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Eric Berne

Games People Play



This is the first book I read about transaction analysis after coming across it in various places. I guess it sort of serves as the original manual for transaction analysis despite it being not a great book and not one that I would recommend.

If you’ve not come across transaction analysis before, Berne describes it as a way of interpretating social interactions. He firstly sets out a framework called the PAC framework. The PAC stands for Parent, Adult and Child which he theorises as three ego states humans possess. He argues that negative behaviour stems from confusion between these roles. He then discusses ‘games’ which are sort of defined as transactions between individuals which follow some sort of predictable pattern. He has a lot of names for these games which are quite insightful and definitely valid in some ways.

It definitely made me more aware of patterns within interactions and recognise games that Berne explicitly talks about within the book. I do really enjoy reading about the human condition and psychological behaviours and this was good in that respect because the underlying idea is hard to dismiss.

However, the issue with this book is that I feel it’s terribly written. The ideas I find are somewhat profound and interesting to explore, however the way this book was written and structured made it genuinely quite a painful read. I probably would’ve stopped reading it if it was a longer book. I think transaction analysis is a significant idea however I would recommend reading I’m Ok – You’re Ok if you want a better introduction as it focuses more on the underlying PAC framework. This gave me a better understanding of the games Berne lays out in the second half of the book.

The theory definitely doesn’t apply to everything and there are many holes in it, which is naturally going to occur given that it is psychology. Also, despite there being some interesting proposals in this book Berne doesn’t do the best job of explaining them. I may re-read this at some point as I would like to try and synthesise it into a blog post of some kind.