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..:: Enlightenment XI / Games ::..


Alan Schneider


             This eleventh essay in the Enlightenment Series deals with one of the most common human psychological failings – phony social role playing conducted for various kinds of dubious spiritual, psychological, and material rewards.   This harks directly back to the essence of the ego as a social fiction, but one that we are genetically and neurologically constructed with as a vital and inevitable survival mechanism.  While It remains true that only the Self (i.e.God) is ultimately real, we are not fundamentally able to experience that Self through the native sensory perception that is so close to the ego.    Social games, on the other hand, are right next door to our sensory perception!   Hence, acculturated social game playing is an almost universal human activity.   

            In his two landmark works, Games People Play, and the more technical Transactional Analysis, psychiatrist and social psychologist Eric Berne detailed long ago the basis and causation for social gaming.   What he did not do was incorporate the insights of Jung’s transpersonal psychology into his theory of social gaming, something that I will attempt to do in this essay.    Why do people play social games when they are subconsciously geared toward such unproductive and unpleasant outcomes?   The key to understanding our game motivation lies, in fact, precisely in their unconscious psychological dynamics within the total mind.    What is present in our consciousness, but not directly acknowledged in our awareness, will inevitably control our lives and behavior, usually to some detrimental outcome.   

            A most important concept integral to social gaming is that of Attention. Attention is the grand currency of social interaction, even of consciousness in general, and is seen in almost all social processes. Attention is inherently reinforcing and the motivation behind much human behavior. When we acknowledge another's contribution to or in an interaction, we are essentially giving that person something Berne termed a "stroke" - a symbolic contact from ego to ego that may not even be perceived as such, but is still socially real and relevant. Strokes exist in many forms (e.g. verbal, written, stylized, advertised), are frequently subconscious, and nonetheless craved by the ego as expressions of social worth and validation. Strokes are an alternative source of gratification, every bit as significant as food, sex, art, music, and so on.  As social beings, we all need and solicit each others attention.

            The roots of social gaming originate observably in early childhood, and inferentially in the personal Karma that we bring with us into a given incarnation.   Although none of this can be absolutely scientifically verified, if we accept the premise that all consciousness originates in the Self, then the probable dynamic runs as follows.   The Self exists in a perpetual state of Love, Light, and Being.   Because the Self is Love, this embraces that concept in all of its possible flavors – romantic, erotic, agape (selfless), personal (self-oriented), parental (nurturing), universal, and in possibly many other forms that human beings cannot conceive of.   Because the Self Loves its condition of Being, it spontaneously radiates forth an infinite variety of expressions of that Love in the form of “Lovelettes” – more or less discreet sub-expressions of the Primal Love absolutely present in the Self.   Some of these Lovelettes are vibrating at the correct frequency to become – to be – human Souls.   At one and the same time, these Souls are both linked to and dissociated from each other – this is the Self’s mode of spiritual reproduction

            At another, much lower vibrational level, the biological reproduction of physical bodies is also taking place as another expression of the Self as Love.   Those bodies are the vessels of Karma for the Souls, and this is a social process – Karma is a social reality – mediated by the body, physical senses, and the ego through the first three Chakras.  Because the Self is infinite, and functionally embraces all possibilities, the totality of its Love embraces many outcomes that are abhorrent to the ego – apparent sufferings and misfortunes – but these are also evidence of the Divine Love of the Self, whether we can accept and understand them on the human level of personal experience or not.   The gift of the Self’s Love to the Soul(s) is perfect in every way – even the most horrendous suffering abates in severity when viewed from the Soul’s perspective of grace and compassion, and this is the correct one.   The ego’s perspective is selfish and flawed, and this is the implicit root cause of social gaming – the opportunity to transcend Karma, and social and cultural conditioning, and enter into the transpersonal level of understanding – the Soul level, and the Self/Love/Light/Being that it is attached to.   Essentially, this is God’s Gift of Love in the form of the perceived human condition. 

            The world of dense form experienced in the senses is no less real than the direct experience of the Self by the Self – it is simply occurring at a much lower vibrational frequency, and there may be additional frequencies even lower than that.   Perhaps Chaos is such an even-lower frequency.  Perhaps non-existence is another even-lower frequency.   Perhaps the archetypes of the “Lower Astral Plane” – demons, monsters, and devils – are additional even-lower frequencies.   However, we know the dense realm of physical form through the action of the senses, and these others are more hypothetical in varying degrees.    And we also know the world of social interaction as an extension of dense physical form in this way.  

            Our bodies are disconnected from each other – we do not share each other’s immediate experiences, thoughts, feelings, sensations, or perceptions.   Paradoxically, it is in the self-experience of the individual ego that we are most closely associated with each other – hence Deepak Chopra’s penetrating description of it as a social fiction.  The ego derives its existence only through social interaction and reinforcement, but these are almost universal in human experience and the human condition – we are pre-programmed by evolution to physically recognize and socially seek each other out as survival mechanisms.    Unfortunately (or perhaps not) we remain rooted in the subject-object perception that is the ego’s hallmark, the us-them orientation that is the basis of all human conflict.   Unfortunate, because this is such a profound obstacle to the attainment of inner peace and freedom from suffering, not so, because this obstacle can be overcome by the determination to discover and live within the Truth of Consciousness.    This Truth is the opposite condition of social gaming.   

            There are a number of inherent features of ego-awareness that are fundamentally negative in character, but they all boil down to the ego’s mortal fear of discovering that it does not really exist.    What could be more terrifying than this fear – than living under the shadow of such a shocking discovery?   In order to protect itself from this devastating revelation, the ego resorts to psycho-social game playing in all its varied forms, a most unfortunate (if understandable) decision, because to say that “I” do not really exist is not to say that nothing really exists – the Self is the embodiment of totality and existence – but the ego cannot know this from its limited perspective born in the physical senses.    The Self can only be known through meditation, prayer, and spirituality – not the thought and logic used by the ego to manipulate itself and its environment, and this is the key construct operating in social gaming – manipulation to obtain gratification.   All social games are fundamentally manipulative in character.    

            Very possibly the ego is created as the result of fear-ridden negative reinforcement and conditioning – corporal punishment, hunger, deprivation, isolation, abuse, and rejection.    These circumstances are all transpersonal and Karmic in nature, but begin to assume an independent existence as behavior modification agents once they are active on the Physical Plane, creating the subconscious propensities to seek the primitive and counterproductive “payoffs” that are the goals of game playing, and all of this long before the personality and ego itself are fully formed.  

            Because the ego is a social phenomenon, it needs to invest its activities with legitimacy and survival value.   The foundation of social gaming is maintained by the denial of its true motivations and consequences – we must believe that what we are doing in life is necessary and productive, and nothing else.    The flaw in this process is seen in the phenomenon of victim formation as an accepted norm in modern society.   This is the direct outcome of the us-them orientation that is called for in ego logic – there must be an “us” – a set of good, deserving people – opposed by a “them” – another set (or sets) of evil, scurrilous people that have no redeeming traits – to satisfy the egos inherent nature as a difference engine, always comparing conditions to each other.   On the inter-social level the “others” (them) are often criminals, or minorities, or the underprivileged or social misfits.   On the extra-social level, the “others” are enemy countries, foreign cultures with strange norms, and identifiable foreign political movements that we find threatening or inconvenient or obstructive.    But we must have them to justify our games and tactics; otherwise, we must recognize that we are all each other’s brethren under God involved in the common struggle of existence.   We must have victims to justify our games, and above all to draw the ego’s attention away from the realization of its non-existence that it so fears.   All game playing involves the identification and segregation of some victim or class of victims as an integral portion of its operation.   

            Once this element of “them” has been established, the gaming process can move forward to the manipulative actions needed to secure the subconscious and surface level results sought for, but always at the victim’s expense.    Berne identified a virtual thesaurus of social games, and social psychologists continue to add more annually as new variants are discovered.    As has been previously noted, the subconscious payoffs for games are often quite primitive, involving the gratification of many infantile desires that may have existed previous to the formation of the personality itself – the need to suckle, the need to eliminate, the need to investigate, the need for rest and security.   If any of these is not handled appropriately by the adults present in the infant’s environment, gaming in later life will be the result.   The surface payoffs are frequently more obvious, but not necessarily more honest – material rewards of many kinds, prestige, status, social recognition, personal security, and vindication.  The primary factor that must be evaluated here is the cost to the victim(s) in the game, and its relative level of propriety.   If a consequence, or set of consequences, is devastating to the victim’s life or life-chances or opportunities, the existence of a social game in progress is very probable.  

            Given the dominance of the first three Chakras in the human consciousness of the lower mind, it is unlikely that social gaming will ever be replaced by the awareness of higher mind, total mind, and Enlightenment.   This does not, however, imply that those of us who have made significant inroads in the area of higher mind and attendant spiritual development should remain unaware of the social threat posed by the predominant game orientation of the world macroculture.    On the contrary, the implication here is that all of us need to study this manipulative process in some detail, and be aware of the vibrational indications present when we are being subjected to social gaming.    The consciousness of lower mind is not invariably dull – it demonstrates (at least in the case of some people) a level of what might be referred to as “animal cunning”, accompanied by a certain suspicious attitude toward anything or anyone visibly different, or perhaps simply visibly less conformist.   I have learned through bitter personal experience to offer my availability to other’s wishing to know of my perceptions very carefully, and in measured doses as well.   Our condition as physical organism is still in its evolutionary infancy, and, as an admittedly paranoid Christian friend of mine once said “They’re always looking for someone to Crucify!”    Such is the misery of lower mind, the only mind that many of us know, if we even know that.   

            The thesaurus of social games is far too extensive to list here – I would refer the reader to any number of publications treating this subject, including the aforementioned Games People Play.   However, a couple of examples of the subconscious and surface dynamics of sample games would probably be helpful for the reader’s comprehension.   For this purpose, I will select the games “Let’s You and Him Fight” and “The Mommy” from Games People Play, two fairly simple examples.  

            In “Lets You and Him Fight” there are generally at least three “players” – a heterosexual female associated with a second player as an established primary partner (a heterosexual male) and a third heterosexual male as a victim, although the primary male may also be a victim.  The motive on the part of the female is the desire for control over men as a means of garnering their attention (quite possibly subconscious, although not necessarily so), stemming from her unsatisfactory relationship with her customarily emotionally distant, unavailable father.   In severe cases, the father may also have been a physical or sexual abuser.   The female’s pressing inner psychological need for attention, recognition, and acceptance by her father takes the adult form of soliciting additional male attention beyond the primary male relationship in her life – specifically, love affairs with other men.   The additional factor of resentment for the remote father, coupled with a desire for revenge against men in general, tends to create social situations in which the two males encounter each other.    The female may also confront the primary male partner with the affair eventually.    If she then chooses to solicit the optional male to intervene with the primary male, the stage is set for the game, and a violent episode or episodes between all three is very probable, ending up in the ER, the courtroom, or the morgue (in the worst case).   The males both also have their meshing game orientations with the female in terms of their relationships with manipulative, unavailable mothers.   In an interesting variant, the female may have also arranged with a third male to exit the scene while the first two males fight it out, but this will only result in the third male becoming the new primary male when the game begins again, as it inevitably will in the absence of genuine therapy.  

            In “The Mommy”, a related dynamic to “Lets You and Him Fight” exists, in that the protagonist is again a female with unresolved issues regarding the unavailability of her father.   The mother was possibly also unavailable as well, resulting in all-around deficiency in parenting, and a very poor self image and low self esteem for the adult female.   When this female succeeds in becoming pregnant, in or out of wedlock, and delivers her child, the stage is set for “The Mommy” to begin, as seen in the suffocating overprotection of the unfortunate child – the primary victim.   Overprotection is a very harmful posture in child rearing, leaving the adult victim totally unprepared for coping with a world that is utterly unprepared to grant him or her their wishes as did the female mother.    The subconscious dynamic of this game is the wish on the part of the mother for parental recognition and acceptance, expressed in adulthood as overprotection of the dependent child.    This is a very common social game around the world today, producing legions of spoiled, neglected, overprotected adults that are unable in many cases to even establish any kind of successful, stable relationships anywhere.  Alcoholism and substance abuse are common problems with these people, as is compulsive underachievement and low self esteem.  

            There is a well known structure in therapy called the Victim/Persecutor/Rescuer triangle that describes an important aspect present in both of these two game examples.   In the case of “Lets You and Him Fight”, the supposed victim is the female, the persecutor the primary male, and the rescuer the optional male.   However, as the rescuer acts against the persecutor on behalf of the victim, he becomes the new persecutor of the primary male, who subsequently becomes the new victim, and (amazingly) the female then has no choice but to assume the role of the rescuer of the primary male from the optional male.   The potential exists for the roles to revolve around the triangle indefinitely until one participant decides to do something authentic to break the cycle – then the whole game falls apart as the participants begin to realize what was happening all along.   In the case of “The Mommy”, the initial victim is the child, the persecutor is the mother, and the rescuer is any third party that intervenes for some reason, at which point the triangle is established, and the role transition can begin.  The Truth of Consciousness in these cases is that the only authentic human role is identification with the Self as the One Reality, transcending all social roles through active compassion.   In this sense, the entire human social process is suspect as social gaming of one extent or another, with the possible exception of those processes directed toward Self Realization, and even these are questionable without therapeutic grounding and insight.  

            The honing of the intuitive capability is one of the best defenses against malicious social game playing.    Intuitive messages come directly from the superconscious mind – i.e. the higher mind – and tend to be very reliable indicators of the presence, operation, and extent of lower mental activities around us.   These lower mental activities are also sometimes revealed by indirect evidence: sudden changes of friend or coworker social response patterns in negative directions, the arrival of suspicious email or correspondence, upticks in unpleasant interactions with others for no apparent reason – all announce the advent of possible social gaming with you as the intended victim.  The question remains to be considered regarding what is the best course of response once the probable presence of a game in progress has been intuitively sensed.  

            This is a sticky matter indeed, particularly during such stressful socioeconomic times as these.   My personal tendency is to do as little as possible and wait the situation out until some overt action takes place from one of the supposed game participants.   At this point, an appropriate response may be possible, terminating or at least delaying the game, but this is not guaranteed – the latent anger, resentment, and frustration of the human condition always tend to drive social gaming forward unless the underlying dynamic of Fear has been genuinely replaced with Selfless Love and unconditional positive regard for the welfare of the individual and society.  

            It can be argued that the very fabric of local and international culture upon which we must all rely for our survival (such as it is), depends upon and requires the intricate social role structure that is one side of the same coin having social game playing as the other – and that the two processes are functionally inseparable, an argument that I tend to accept as a valid one.   Under this consideration, our human existence still comes down to the same condition of Balance that must be maintained between the priorities of higher and lower mind in the total mind of the individual and the race – the Psyche.   Perhaps the ultimate key to this Balance, and hopefully shifting it consistently to the preponderance of the higher mind, lies with education in the Truth of Consciousness – that we are all each others brothers and sisters in higher perception and manifestation, regardless of how separated we may seem to be in the lower expressions of the body, physical senses, and ego.    The essence of education is the open sharing of personal, individual truth through social discourse, validating the best elements of all the Chakras in support of spiritual growth and Enlightenment.   


                                                                                     - With Love, Alan -

                                                                    (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)


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