Payoffs and Existential Position in TA

From Dr. Claude Steiner’s web page:

PAYOFFS. There are a number of payoffs of this game; every game pays off at three different levels: 1. The biological pay-off of a game is strokes. Even though games end badly, all the players get a considerable number of strokes-both positive and negative-out of playing them. 2. The social pay-off of a game is time-structuring. People are able to filled time which otherwise might have been dull and depressing with an exciting activity. 3. The existential pay-off of a game is the way in which the game confirms the existential position of each player.

THE EXISTENTIAL POSITION. In the process of developing an identity people define for themselves, early in life, what the meaning of their life or existence is. Some people decide they are OK and are going to have a good life; but many others decide they are not OK and will fail in some way. That expectation based on a decision of how life will be is their existential position. People can feel OK or not OK about themselves and others so that there are four main existential positions: “I’m OK, you’re OK,” “I’m OK you’re not OK,” “I’m not OK you’re OK” and finally, “I’m not OK you’re not OK.”

For instance in the game of “Why Don’t You; Yes But” Jane’s existential position is that “nothing ever works out” so that every time the game is played it reinforces that position and justifies further depression.

Games are always played with responsibility and interest by everyone involved in them. In order to maintain her existential position Jane will find people who will play the game with her. All the players’ parts in the game are equally important and they all derive a pay-off from it as well. When they participate in the game they too believe it will end in failure. They want strokes as well but are not surprised when Jane rejects all advice and everyone is depressed or angry as a consequence proving that you can’t really help people or that people don’t want to be helped and justifying their bad feelings as a consequence.


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