see if you can stop me.
I owe money; I have a purpose.
Why does this keep happening to me?; my misfortunes are worse than yours.
I’m only trying to help you; I’m covering up my feelings of inadequacy.
See if you can present a solution I can’t find fault with; gratify and reassure me, give me attention.
All these games we play! It’s a minefield. We need signs, rules to help us out. What if adults were confronted with rules all the time, like children are in their play? Of course, adults have to put up with rules on signs out there in the world (keep left, keep right, don’t cross, push here, no parking, don’t go in the Olympic Games Lanes, etc), but I’m not talking about having rules for adults in their driving, shopping or general day-to-day going about their business lives; what if adults had rules all over the streets that told them how to ‘be’? Children are told how to play, how not to play, how to conduct themselves . . . so, these are the rules for how the adult should be:
Only work in the right places.
Use your outdoor voices.
Respect your sofa, your Wii, and your toaster.
Share: the road with people who cut you up on the motorway; your stuff with people who steal your stuff; your house with people who squat in your house, even though you got there first.
No chewing gum.
No ball games.
No ‘adult games’.
Deeper ‘games’ rules:
No drawing attention to yourself.
No being debt-free and happy.
No feeling sorry for yourself.
Don’t be inadequate.
No running your life constantly about you.
No dreaming too loud.
No dreaming out loud.
No wondering, pondering, brooding, questioning.
No naval-gazing* (or even navel-gazing!)
No philosophising on street corners.
These rules – and more – to be up on signs on every street, every wall, in every open space, in the work place, in pubs and other adult places of play, in taxis and on buses and on trains, in shops, on the little squares of grass wedged in between buildings on housing estates, etc.
The games adults play need rules: it’s for our own good, after all.