Step aside, Colonel Mustard. Your Clue antics, your candlestick and dice, are nothing compared to the games we real-lifers play. What's more, we often don't even know we're playing them.
"There are a countless number of mind games we play," says Dr. Patricia Millikin, a marriage and family therapist. "These games can be defined as a pattern of behavior or personality that has negative consequences on somebody, whether it be another person, yourself, or both." Millikin will present her self-help seminar "The Games People Play" at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Saturday, July 21st, 9 a.m.- noon.
These games, says Millikin, can decide relationships, careers, anything and everything, really, and the player finds his role -- persecutor, victim, rescuer -- in that murky, touchy-feely place of self-esteem.
First up, "Blemish." The players: Mary (persecutor) and Joanne (victim). Object: Supremacy. First move: Mary, whose husband is the more successful, mentions Joanne's dress, then Joanne's husband's job. Joanne's feeling belittled. Score one for Mary. Then Joanne rallies, recognizing Mary's motives, and responds to Mary's negatives with positives. Mary is declawed and defeated. Game over.
Next, "Wooden Leg" and the similar "Poor Me." The players: John (rescuer) and Ken (victim). Object: Compassion. First move: Ken constantly complains that he's passed over for promotions because he doesn't have a college degree. The game continues as long as John feels sorry for Ken. Finally John says, "I would spend my money on going back to school to get my diploma and then a promotion if I were you, Ken." John has just enlightened Ken with an alternative to his complaining and let him know that it is no longer acceptable. Game over.
"Gee, You're Wonderful." The players: Sue (soon-to-be- victim) and members of a bridge club (persecutors). Object: Obliteration. This game is played by those people who compliment an individual repeatedly until a slight mess-up. These people have truly set up this individual for failure with their short-lasting praise and their inevitable attack. Sue is a new member of the bridge club, and everyone loves her. She then cancels the club meeting that was scheduled at her house and is rejected, even after trying to make amends. This minor letdown leads to immediate disassociation from the girls in the club, and she is now the prime example of a victim. Game over.
"Yes, But." The players: Jane (rescuer) and Alice (victim). The object: Compliance. Alice has problems with her mother and asks Jane for help. Jane offers advice, explaining she solved the same problem in a particular way. Alice doesn't accept the advice and wants a different answer. The game goes on, though Alice can end the game by admitting she doesn't know what to do. Call it a draw. Game over.
One last example, "Self-expression." The players: David (persecutor) and Frank (victim). David insults Frank's brother, but when Frank responds with a jab at David's brother, David blows up. David feels he has the right to express his opinion, but Frank can't do the same. David is the one setting up the game. Game over.
According to Millikin, "Every game has an invitation for the other person to be a part of the game. So often we don't even know we are doing it."
Millikin says she became interested in these sorts of behavior patterns after reading about transactional analysis. Millikin attended the University of Wisconsin and did her post-graduate work at Harvard. She later graduated from the University of Memphis, where she received her doctorate in education.
"I like to teach people about what's happening and about the power they have to stop the games going on in their lives," Millikin says. Recognizing patterns can be a way to get away from stress and get ahead at work.
"When people come see me I want them to leave feeling good," Millikin says. "I want them to gain knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses and know how to manage all of them."
Games People Play
9 a.m.-noon Saturday, July 21st
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art