Gorilla, You’re a Desperado

“Then the ape grew very depressed,

Went through Transactional Analysis,

He plays racquetball and runs in the rain,

Still, he’s shackled to a platinum chain…”

~ Warren Zevon, “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado”

It seems that, in a search for their place and role in the world, the progressive left seems to be stuck in the middle of some weird form of transactional analysis.

Eric Berne, in his 1964 book “Games People Play”, introduced Transactional Analysis as sort of a Freudian philosophical construct, except with observable data – the social transactions we have with others every day.

In his book, Berne posits there are four “life positions” that a person can hold. He believed that holding a particular psychological position has profound implications for how any individual lives their life. The positions are stated in his book are:

  • I’m OK and you are OK. This is the healthiest position about life, and it means that I feel good about myself and that I feel good about others and their competence.
  • I’m OK and you are not OK. In this position I feel good about myself, but I see others as damaged or less than and it is usually not healthy.
  • I’m not OK and you are OK. In this position the person sees him/herself as the weak partner in relationships as the others in life are definitely better than the self. The person who holds this position will unconsciously accept abuse as OK.
  • I’m not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that I believe that I am in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently, there is no hope for any ultimate supports.

Based on the arguments we hear from the left and their media allies, two “life positions” are out. We never see the first (I’m OK and you are OK.) or the last (I’m not OK and you are not OK ) – because they will never admit that you are OK or that they are not OK. It seems to me that they are stuck between the second (I’m OK and you are not OK.) and the third (I’m not OK and you are OK.) because they think something is terribly wrong with you – you are most definitely NOT OK – but what they really fear in the dusty recesses of their minds is that it is really them that’s not OK.

Transactional analysis was conceived, not only as a tool to understand a person’s life position, it is also helpful to discover when people are playing psychological games with you. Psychological games consist of “hidden transactions”, and to understand how these games are played, you need to understand a concept called the “Drama Triangle”.

The Drama Triangle consists of three types of roles – the victim (feels power less, helpless and hopeless and want to be treated with white gloves), the rescuer (Dudley Do-Right, “Here I am to save the day!” – just want to make everyone feel better) and the persecutor (blame the victim, “It’s all your fault!”).

Like every game, these psychological games have rules:

  1. Attractive offer, disguising the trap (game invitation or laying out the bait)
  2. Interest in the game by from other person (acceptance of the bait/hook)
  3. Harmless reaction and exchange of courtesies
  4. Switch of roles of the inviting party
  5. Surprise by the invited person
  6. Payoff for both (negative)

Let us say you have a friend who writes a letter to the editor and he approaches you (from a certain victim perspective) and asks you to read it before he sends it in. You just got attention from your friend and may even feel flattered that he asked you to take a look. Since this makes you feel good, this qualifies as an “attractive offer”. At the same time, he expresses a negative view of his work (perhaps self-deprecating) and tells you it may need some editing. He just installed the trap. You assume that because he spoke tentatively about his writing, he just invited you to also find mistakes since he never mentioned what he thought was good, he is concealing from you that he would also like you to give positive feedback.

Not wanting to be a bad friend, you take on the position of “rescuer” by not commenting on his negative comments about his work and maybe even say something like “I’m sure it is going to be great!” before even reading it. Now, the game is afoot.

You read it and because he asked, you criticized a lot. You felt good about this because this is what he asked you to do and he got the feedback for which he asked. The interaction (a social transaction) produces an intense exchange of attention – a basic psychological need of people.

But after a while, your friend thinks you are offering too much criticism. His annoyance increases until he decides he has had enough and gets angry. Suddenly, he switches from the role of the grateful victim to the role of the persecutor and starts to display annoyance with you.

You are shocked and visibly surprised by his switched mood because, in your mind, you are only doing what he asked you to do.

The payoff from this psychological game is that both parties wind up feeling bad about the interaction. The negative outcome is that the relationship, while beginning innocently, has been damaged.

If you see similarities in your personal exchanges with progressives (or with the left-leaning media), you are not far wrong.

William F. Buckley was ahead of the times when he unintentionally described these psychological games in his 1959 book, “Up From Liberalism” by stating: “Though liberals do a great deal of talking about hearing other points of view, it sometimes shocks them to learn that there are other points of view.”

Talk Amongst Yourselves:

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