A man with white hair and plaid shirt standing in front of brick wall.

Eric Berne, MD in the 1960s invented a new way to understand and communicate about complex psychological and social issues that he called transactional analysis, using ordinary words that anyone can use that make it easier for anyone to see what is really going on in human states of affairs. This article focuses primarily on the pervasive and pernicious playing of psychological Games in political states of affairs.

The I’m OK—You’re OK life position is one of four life positions for individuals; the other three are I’m OK—You’re Not OK, You’re OK—I’m Not OK, and You’re Not OK—I’m Not OK.

National governments since time immemorial have had a life position of We’re OK, our cronies, vassals, lackeys, and knaves are OK, but all other nations are Not OK, and we are going to make them pay. How to change this life position to We’re OK—You’re OK is what Earthian humans need to work on most if they intend to indefinitely survive as a species aboard Spaceship Earth.

This article explains a recurring Earthian human global process that has produced authoritarian rescuer leaders capable of murdering millions of humans to destroy social, economic, political, and religious systems perceived to have been caused by persecutor groups that would cause perceived victim groups to live in one-down intolerable life positions, a process that has become increasingly lethal with repeat iterations in Earthian human history, having become capable of destroying human life on Earth in the next iteration of world war, caused by the evolution and proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of unhinged authoritarian human leaders of nations.    

Politics is almost the antithesis of We’re OK—You’re OK. While politics gets some useful and necessary work done, most of the time structuring of politics is spent playing entropic and sometimes hamartic psychological Games.

Psychological Games spelled with a capital G are different from games such as football, basketball, bridge, and chess that are spelled with a lower-case g. Psychological Games are inherently dishonest and games are not. Lower-case g games have clear rules that are spelled out for everyone that are enforced by referees and players every time an infraction occurs. Psychological Games don’t have any rules. It’s basically a matter of making up your own rules as you go along, if you can get away with it.

When politicians promise to lower poverty rates by creating infrastructure spending and creating programs to fight poverty and the poor stay poor the Game is called  I’M ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU.

When USian government tax and funny money and military equipment are given to allies to fight wars to maintain or increase USian international hegemony and USians become even more insecure the Game is called LET’S YOU AND THEM FIGHT.

When politicians promise to lower taxes so middle and lower income USians can become more productive and earn higher real incomes and their disposable incomes stay the same or go down the Game is called BUSINESS AS USUAL.

When politicians significantly lower the income tax rates of the elite rich and large corporations and the rich get exponentially richer as the poor get poorer or stay the same the Game is called TRICKLE DOWN ECONOMICS.

When politicians spend more and more money on the Military-Industrial Complex and the US becomes less secure and more impoverished the psychological Game is called NATIONAL SECURITY.

When politicians promise to build an elaborate wall at the southern border of the US and enact draconian policies to keep the poor of Spaceship Earth out of the US the Game is called IMMIGRATION POLICY.

When governments and their central banks decide to create funny money by punching digits into central bank computers and calling the resulting numbers money and then using the funny money to buy enough government treasury bonds, bills, and notes to generate enough cash for the government to make up the difference between tax money taken in and military and pork and non-pork expenses money paid out, year after year, inexorably piling up more and more trillions of dollars of government debt, that can never be paid back, the Game is called FINANCIAL ENGINEERING.

When corrupt USian Supreme Court judges based on their political biases and prejudices rule in favor of idiosyncratic USian groups lobbying for laws to eliminate abortions and reduce the control of women over their own bodies and deny the right of LGTBQ USians to express themselves as they were naturally caused to sexually function the Game is called RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

When large corporations move the erstwhile good industrial jobs of the US to low-wage countries and substitute more and more robots and artificial intelligence for human labor inside the US and more and more USians are left with insecure low-wage jobs the Game is called PROGRESS.

When mainstream media selectively publish and broadcast factual political news but omit analysis of what is really going on the Game is called FAIR AND BALANCED REPORTING.

When the most prominent politician on the Earthian political stage running for president of the US November 5, 2024 tells you over and over in mass media that his last presidential race in 2020 that he lost fair and square was rigged and stolen from him despite overwhelming irrefutable evidence to the contrary the Game is called THE BIG LIE.

When Earthian humans decide they cannot get their needs met in their societies competing fairly and squarely under their rules of law and start believing and having faith that fascist dictators will take care of them through violent unlawful means the Game is called DO ME SOMETHING. 

When corrupt bought and paid for USian Supreme Court judges decide based on their idiosyncratic biases and prejudices that a USian president is above the law of the land, immune from prosecution for violating laws of the US, having the power of kings, the Game is called FASCISM.  

Psychological Games have always been a major component of Earthian economic and political behavior, and a Game transactional analysts call NIGYSOB has been one of the most significant and pervasive psychological Games in business, economics, and politics.

NIGYSOB (Now I’ve Got You, You S.O.B.) entails psychological Game players trying to reign supreme over others, to triumph over others, to become “one-up”, to be superior, to beat, to win, etc. any way they can. NIGYSOB players are motivated by anger that they feel justified in releasing because of perceived social and psychological actions and manipulations on the part of Persecutors that might cause them to become loser Victims, causing them to feel their psychological, social, economic, and political standing and security are threatened.

Eric Berne defined a psychological Game as: “An ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions progressing to a well-defined, predictable outcome. Descriptively, it is a recurring set of transactions, often repetitious, superficially plausible, with a concealed motivation; or, more colloquially, a series of moves with a snare, or “gimmick.” Games are clearly differentiated from procedures, rituals, and pastimes by two chief characteristics: (1) their ulterior quality and (2) the payoff. Procedures may be successful, rituals effective, and sometimes profitable, but all of them are by definition candid; they may involve contest, but not conflict, and the ending may be sensational, but is not dramatic. Every Game (emphasis added), on the other hand, is basically dishonest, and the outcome has a dramatic, as distinct from merely exciting quality.”  See Berne, Eric. (1964). Games people play: The psychology of human relationships. New York: Grove Press, p. 48.

Psychological Games include two sets of transactions conducted simultaneously between Game players, a spoken overt social set, and an ulterior covert unspoken psychological set, with three basic roles, Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim acted out by the players, involving three basic ego states, Parent, Adult, and Child, with switches of transactional vectors between various combinations of the Ego States in all players, as the players switch around from Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim on a “Drama Triangle.” See Karpman, Stephen (1968). “Fairy tales and script drama analysis.” Transactional Analysis Bulletin. 7(26), 39-43.

Ego states are states of being including thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, feelings, gestures, body language, and other signals determining how people come across with others in communication episodes, whether parent-like, adult-like, or child-like, in all kinds of situations.  People switch ego states depending on who they are communicating with and what sort of circumstances they are in, whether they are parenting, working, socializing, teaching, having fun, playing Games, politicking, or whatever.  They transmit messages from three ego states in themselves to three ego states in others in pair vectors, Parent-Parent, Adult-Adult, Child-Child, Parent-Child, Child-Adult, Adult-Parent, Child-Parent, or whatever combination.  These transactions are especially meaningful in situations in which there is some sort of authoritarian system involving leaders and members, such as parents parenting children in homes, teachers teaching students in schools, or bosses bossing subordinates in a business or political organization, which normally entail primarily Parent-Child transactions. In general however the more Adult-Adult transactions there are the better things go in families, schools, businesses, and political organizations. See Berne, Eric (1970). What do you say after you say hello? The psychology of human destiny. New York: Grove Press, and Berne, Eric (1963). The structure and dynamics of organizations and groups. New York: Grove Press.

Adult ego state transactions are generally factual, honest, and overt; Parent and Child ego state transactions are often covert dishonest ulterior lies, transmitted by body language instead of words.

Donald Trump, the most prominent, pernicious, and dangerous Game-player on the Earthian political stage at present, is a master at using body language to switch ego states in his monologues, harangues, and diatribes at rallies and in personal conversations. He has a tall imposing 6’3″ body frame and a commanding persona that is enhanced with orange facial coloring and a bizarre hair-do. Most of the time his words do not make sense but his body language is clear: he is not only OK but superior and his loyal cronies, lackeys, and knaves are too. He is adept at switching ego states and transactions by changing his posture and gait as he struts and swaggers about, by flailing his arms and small fingers about, randomly producing smirks, smiles, grins, grimaces, glares, stares and bodily contortions, and by changing the speed, volume, pitch, cadence, and tone of his sing-songy voice, that ranges from guttural to prissy falsetto. He is somewhat analogous to a made-up circus clown and ring-master as he titillates, entertains, agitates, and cultivates his captivated enthralled cult members at rallies. If he didn’t put on his make-up and fix his hair as he does he would look like what he really is, a pasty pale balding almost octogenarian Earthian human male, and most likely he could not get elected to anything. Trump’s a master of pantomime and playing Games. But don’t be fooled. Trump’s not a circus clown; he’s a dangerous hardened criminal who intends to turn the US into a fascist dictatorship if he gets elected president of the US again. Do you really want to live day by day subject to the whims of a fascist crime boss dictator who can do you harm at any time? Think about that when you vote for Trump for president of the US November 5, 2024, if you do.

NIGYSOB Game-playing underlies conflicts, competitions, and wars among individuals, groups, and organizations, including nations and corporations domestically and internationally. You might think nations and international corporations competing among themselves do not entail real anger, but it seems to me anger is a major factor when serious fighting breaks out. Leaders try to engender fear and anger among their followers before the first outbursts of fighting to motivate followers. You might think a war is not an ego trip for leaders. You might think leaders are simply doing their perceived ethical duty to preserve the safety and security of their followers and constituents. But the unspoken psychological truth is another matter. Wars are also ego trips, with leaders trying to triumph over other leaders, wanting to become one-up top dogs.

You can build a case competitions among political parties in presidential elections more than anything else are NIGYSOB Games, with leaders saying they want to improve the plight of Victim citizens, increase their relative share of national and international income, provide them with better and cheaper health care, and so forth; but here too the contest is probably an ego trip for leaders who are more interested in being top dog than anything else. Political contests become an ego trip for followers as well as the leaders foment fear and anger among them to beat the bad guy Persecutors and run them out of office. If their party wins followers may also feel “one-up” because their party ideology and their dear leader “won”, regardless of whether anything is done to improve economic and social conditions.

The capitalistic economic system is based on NIGYSOB-playing. It’s what makes the world go round. It makes everyone richer, the defenders of capitalism say, because it motivates people to work harder and longer and more efficiently than they would if they did not have to compete and do battle with others to make a living. 

I was a good football and basketball player back in my junior high, high school, and college years. I was the quarterback and I found it satisfying and exhilarating calling plays in the huddle, doing battle at the scrimmage line, and throwing touchdown passes in a real game before cheering fans in a football stadium, especially when winning, as was the case when I was in the eighth grade, when we won eleven out of eleven games. On the other hand, I don’t recall ever feeling anger caused by the opposing team trying to beat us as we tried to beat them. The main payoff for an amateur athlete is getting plenty of what transactional analysts call “strokes”, or units of recognition, that can be positive or negative, depending on how well you do something. Eric Berne said positive strokes are what everyone wants and needs. He said they keep your spinal column from “shriveling up”.

There are two kinds of scripts people have to act out in organizations, to keep their jobs or get promoted: psychological life scripts and organizational social scripts.

Psychological Life Scripts are programmed into children by virtue of being constantly exposed to and dependent on their parents before the age of eight. Almost as if by osmosis parents psychologically script their children not to feel, think, and do certain things in various ways and degrees as various events happen in the environment, largely non-verbally by how parents respond to a child, by how they get mad, glad, sad, or scared, or not, when the child does something when various things happen. Psychological scripts are automatically “introjected” into the personalities of children during early childhood, and most children wind up pretty much like their parents, with the same accents, and the same kinds of feeling, thinking, doing, and communicating patterns.

There are also some generic overt social script messages such as brush your teeth, clean those finger nails, study hard, make something of yourself, work hard, etc. that are socially overt and spoken.

Psychological life script messages are called injunctions and social script messages are called counter-injunctions. These messages wind up creating a life script that includes a life position. There are four basic TA life positions: I am OK and You are OK, I am OK and you are Not OK, I’m Not OK and You are OK, and I am Not OK and You are Not OK; and there are three generic TA life script outcomes: Winner, Loser, and Non-Winner.

There is no way under competitive capitalism for all people to be fully OK economically and politically, making the I’m OK – You’re OK life position infeasible among all humans.

Most people are what they are because of family scripts, not economic conditions, and they can respond in adult life only in certain ways because of their introjected injunctions and life scripts. Some people are more flexible and adaptable than others, but most people in order to make a living and achieve some satisfaction in life have to find a slot, niche, and level in an organization in which their life script is congruent.

Social scripts, on the other hand, include the sum total of do’s and don’t’s required for a person to be successful dealing with others in a particular job or role. These scripts include the physical and mental algorithmic steps required to do the specific job you are paid to do and required words and phrases to say to others and how to emotionally and behaviorally respond to people around you, up, across, and down the organizational chain of command, including playing the psychological Games people around you want or need to play.

All organizations, including political organizations, require particular social scripts for participants with words and phrases that have to be memorized and used. Almost nobody can be her or his true self most of the time making a living in an organization. Most employees have to act out scripts created by the organization. Organizations such as Disney World are the most scripted of all. Employees there are called characters and are required to wear costumes and “go on stage” after they clock in for work, pretending while on the job to be characters such as Donald Duck or Mickey or Minnie Mouse dealing with customers, parroting memorized lines. While all employees in all organizations have to pretend to some extent they are something they are not to keep their jobs the scripting is not as overt and extreme as it is at Disney World.

Click here to see a Parent, Adult, and Child diagram I published in the TAJ depicting a script matrix with some typical social script messages in an organizational chain of command. See Stapleton, Richard John (1978). “The chain of ego states.” Transactional Analysis Journal. 8(3), 215-219.

USians who get into politics for a living are just like all other employees under capitalism: they have to act out the right scripts to keep their jobs.

Most people who get fired in organizations are fired because of their psychological life scripts that are thought to be inappropriate in an organizational culture, or for being unwilling or unable to act out social scripts, not for being unable to perform the required physical and mental algorithmic steps of the job.

There are certain things politicians have to do that might be called work in the physical algorithmic sense, but in the best of circumstances they are paid to think and make decisions, not do repetitive work. On the other hand, if they do not obey the script requirements of their political party they will be fired or sluiced out of the party organization one way or another. Therefore to get honest Game-free governments only individuals who have no intentions of being a politician for a living should be elected to office.

Psychological Games are a way of getting stimulation, recognition, and structure as one goes about one’s business of surviving and making a living. Basically they involve trying to gain satisfactions dealing with others, by making yourself feel better at someone’s else’s expense, or by making a fool of someone. Psychological Games entail people discounting problems, opportunities, and people, and the significance of someone or something. All psychological Games entail players acting out one of three roles on a Drama Triangle: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.

Why vote in the first place? The best Adult ego state reason in a democratic republic such as the US would be to take social satisfaction in helping select the best person for offices to help set rational goals, objectives, procedures, and laws for everyone. Lesser Parent and Child reasons would be to vote for people who will do things to benefit you and yours financially, and who will provide for you and yours satisfying psychological Game payoffs to secure psychological structure, recognition, and stimulation similar to what you experienced with your parents, friends, and others in your early life that support and reinforce the psychological, social, economic, religious, political, and moral states of affairs of organizations such as your family, school, or church.

Once psychologically scripted most people do not rebel. Red states stay red and blue states stay blue, regardless of the logical Adult ego state reasoning of idealistic generally-OK political candidates with script-free ideas on how to improve the functioning of the economic and political system.

I remember a TV interviewer in 2000 asking an attractive woman who ran a bar and grill why she intended to vote for Bush II. “Cuz he’s a good-lookin’ man” was her quick response.

There are several psychological Games people play in political races; but it seems to me based on observing presidential races on the Internet and elsewhere, listening to comments people make on my Facebook news feed timeline and elsewhere, most politicians play a first-degree psychological Game called RAPO by transactional analysts, since one of the surest ways to get votes in our narcissistic USian culture is to be considered good lookin’.

There are three degrees of psychological Games: First Degree Games entail comments, insults, discounts, jokes, and body language displays designed to build up or tear down someone’s self-esteem, or gain or lose some sort of psychological advantage; Second Degree Games entail more serious discounts and payoffs, threatening someone, firing someone, getting divorced, etc.; Third Degree Games are sometimes called tissue-tearing Games with payoffs such as getting into physical fights, going to war, winding up in a morgue, etc.

A RAPO Game starts by someone psychologically promising some sort of satisfaction to someone for responding to her or his sexual attractiveness. There are various social and psychological transactions that can bring this about, social transactions being spoken and overt, psychological transactions being unspoken and covert. The payoff for a first degree RAPO player is not a real sexual liaison but making a fool of a mark or sucker who will be punished or humiliated in some way if he or she responds to the psychological sexual messages. Most psychological Games do not entail sexual messaging but a lot of them do. All psychological Games involve a con of some degree taking advantage of the vulnerabilities and weaknesses of a mark or suckers, promising things the Game starter has no intentions of delivering. Most of the promises of first-degree Games are insignificant and inconsequential. First degree Games are ubiquitous and most people play them at various times. Sometimes they have to to survive in organizations.

Psychological Games and scripts are what make folk tales and fairy tales (such as Robin Hood, the Pied Piper, Superman, The Lone Ranger, Snow White, Goldilocks, Cinderella, Jack & Jill, Humpty-Dumpty, Hansel and Gretel, The Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood) interesting and dramatic.

Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Bush II, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden won political races to some extent caused by successfully playing first degree RAPO Games, caused by having physical and psychological characteristics that enabled them to transmit non-verbal psychological messages to voters that they would deliver to them titillating psychological and social satisfactions if they voted for them, somehow providing supporters, followers, and voters with various sorts of desired or fantasied psychological stimulation, structure, and recognition. Whether these politicians produced for their voters the psychological satisfactions the voters sought would be difficult to prove, just as it would be for these voters (for sure middle and lower income voters) to prove voting for these politicians produced any economic improvements for them. Any president during the last fifty years would have a difficult time proving he produced significant tangible economic benefits for middle and lower income voters, regardless of how much psychological and social satisfaction he produced for them.

And here we are, having degenerated in the US into a situation in which a convicted rapist, Donald John Trump, a former president of the US, is now running for USian president again, and it appears about half of USian voters intend to vote for him again. What does this tell you? I don’t know what it tells you but it tells me that about half of USian voters just don’t care if the president of the US is a rapist. And why is this? Why don’t they care? I don’t know, but it seems to me it does not matter to them because of what Trump has told them about he would do as president if reelected. He wants to be a fascist dictator of the US, and it seems to me this means about half of USian voters like authoritarian dictators, whether in disguise as parents, teachers, preachers, business bosses, or politicians. In other words, they like dictators who tell them what to do, rather than participate in democratic discussions about what to do.

Seems to me Earthian humans are polarized intellectually between two general extreme categories that might be described as democratic idealists and authoritarian nihilists, with most humans being clustered near the middle of the continuum.

Democratic idealists are not necessarily members of the Democratic Party in the US; and all authoritarian nihilists are not necessarily members of the Republican Party.

A democratic idealist in my view is someone who visualizes new states of affairs that might make an unsatisfying current situation more efficient, effective, just, and satisfying through consultation, collaboration, and cooperation.

Authoritarian nihilists in my view are dissatisfied with states of affairs as they are but do not visualize changing them by creating new states of affairs, believing instead that what is needed is authoritarian dictators in positions of authority who will make existing or superseded systems and processes work for them by out-competing competitors or destroying scapegoats and enemies.

Most so-called liberals and progressives would be included in the democratic idealist category and most so-called conservatives would be included in the authoritarian nihilist category.

An extreme democratic idealist would focus primarily on ideal states to be achieved in the future and extreme authoritarian nihilists would be focused primarily on what now exists and tearing down what they do not like, not creating better systems to achieve better states of affairs.

Abraham Lincoln once remarked there are two kinds of people who never amount to much in life: those who cannot do what they are told, and those who cannot do anything but what they are told. Unrealistic idealistic builders of imaginary air castles often have a hard time making a go of things in life, and people with no goals and imagination are pretty much stuck where they are. Probably most successful people lie somewhere in between the two extremes of idealism and nihilism.

Extreme democratic idealists worry a lot. Extreme authoritarian nihilists just don’t give a rip, and some are happy savages.

I agree with most transactional analysts that Earthian humans are scripted to be what they are emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally in early childhood by Injunctions that are psychologically transmitted from the child ego states of parents to the child ego states of their offspring.

According to Bob Goulding, MD and Mary Goulding, MSW, quoted in my book Business Voyages, page 160, there are about fourteen generic psychological Injunctions widely transmitted in family scripting:

Don’t Be, Don’t Be You (the sex you are), Don’t Be A Child, Don’t Grow, Don’t Make It, Don’t, Don’t Be Important, Don’t Be Close, Don’t Belong, Don’t Be Well (or sane), Don’t Think About X (forbidden subject), Don’t Think What You Think, Think What I Think, Don’t Feel, Don’t Feel X, Mad, Sad, Glad, Scared, etc., Don’t Feel What You Feel, Feel What I Feel.              See Goulding, Bob and Goulding, Mary. (1976). “Injunctions, decisions, and redecisions.” Transactional Analysis Journal, 6(1), 41-48.

These script injunctions are transmitted primarily psychologically, not overtly spoken, from the Child ego state of the parent to the Child ego state of the child. Rarely would a parent socially or overtly tell a child what one of the above injunctions requires. They are primarily transmitted non-verbally by Parent and Child ego states when caregivers exhibit mad, glad, sad, or scared emotions in response to what a child naturally feels, thinks, and does as shared life events occur in early childhood. On the other hand, children are scripted by the ego states they observe parents using when parents feel, think, and do things. Children psychologically “introject” in living color the ego states of parents, including the accents, mannerisms, facial expressions, tone of voice, and behaviors of parents, as parents and children deal with life events. To introject is to take in or absorb the personality and behavioral characteristics of another. So children more or less grow up to replicate their parents, and the replications become hard-wired in their brains for life in most cases.

For good or ill, the scripting process may determine not only the personality and behavioral characteristics of a child but also his/her life position and role in life, including determining whether a child grows up to become a democratic idealist or an authoritarian nihilist.

Therefore the scripting process largely determines which political parties win in any culture; and the fate of planet Earth may depend on changing the scripting of humans, which entails a process of change that includes not only changing economic and political systems but also psychological and social systems.

An assumption of transactional analysis is that humans can learn to “see what is really going on” with themselves and others as they transact with one another socially and psychologically living their daily lives so as to increase their chances of living satisfactory lives, regardless of how not-OK their economic, social, psychological, and political worlds might be.

According to transactional analysis theory there are three naturally occurring generic life outcomes caused for humans: winner, loser, and non-winner—caused by inherited physical characteristics and script “messages” one is exposed to throughout life—and by the early decisions offspring make about the messages that become determinants of emotional, intellectual, and behavioral responses throughout life.

Whether one inherits a winner, loser, or non-winner script is determined by naturally-occurring inevitable cause-effect chains one is accidentally exposed to. Some transactional analysts assume proportions of winner, loser, and non-winner scripts in the population remain relatively constant from one generation to another.

The natural scripting process is not fair; and Earthian human history does not encourage optimism about the probability of this unfairness being eradicated anytime soon.

It seems to me most of the worst human abominations of Earthian human history such as mass murders, genocides, and democides were caused by non-winners and losers of a society who were tired of being one-down living in unequal societies that had basically capitalistic economic systems who decided, since they could not win fair and square under the existing rule of law, given their inherited biological genetic abilities and their psychological life scripts and social scripts, that the best way for them to get strokes and become equal or one-up in their societies was to enslave themselves to an authoritarian dictator who would tell them what to do to violently destroy the existing government and structure of their society and/or other societies.

In other words, they decided since they could not win using their inherited abilities and scripts in their society under its existing rule of law the solution for their dilemma was to destroy the existing society by becoming obedient loyal non-thinking subordinates (cronies, lackeys, knaves, warriors, slaves, etc.) doing what they were “told” by an authoritarian gang-leading lawless dictator who would arbitrarily reward them with shares of stolen plunder and one-up status in some sort of new society after they destroyed their old society by means of violent force.

When Earthian humans decide they cannot get their needs met in their societies competing fairly and squarely under their rules of law and start believing and having faith that fascist dictators will take care of them through violent unlawful means the Game is called DO ME SOMETHING.   

Seems to me this hamartic process has happened over and over in Earthian human history, in Germany under Hitler, in Russia under Stalin, in China under Mao Tse Tung, and elsewhere; and it could happen again, in the US under Trump and in other countries around Spaceship Earth. Authoritarian political parties are growing stronger in countries such as Hungary, Israel, Germany, and France.

A transactional analysis colleague Jake Jacobs, a social worker in Chicago, spent a good bit of time and energy back in the 1970s and 1980s researching and studying the causes of the German holocaust under Hitler, having had family members gassed at Auschwitz. An amateur photographer, he took trips to Auschwitz for a firsthand view of the concentration camp and its gas chambers that he photographed and studied trying to get a feel for what it was like to have been there and die there. In his research he found that 150,000,000 Earthian humans were murdered by authoritarian dictators in their own and other countries by starvation and other means in genocidal and democidal operations in the 20th Century. He concluded that a major cause of mass murders by governments is a desire of authoritarian dictators to be the only ones that count. See Jacobs, Alan (1991). “Aspects of Survival: Triumph over death and onliness.” Transactional Analysis Journal. 21(1). 4-11.

A purpose of transactional analysis is to help individuals and groups insert new fair causes into unfair natural cause-effect chains so as to increase the probabilities and proportions of winner outcomes occurring in the populace by non-violent means.

Changing a non-winner or loser script into a winner script requires hard work but it can happen if a person somehow acquires new script messages powerful enough to control frustrating, debilitating, or hamartic script messages instilled in his or her sub-conscious mind. TA can provide people basic concepts and tools for attempting such a thing, requiring learning to use different ego states and transactional patterns and learning how to communicate in more effective ways psychologically and socially.

Most people seem to think if only Earthian humans could solve their economic, political, military, and religious troubles, beat their competitors and enemies, etc., then everything would be just hunky-dory and the bluebirds would start chirping again. Not so, many people would not be happy and successful living in paradise because of script messages instilled in their sub-conscious minds before they were eight years old. In order for everyone to live happily and successfully humans would have to solve not only economic, political, religious, and social problems, but also psychological problems.

Changing a loser or non-winner script into a winner script generally requires changing  the ego states one uses and how much time one spends daily pastiming, performing rituals, doing work, playing psychological Games, and being intimate with others.

The Prayer of Serenity goes something like this: Lord give me the intelligence and strength to change what needs changing, and the wisdom to know what I can and cannot change, knowing full well that some suffering, losing, and grieving is inevitable.

Using TA in some cases can help people become more serene, by enabling them to see more clearly what is going on to make salutary changes, or by learning to accept one’s script and focus on finding a niche in which it fits. On the other hand, a basic problem or question is whether serenity is possible in today’s world, beset by global warming and climate change and by escalating tensions and agitations among nations around planet Earth who have nuclear weapons.

TA never promised anyone any rose gardens, or eternal bliss in heaven, but it does advertise that it can help individuals, groups, and organizations become more OK, OK not only in terms of achieving goals but more OK transacting with others so as to live with more dignity, satisfaction, peace, and tranquility, based on Adult mutually agreed-to contracts.

No one can blame you if you believe in tuning out TA and articles such as this one. Maybe the best strategy is to tune out the world as much as you can, inexorably inching through your life’s wormhole tunnel, reading no newspapers and not watching television, with no Internet. The problem however if you do that is boredom. Most humans have an innate need for stimulation, achievement, and recognition.

Regardless of what sort of cognitive structures humans might use, TA or whatever, sooner or later they have to take action, and this entails defining problems, delineating alternatives, making recommendations, choosing things, trying new things, over and over, till something works.

1 – What is the problem?

2 – What are the alternatives?

3 – What do you recommend?

We live in precarious times that probably encourage people to play more frequently AIN’T IT AWFUL, a psychological Game in which Game players collect strokes for making the world seem worse than it is, complaining about the evils and troubles of the world, positioning themselves as Victims of obsolete economic, religious, and political policies and systems manipulated and exploited by greedy self-interested power-mad narcissistic sociopathic oligarchs and their corrupt bought and paid for cronies, lackeys, and knaves, such as lobbyists, politicians, religious leaders, and judges, however true this state of affairs might be in reality.

By the same token, it will do no good for humans to passively pretend the world is just hunky-dory and swell, better off than it really is, with everything coming up roses for everyone, living in small imaginary Candide-like best of all possible worlds, playing a psychological Game called GREENHOUSE by transactional analysts, in which players are rewarded with plastic strokes for making nonsensical positive cheerful upbeat comments about the environment and social, economic, political, and religious states of affairs, regardless of how bleak they are in reality.

It seems to me the most dangerous psychological Game played politically right now around planet Earth is IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU, involving polarized individuals, groups, and organizations who experience increasing insecurity and hopelessness causing them to blame others and find scapegoats for their plights, escalating their anger as they transmit threats from their angry Parent and Child ego states to the Parent and Child ego states of others, sometimes attacking others verbally and physically for their perceived misdeeds and beliefs. Some of the threats include the threat of international and civil war. Israel is playing a third-degree IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU Game with Palestine right now.

IF IT WEREN’T FOR YOU is a Game that entails aggrieved humans psychologically acting as if opposing warring or competing parties maliciously and arbitrarily decided using free will to commit the harmful or heinous actions and deeds they are accused of committing, instead of realizing the others were caused to exist and do what they did by concatenations of infinite cause-effect chains just like you were. Getting rid of the other will not solve problems caused by poor educational systems, poor family scripts, poor religions, and hamartic economic and political policies and systems.

For more information regarding the use of Transactional Analysis to create better discussion groups and democratic processes read my book Born to Learn: A Transactional Analysis of Human Learning.

For more information on how to co-construct better organizations and economic systems using TA read my book Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata, and Tools for Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds

See my article “The Evolution of Spaceship Earth, Inc,” for some management science ideas on how human Earthians might eventually co-construct an idealistic democratic bottom-up economic system that is viable and satisfying for everyone aboard Spaceship Earth, making it possible for all Earthian humans to develop an I’m OK – You’re OK life position.

This entails human Earthians never doing work that machines can do better, and delegating the day-to-day management of systems for scheduling, producing, and distributing the necessities of life to artificial intelligence programs and supercomputers.

This can be done using linear programming based on the general algorithmic matrix algebra form

Max CjXj, s.t. AijXj <, =, or > Bi

as explained in my article “The Evolution of Spaceship Earth, Inc.”

Flying aboard an airliner about to land at night moving at four hundred miles an hour at thirty thousand feet, what would you rather have landing the plane, the plane’s computer system and auto-pilot or the pilot and co-pilot, looking out their windows with their hands on their steering devices, seeing nothing but clouds and lightning below? Thanks are due to Buckminster Fuller for creating this airplane-landing metaphor, that he published in his 1964 book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth.

It’s not easy to see what’s really going on, impossible some say, while being inundated with fake news daily around planet Earth, made public in mass media and the Internet. To see what’s really going on, Earthian humans have to use inductive and analogical reasoning, based on probability, not deductive logic. Almost never can anyone prove with deductive logic that a general proposition about economic, social, psychological, religious, or political states affairs is absolutely true. About the best humans can hope for is to develop consensual answers that are generally acceptable and true based on probability.

It’s better to be honestly wrong, saying something is true because you really don’t know it’s not true, than to say something is true when you know damn well it’s not true.

Seems to me most lying is lying by omission (people not telling people things they know are true to gain or preserve advantages in competitive situations). Whether lying by omission is more or less harmful in overall perspective than lying by commission (telling people things you know are not true for ill-gotten gains), is debatable, as is proving whether it’s getting easier or harder for most people to see what’s really going on in economic and political states of affairs.

Political parties, governments, and mainstream media often lie by omission about what is going on, presumably to protect national security and their organizational revenues, in many cases socially presenting selective true facts but omitting analysis about what is really going on.

For whatever it’s worth, I would rather be told what to do by a well-programmed AI robot than a demented deranged unhinged human fascist dictator. On the other hand, I am convinced the best situation would be to be told what to do by a group of randomly-selected intelligent rational humans who had fully studied the facts of the case at hand and who had fully discussed and debated about what to do in an open Game-free, Adult, I’m OK—You’re OK, democratic process.

For a quick mental voyage exploring how Earthian humans might change their hamartic psychological, social, economic, religious, and political processes read my 2021 novel, As the Rooster Crows Earthian OKness Increases.


Richard John Stapleton, PhD, CTA would spin the spinner of his Classroom De-GAMER in his classes to randomly select a student at the beginning of each class session to lead a discussion of the case assigned for the day, a case taken from a planned or operating business prepared by case writers at Georgia Southern University, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Alabama. He taught management systems, researched, published, and conducted a small business institute at Georgia Southern University thirty-five years, 1970-2005.

All case analyses entail considering three existential questions:


A man sitting at a table in front of a computer.


Whomever the spinner of the “Classroom De-Gamer” selected when it wound down after spinning by an imaginary line of fire extending from the point of the spinner to a class member sitting in the circle classroom layout would become the “Leader of the Moment” required to answer the three existential questions shown above laying out the case to all class members.

The overall purpose of the Game-free I’m OK—You’re OK Adult-Adult democratic teaching and learning process is to produce comprehension of the relevant facts and focal points of the case among class members in order to create rational policies and strategies for successfully managing the states of affairs of the case. All humans have Adult ego states that can be cathected, even children at young ages.

Cathecting an ego state is turning on energy, cognition and emotion in the human psyche for transacting with fellow humans. There are three basic types of ego states that can be cathected: Parent, Adult, and Child.

A soft drink bottle as in playing the childhood game Spin the Bottle works about as well as a Classroom De-Gamer to randomly select the Leader of the Moment to answer the Three Existential Questions. No one can interrupt anyone once someone has the floor. Communicating overtly or covertly with individuals in the room for the whole session is not allowed. Anyone can respond to any speaker once the speaker has finished, disagreeing or agreeing with what was said, and may bring up another problem if appropriate in the context of the discussion.

How long should a discussion last? Long enough for group members to comprehend the system under consideration, a system including interrelations between relevant focal point entities of the system–relevant facts and issues comprising the problem, alternatives and recommendations.

According to R. Buckminster Fuller in his Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969) comprehension of a system entails separating the relevant points from the irrelevant points in the system under consideration. It takes time to do this. According to Fuller, Comprehension = (N2-N) / 2, where N = Number of total focal point entities in the system, counting the number of focal point facts or issues and all the inter-relationships between the focal point entities.

Comprehension required and produced expands exponentially as the size of the system increases. One has to wonder if most Earthian systems today are ever fully comprehended by Earthian humans. Rather than most Earthian human systems being managed today based on comprehension in general they are managed based on dogmas, doctrines, rules, algorithms, scripts, and the like, many of which are irrelevant. As matters now stand about the best Earthian humans can hope for is that somehow the smartest, wisest, most knowledgeable, most ethical, and most empathetic Earthian humans somehow manage to become top leaders in major systems.

When most members of the discussion group seem to generally comprehend the system it is time to stop. Most paper cases in Stapleton’s classes of about 30 students took about one hour. Real cases and systems in your organizations and groups may take more or less time, perhaps several hourly sessions for one system. Stick with the discussion until most members have comprehended the relevant problems, alternatives, and recommendations of the system under consideration as best they can. In most cases this will produce a solution considered the most rational of alternatives for most members of the group, about the best that can be hoped for at present. Perhaps at some future date supercomputers will be able to comprehend large systems well enough to develop answers that are provably true.

Since all members of the group will not have been caused to develop the same pictures in their heads about what should be done in the case before the discussion starts, a high percentage of the discussants will learn in the discussion as they comprehend what is really going on that their initial conceptions were wrong, causing both unlearning and learning. Sometimes unlearning is more important than learning for creating better Earthian human states of affairs. Unlearning, in fact, might be what is now needed most in order for Earthian humans to develop peaceful and sustainable systems around Spaceship Earth.

Most discussants will not leave the discussions with the same mental pictures they started out with caused by the greater comprehension caused by the back and forth dialectical arguing caused by the Game-free I’m OK-You’re OK Adult-Adult democratic discussion process, proving both unlearning and learning happened.

Stapleton’s De-Gaming process insured that everyone would be relatively GAME-free transacting in class discussions. They all agreed to a learning contract at the outset of the course that they would read assigned cases and would be graded on the quantity and quality of ideas sold in the class market. Anyone caught obviously unprepared by the spinning De-GAMER would lose a whole letter grade from the course grade. No one could feel or think that s/he was being persecuted or rescued if selected to start the class discussion of the day by the Classroom De-GAMER. The psychological GAME Drama Triangle roles of Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim were largely banished from the course learning process. The actual grades received—A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s, and F’s—were relative grades, not absolute grades, Excellent, Good, Average, Poor, and Failing relative to the class. There were no numbers ostensibly proving what percentage of the course knowledge was retained in memory for so-called objective exams.

Stapleton sat in the same circle in the same kind of chair as students, and the De-GAMING rules also applied to him. If the Classroom De-GAMER landed on him he had to lay out the case just like any other student and discuss what was the problem, what were the alternatives, and what he recommended.

Grades were based eighty percent on class participation in dialectical discussions about what to do about problems and opportunities found in cases; the rest of the final grade was based on two case write-ups. One write-up was about what the student observed, researched, analyzed, and wrote about an existing business in the local environment or a business plan the student created. The other write-up was an analysis of a case researched and written by professors about a business assigned as the final exam. Cases used in his courses contained processes, problems, opportunities, and data occurring in all functional areas of business such as entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, operations management, control, management information systems, and business policy and strategy.

Published refereed journal articles and books explaining how his democratic GAME-free Adult-Adult I’m OK—You’re OK case method system works, by banishing Persecutors, Rescuers, and Victims playing psychological GAMES from the teaching and learning process, first documented in an article titled the Classroom De-GAMER he published in 1978 in the Transactional Analysis Journal. He has published seven books and over one hundred articles in various media containing cases, research data, and essays on teaching and learning and management systems, policies, and practices.

Learned and trained using transactional analysis with Martin Groder, MD; Graham Barnes, PhD; Vann Joines, PhD; and many others at the Southeast Institute at Chapel Hill, North Carolina (1975-1978).

Learned how the Harvard business school case method works teaching with Bernard Bienvenu, DBA and Rexford Hauser, DBA, Harvard Business School doctorates, at the University of Louisiana—Lafayette in 1969-70.

Has a BS in economics (1962), an MBA in organizational behavior (1966), and a PhD in management science (1969) from Texas Tech University, and an organizational and educational certification in transactional analysis (CTA) from the International Transactional Analysis Association (1978).

Taught his own case method track at the undergraduate level in the management department in the business school at Georgia Southern University offering four or five different elective case method courses each academic year during 1970-2005 in which he led, coordinated, and graded about twenty-five or so students each year who took all or most of those case method courses in their junior and senior years, of about two hundred students who signed up for all his courses each year. He used a democratic circle or amphitheater classroom layout in all his classes. He also taught most semesters two sections of a capstone integrative business policy course he added to the business school curriculum in 1970 that was required for all undergraduate business majors that could be elected by any student in any major.  He was the only professor in the business school to use the case method in any course.

Class members agreed to a course learning contract that stipulated they would read the facts of the case before class and would lose a whole letter grade from the course final grade if the De-GAMER randomly caught them obviously not having read the case before class, if they had not slipped a note under his office door before class telling him they had not read the case, which they could do twice during the course without penalty.

About ten percent of his students made A’s and about five percent made D’s. Most made C’s, which is about right, since C = Average. There were few F’s in his courses. The main criterion for course grades was the quantity and quality of ideas sold by students in case method discussions. He used peer ratings to give students feedback showing what their fellow students thought about the quantity and quality of their ideas sold in class, having made it clear the final decision about final grades was his. He did not believe in Lake Wobegon grading.   

No class member was ever forced to take one of his courses to graduate, and the most hardened GAME-players in the school did not sign up for his courses after he issued his Edict of 1972 in which he clearly spelled out in his syllabi the penalty for getting caught unprepared. His Classroom De-Gamer was roundly discussed by students in bull sessions across campus every year and was labeled various things, such as The Wheel of Fate and The Death Wheel. Most students near the end of his career simply called it The Spinner.

Appreciated Georgia Southern honoring his academic freedom by allowing him control of his teaching methods, classroom layouts, grading procedures, and course books, cases, and materials, some of which he researched, wrote, and published. He was promoted to full professor with tenure at age thirty-six and was the senior professor of the university when he retired in 2005.

Solicited anonymous longitudinal research data using questionnaires in 1992 showing his case method students during 1972-1982 reported higher yearly incomes in 1992 than students electing the same courses in 1972-1982 taught by professors using the authoritarian lecture method and the militaristic row and column classroom layout, who graded students based on memorizing or calculating “right answers” for tests, indicating learners learning in Adult-Adult I’m OK—You’re OK GAME-free democratic learning processes graded subjectively became more successful in the real world of business than learners lectured to and graded using Parent-Child transactions, row and column classroom layouts, and so-called objective tests.  

Only former students who had worked in the real world of business ten or more years after graduating from the Georgia Southern business school were included in the study. The data are shown, analyzed, and discussed in full in “Evidence the Case Method Works” published in his book Business Voyages: Mental Maps, Scripts, Schemata, and Tools for Discovering and Co-Constructing Your Own Business Worlds, 2008, pg. 475. The data were also used in several refereed articles.

See also Stapleton, R.J. (1989-1990). “Academic entrepreneurship: Using the case method to simulate competitive business markets.” Organizational Behavior Teaching Review. Vol. XIV, No. IV, pp. 88-104; Stapleton, R.J., Murkison, G., and Stapleton, D.C. (1993). “Feedback regarding a game-free case method process used to educate general management and entrepreneurship students.” Proceedings of the 1993 Annual Meeting of the Southeast CHAPTER of the Institute for Management Science. Myrtle Beach, SC, October, 1993; and Stapleton, R. J. and Stapleton, D.C. (1998), “Teaching Business Using the Case Method and Transactional Analysis: A Constructivist Approach”Transactional Analysis Journal, 28, no. 2: 157-167.

Ancient Greeks used a similar random-selection democratic process in the Third Century BCE to select leaders of political discussions, learning, and policy formulation in their halls of government. Such a process is called sortition.

For more information on related classroom management ethical issues in universities see Stapleton, R.J. and Murkison, G. (2001), “Optimizing the fairness of student evaluations: A study of correlations between instructor excellence, study production, learning production, and expected grades,” in the Journal of Management Education, 25(3), 269-292.

Had one of the lowest student grade point averages among professors in the business school and was one of the lowest-ranked professors as an instructor on computerized campus-wide student evaluations that weighted only instructor excellence scores up to 2000; but he was one of the highest-ranked professors in a computerized student evaluation system he designed that generated data also showing and weighting study production, learning production, and expected grades scores for each professor, published in “Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations.

To read the Optimizing Fairness article in full, go to . After this research was published, Georgia Southern in 2001 added study production, learning production, and expected grades questions to the student evaluation form used campus-wide.

“Optimizing the Fairness of Student Evaluations” has by now (December 30, 2023) been cited as a reference in 89 refereed journal articles concerned about the ethics and fairness of student evaluations in several academic disciplines, including 21 new citations since April 2021, proving the article is still being read and used.

As the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein propositioned in his book Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “The case is all there is.

If so, everything else said about Earthian human states of affairs is a rendition of what was or might be.

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