Games people play unconscious beliefs and positive affirmations

Eric Berne (1964) in his book Games People Play, gave a simple but very clear understanding of the dynamics of relationships. The psychological games presented in this book offer a deeper understanding of our social interactions, the motives behind these interactions and the ways in which we reinforce our beliefs and positions in life. According to Berne, although the players might be unaware that they are playing a game, the outcome of the interaction is always predictable.

One of the games that I have played for so long is the “Why Don’t You – Yes, But” game. In this game I never seem to be quite ready to listen to, receive and execute the suggestions of the other when I request for help. I might not say it out loud to the person or persons I am interacting with but in my mind I counteract every suggestion with a “Yes, But”, this or that might happen or not happen if I did what you are suggesting. I come up with a reason and/or excuse for every suggestion. I might feel positively capable of implementing their suggestion at the time of interaction, and might even consider doing what they suggest but when I actually sit down to do so, all kinds of excuses and reasons not to follow their suggestion(s) creep into my mind. And so the predictable outcome is that I stay in the same position I was before the interaction.

If you are like me you will find that you don’t really need another person to play this game; that you can play it just as well and even better with yourself. Your self-talk!

Positive affirmations and underlying beliefs are like “sweatshirts” with a front and a back! The positive affirmation in front of the sweatshirt is what we want to see happen but at the back of the sweatshirt the subconscious, underlying belief that contradicts the affirmation is printed in big, bold capital letters. For example, I might have a sweatshirt that reads “I am the unique and capable” in front but at the back it says “I am not good enough”.

I am all for positive affirmations and positive thinking. However, I recently realised that I feel helpless when I am encouraging someone to think positively and they come back with a response that states their “reality” of the situation. I feel unable to “rescue” (my favourite drama position) them when this happens! Then I find myself judging them and asking internally, how they ever expect to change and achieve what they want if they can’t even think right! This happened so often that I decided to reverse the situation and look at myself. What was it about them not wanting to think positively or change their ways that was irritating me that much? They say, that which irritates us in others is usually our projection onto them of who we are. So what part of me was I projecting onto others?

I found myself stuck with myself, if that makes any sense, and I started looking into Berne’s Games People Play for a solution. I was doing all the positive affirmations myself, just as I was trying to get others in my circle to do the same, but at the back of my mind I was really believing the opposite and coming up with every excuse as to why things could not change. Yes, I was already stuck in my beliefs of who I am and could be, so much so that I was not really open to allowing the positive affirmations to take root.

In the past, I thought if I simply continuously made positive affirmations with regards to what I wanted in my life, everything will fall in place and I will eventually get what I wanted in life. But that was not what was happening in reality. I had all the positive affirmations I needed and I was very good at coming up with more and expressing them as and when I needed them. Yet not much was happening by way of reality reflecting my positive affirmations.

So I decided to pinpoint every negative underlying belief that went with my positive statement. I said to myself, for every positive statement that I had in a particular situation, I would search within to see and stay with any underlying belief that was holding me back. The intention here was not to reinforce the belief but to question its validity and find out where and why I could have come to such a conclusion. It was disheartening to say the least, to find that I came up with a limiting belief for almost every affirmation I had.

For example, my positive affirmation for getting a better paid job was and still is, “I am the best candidate for this job”. This affirmation, Instantly provokes my insecurities and much as I try to stay with the affirmation and feel it in my bones, the nagging self doubt and negative beliefs continue to stir up and float on the surface, overshadowing and clouding my best intentions to affirm that I qualify for any higher paid job. Such negative beliefs come in the form of reasons why I don’t qualify for a job. They could be reasons like, “of course you don’t know that you are the best”! “There are definitely others better qualified than you”. “This job is being advertised out of formality, the company already has an idea of who they want to employ; in fact they already have someone lined up for the job and you are not that person”. “You haven’t got enough experience to do the job!” “People like you cannot work in such an environment”. And on and on it goes!

In the past these underlying thoughts and beliefs have actually stopped me from applying for positions that I felt I could competently fill. I am gradually, consciously learning to cease playing the “Yes, But” game with myself and with others. It needs a lot of belief in myself accompanied by a strong knowledge of my capabilities and a desire to obtain relevant information on subjects that I will like to improve on, but it is fun to think and act outside the box, my box. It is also fun to watch myself play the “Yes, But” game with myself with the intention of matching the statements on the front and back of my sweatshirt. Why don't you give it a try? No "Yes, But" answers please!