Peak Performance Strategies

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Emotional Games People Play

Overview: Emotions as Frames-of-reference: emotions as standard/test in interpersonal relationships; emotions as outcomes; emotions as rules. The durability of people games. Dragons slaying and dragon taming in relationships.

What is Hell?
Hell is oneself,
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections.

TS Eliot: Cocktail Party act 1, sc. 3.

Hell is other people - J-P Sartre: Huis Clos sc. 5

I hate victims who respect their executioners - J-P Sartre

John Updike says, “Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day we wake up slightly altered, and the person we where yesterday is dead (Self-consciousness, chp.6)"

But, the games we play with each other can endure for years without changing one little bit. We don’t have to play the games the same way, or even play the same games, why do we persist?

Games are...
the set of actions and interactions that make up our lives. Games have rules, pay-offs, conditions for playing, contextual cues for signaling when to play and when to stop, clear definitions for who is to play and the roles they may have.

External Games:
Behaviors, actions, activities, gestures, relationships, etc.
Cultural roles, rituals, ceremonies, etc.
Internal Games:
Mental behavior: thinking, valuing, imaging, etc.
Emotional behavior: feelings, emotions, valuing, appreciating, etc.
We cannot not play games. Every state, behavior, skill, etc. plays out some game. And since we are always in some state, we are forever playing out some Frame. It’s just a matter of, “What frame game are you playing now?”. “What frame games have you been playing?”.
The ideas, concepts, beliefs, understandings, decisions, models, paradigms, assumptions, terms, suggestions, purpose, notions, values, expectations, desires, hopes, theories, etc. that set up the Games.
Every mental structure involving words, symbols, conceptual models, etc. establishes a frame as in frame-of-reference which then leads to various levels of our “Frames of Mind.” “Frames greatly influence the way that specific experiences and events are interpreted and responded to because of how they serve to punctuate those experiences and direct attention. (Dilts, 1999, p. 22)”

Emotional Games are...
the range of games that people play where emotions become/are the frame-of-reference. For simplicity sake it seems that these kind of games can be understood as:

games where my emotions reflect my judgement, and

games where I am being judged by others and I judge that judgement.

In certain cultures the original of games has an immediate negative connotation. In my culture (white, South African) the word game is associated with something you on play on a board with children (monopoly, snakes and ladders, etc) or that kids do exclusively. I suspect because the word “game” carries cultural baggage, as well as historical baggage (from the Transactional Analysis days where you had to be real weird and in your head to play a “good” game) it is difficult to immediate think how wonderful wonderful games are. Examples of the wonder of wonderful games (in case you think the previous double was a spelling mistake) are when you and your spouse play “seduction”, or “let me count the ways I love thee” (pardon mz. Browning), or “let me understand before I ask to be understood”, or “let me be strong for you even as I shake in my shoes”, “let me love you tender”, etc. Or friendship games: “let’s dance rapport”, “even if we are the only two who understand”, “loyalty”, “respect”, etc. Or teacher games: “let me wash your feet”, “I undertake to be there first”, “let’s dance with the difference”, etc. Or “self-appreciation” games, or “love my enemy” games, or “Christian” games or “value” games, etc.
A gut-feel tells me that the “good” games (ecologically sound and without dragon-layering ) would have as one common denominator games where my emotions reflect my judgement. But, can you see the trap? Games where I judge the judgement of others about me can be equally constructive! For example, when I play the “respond to criticism” (Steve and Connirae Andreas’ version in their “Heart of the Mind”) I can start a game where not only can I learn, but the criticizer can learn as well. What about “a stranger is just a friend you do not know” (a Jim Reeves song) game?

Emotions as Standards for Games
To the extend that people in games have strong emotional preferences their emotions will inevitable be their standard or K-test fo whether things are going the way it should. Good feelings reflect the judgement that whatever the person is experiencing in this relationship is meeting with their standards. Their feelings can also act as an early warning system for when things are going wrong, or are wrong. Because of the unintelligence of emotions they need to backtrack, to fill in what the emotions are pointing to, but they have a starting point.
If the experience of the emotions becomes the only standard for what is good or bad in a game, then the person is looking for trouble. Remember the well-formed condition of a strategy? That good strategies includes all the modalities in the representation? And, if you denominalized “resourcefulness” you get multi-modal, whereas stuckness is two-point loops, or single modality awareness? Depending on your state, the intensity of that state, and your ability to access alternative states, a bad state can lead to a definition in your mind which might be out of sync with the actual game being played. For example, in the brilliant “Difficult Conversations” the authors demonstrate how one’s negative experience of another person leads to an immediate attribution of a negative intent by the other person. This means that one’s response is then based on this attribution, rather than to the person (talking of the map not the territory!). Then you have to fall back on the other modalities, like some enquiring internal dialogue, or go external by looking and asking, and paying attention to the information you are getting. It goes without saying: to fall back on the other modalities is made possible by being in an appropriate state to do this information gathering.

"But what if I should discover that the enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy that must be loved - what then?" (CG Jung)

Emotions as Outcomes for Games
"He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody" - Joseph Heller, Catch-22, chp.3

Games people play have pay-offs which is why people play in the first place, even if some of the pay-offs are not useful. When the pay-off becomes an emotion or an experience, then it determines the rules by which the game is played, as well as the recognition of when to stop. Typically the initiator of the game play to get a positive emotion of a certain intensity. The range of the do’s and don’ts are determined by the outcome emotion: if it does not contribute to the emotion, then it is not permissible. If the outcome is about a negative emotion of a certain intensity, it will obviously change the rules and the actions which defines the game, and stops when the outcome emotion is achieved.
This kind of game where emotions are the outcome, refers to the proverbial “it takes two to tango”. In playing these games the initiator of the game is stating by implication that the outcome emotion is not dependent on, or even residing in, themselves. They need another to play the game with them, otherwise the outcome emotion cannot be achieved. The range of emotional games I have noticed people play are feeling worthwhile, loved, significant, valued, appreciated, respected, etc. Yes, you have spotted it: all of these games are “external-referencing” games, but the frame-of-reference or authority sort applied is false-to-fact. Since the source of these emotions are being placed outside of themselves, the game has to be played continuously, and as regular, as the person needs their emotional fix.
The psycho-logics of one’s emotions become apparent when you notice the games people play with reference to them. Imagine if you were from mars and you had to listen to how creating anger in, and possibly rejection by, another person is evidence of being liked and appreciated? Or that children, and even their older counterparts called adults, would have aan indiscriminate need for attention: they will take it anyway they get it, even in the form of punishment! This kind of “emotional or experiential logic” or psycho-logic, does not follow the linear kind of thinking which allows one to build a bridge.

Emotions as Rules for Games
There is lot to say about how emotions form the rules within which people play emotional games, but for brevity sake I will only refer to one aspect, namely, whose emotions. I came across this distinction in my LAB-profile training with Shelle Rose Charvet, and to my surprise I started to hear it in working with emotional games people play. Charvet refers to working rules, and makes 4 distinction around the question “What are the rules that people apply to themselves and others?”. Applied to emotional games the same question would apply, with the variation of “whose emotions?”. Closely related to outcomes, the question is whose emotions is the person concerned with? How they should feel if the interaction went well, or how the other person should feel if the interaction went well? The stuckness and repetition of emotional games happen when there is only one or few answers. When then answers starts to become a universal quantifier: always me; always them; etc. then person is setting themselves up for non-constructive game playing.

Dragons in Emotional Games
The essential characteristic in calling an emotion a “dragon state” is a negative judgement about an emotional experience leading to an unresourceful state. For example, being angry about your anger, ashamed about your sensitivity, guilty about your guilt, fearful of your concern, afraid of being afraid, etc. leading to stress, apprehension, timidity, pessimism, fretfulness, etc. Dragon states not only create a kind of “anticipatory anxiety” which motivate the game player to avoid those games with games of their own, but seem to deprive people of the awareness that they have the choice not to play. One reason why people seem to give up their choice of refusal is that they are busy creating and feeding the dragon. They are so busy doing the dragon, i.e. making negative judgements and “feeding” these judgements with internal dialogue and matching memories, etc. that they plumb forget to go meta- and ask the next question! Once you allow the dragon any kind of “realness” more than it being a mere judgement, the dragon is real and you play it’s mind-games plus games for controlling it, avoiding, disproving it, and any other which might help not having it. The choice of taming it if it has contextual usefulness, or slaying it to replace it with a prince/princess, seems to not occur to people when they are doing dragons.

Emotional games are those game where the language of emotions are the main symbols and language of interchange. Emotions as the outcome determine the nature of the pay-off and the nature of the game. Dragon states locks people into games of their own tormenting.

I am always with myself, and it is I who am my the tormentor
- Leo Tolstoy: Memoirs of a Madman.