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Why do we play games?
• Our family is the source of much of who we become as
• Much of what we learn in our families is good and
wholesome and creates an important foundation for how
we will form lasting relationships with other people in our
• Unfortunately our families may also be the genesis of
patterns that may not be productive or helpful in our later
• As adult children we often play a kind of ‘game’ with our
parents and our siblings – the origins of these ‘games’ are
often patterns we began in our childhood that we extend
into our adulthood.
Common Family Games
Try as we might it is easy to get 'caught up' in habitual
and non-constructive communication patterns in our
families. Four very common family games are listed
below and explained in the next slides. As you go
through them, think to yourselves whether these are
happening in your family.
We will show
We will give
Here we go
Stereotyping has a lot to do with the ‘roles’ we played in
our families when we were growing up. Examples of
these roles might include
• Good Girl/Bad Girl, Good Boy/Bad Boy
• Perfect Child
• Spoiled Brat
Often these ‘roles’ will ‘stick’ so that when events occur
when we are adults we are perceived through the ‘lens’
of this stereotype by our family.
[John, the eldest sibling] Stacy, I can't even talk to
you sometimes. You are such a crybaby.
[Stacy, the youngest sibling] I don't know what you
mean... When was the last time you saw me cry?
Triangulation happens when two people experience a
conflict with one another, but instead of speaking
directly to one another about this conflict, they include
another party (or parties) in their communication, to
avoid communicating directly with one another –
therefore creating a ‘triangle’ of their communication.
[Dad/Jim] Joan, this business decision is none of your business. I appreciate your interest but leave the
business to me.
[Mom/Joan] I think we should collaborate more on decisions that could impact the family Jim.
[Dad] I don't have time for this -- I am going to work.
[Dad] David, can you believe your Mother?
[Son/David] What are you talking about?
[Dad] She thinks that you and I can't run the company and wants to try and do things her way. She
thinks she could do a better job.
[Son] Yeah, she’s always been a control freak. She just needs to keep to her own affairs.
Meanwhile…Mom calls her daughter on her way to the office
[Mom] Hi Susie, I am just so upset. You should have heard your Father and David at breakfast this
morning. The way they talked to me. I just don’t know how much more of this I can take!
Scapegoating often begins as stereotyping but it goes a
step further in that we find ourselves blaming someone
over and over again for circumstances that may or may
not have been caused or even related to them, because
of how they were once viewed in the family.
[Debbie] If only John knew how to behave, how to
stop screwing everything up, the family would be
[Stacy] Exactly, anytime we have game night and he
shows up, things go downhill fast
Rather than speaking directly or conflicting directly with
another person, a game ensues where a third party is
invited into a conversation real-time, that probably
should have stayed a direct conversation between two
When that happens people often assume the roles of
‘rescuer’, ‘persecutor’ and ‘victim’.
Rescuers - See themselves as helping or caretakers but may often come from a
viewpoint of pity and disrespect
Persecutors - Love the idea of controlling people, are often blaming others for
failing and may have disproportionate reactions
Victims - Are easily manipulated, but can also actively manipulate others by taking
on a ‘needy’ position
Interestingly, when you look closely ALL of the roles within the triangle are taking a
victim stance because they are refusing to take responsibility and are instead
persecuting, rescuing or being a victim….
Drama Triangle Example
[Boss] Every time I come into your office, you never have your projects ready
[John] You always come before the deadline (Victim). Doesn't he, Susan?
(Positions Susan to become a rescuer)
[Susan] You are rather hard on him (Rescuer)
[Boss] Am I now? Where is your presentation (Persecutor)
[Susan] You came in here to talk to John. He is the problem! (Persecutor)
[Boss] I know, I know, this isn't about you guys it's about this merger. I just wish I
had some help (Victim)
How to not play ‘games’?
Realize that you are not your past, and your family members are not
Stay in your adult self i.e. resist being a Persecutor, Victim or Rescuer
Be neutrally curious – wonder why someone is behaving a certain way
instead of judging them or reacting to what they are doing or saying
Directly address wounds or conflicts – it may seem scary but it is the
best way to make progress
Do not involve other people in your issues with another person and try
not to involve yourself in other people’s issues
tips, or ineffective
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