My Games

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor Frankl (Neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, 1905-1997)



You’re in the middle of a rather challenging conversation with your boss. She’s on top of everything as usual (game: the Micro-Manager). You’ve been pushing your limits for weeks, working late into the evenings, but she’s tearing it all apart (game: the Relentless Critic). And it’s driving you nuts. She genuinely believes she knows everything (game: the Know-It-All). You don’t want any trouble; you just want this conversation to be over as quickly as possible. So, wisely, you keep your mouth shut. But at some point, you feel there’s a limit. She needs to know that her attitude belittles people. You gather all your courage to express how you feel, in the most honest and gentle way possible. You should have done this a long time ago, and you’re proud of yourself for finally showing your vulnerability. Unfortunately, this openness is not reciprocated. She purses her lips and looks at you with those cold, hard eyes of hers (game: the Icicle).

Same scene, different perspective:

You’re attempting to have a rational talk with a colleague to get to some concrete results. The bar needs to be raised; otherwise, hitting those targets is going to be a challenge. You’ve been feeling super stressed about it for weeks, and it’s important to you that both of you are on the same page. But, the conversation takes an unexpected turn. You’re trying to express what you’re expecting, and initially, he appears to agree that a change is necessary (game: the Nod-A-Lot). So, you figure everything’s good. Then out of the blue, he says you make him feel insecure (game: the Wounded Child), and — even worse — other colleagues apparently feel the same. What? Weren’t we just discussing the content? Of course you asked for some examples, but he can’t give any. “It just feels that way” (game: the Emotional Advocate). Not much to work with there. It genuinely hurts that there’s gossip circulating about you behind your back (game: the Gossip Getaway), but you try not to show because professionalism matters.

People play games. We do it to get our way, to mask our vulnerabilities, to feel good about ourselves, to hide our mistakes, to be right, or to avoid trouble. Under pressure, everyone plays games. The funny part is that we can see the games others play — the italicised games above — but we don’t always realise we’re playing them ourselves. 

We consider ourselves to be the ‘normal’ ones.

What are games?

In a relaxed state, your ego’s not active, and you don’t play any games. But when the pressure is high, your ego snaps into action and starts playing its cards. These cards are your games.

While your egotype unfolds internally — how you feel, think, and what fundamentally drives you — your games are the external manifestation: the behaviours in which your egotype reveals itself when under pressure. In essence, your games are an attempt by your egotype to stay hidden behind your armour. By using games, your ego defends itself against not-so-nice emotions like insecurity, shame, or fear.

Although our games protect ourselves, they make it quite tough for others. Because of our games, they feel excluded, belittled, offended, ignored, unimportant, hurt, and so on.

Not so good, right? We (usually) don’t mean it that way, but that’s how it comes across.

And then? Well, then they start playing games too. And that’s when things get messy.

Games people play

In this article, you’ll get a glimpse of the games you might occasionally play. The goal is to make you more aware of your role in the “hassle” with others.

Every egotype comes with its own bag of tricks. Check out these seven notorious games for each of the five egotypes. Mind you, these are just the tip of the iceberg — in real life, the variations are endless.

Take a moment to scroll through them and see which games you recognise most. Maybe you’ll spot some familiar ones from your own egotype. Who knows, these games might even unveil a whole new egotype of you. So…

Let the games begin!

The Observer’s games. When people pressure you, you retreat into your own world of thoughts. At times, you can be such a big dreamer that others might think you’re in a different universe. The harder they knock on your door, the more impenetrable the walls around you seem to get. These are a few of the games the Observer plays to maintain a safe distance from others:

The Houdini: When things get too personal, I’m outta here.
Switzerland: Neutral is my middle name.
The Bar of Soap: Just when you think you’ve got ahold of me, I slip out of your hands.
The Complicator: Things are much more complex than you think.
The Word Jumble: I just keep talking, hoping that something eventually sticks.
The Daydreamer: … Uh, what?
The Phantom: I see opportunities and threats that are not always realistic.

The Connector’s games. For you, it’s all about the relationship. As long as you belong, it’s fine. You love harmony. However, when pressure builds, emotions take over the reigns.  Good luck trying to have a rational conversation with you during those times. Here are a few games the Connector plays to stay connected:

The Wounded Child: I am very vulnerable, so I just can’t handle it.
The Nod-A-Lot: I just agree with everything, so people will like me.
The Drama Queen: I blow things out of proportion, and bring in all sorts of factors.
The Gossip Getaway: When tensions arise, I talk about you, rather than to you.
The Emotional Advocate: I feel it, therefore it must be true.
The Ally: We’re buddies (so you have my back, right?)
The Empathy Engine: I always get where everyone is coming from.


The Powerhouse’s games. When there’s pressure, you tend to make yourself look bigger and more confident to get what you want. You show your strengths but keep your vulnerability hidden. This may sometimes intimidate others, causing them to hold back. These are some typical games the Powerhouse plays to make sure they get what they want:

The Quick Fixer: Let’s sort this out right now.
The Rock: Whatever you do, you won’t get to me.
The Pusher: Boundaries are just rough guidelines.
The Drill Sergeant: Shut up and do what I say.
The Bulldozer: I’ll roll right over you; the result is all that matters.
The Intimidator: There are two options — I win or you lose.
The Finger-Pointer: It’s all your fault (and never mine).

The Carrier’s games. You’re simply “that person who works hard without any personal agenda, always reliable”. The epitome of humility. It keeps yourself out of the crossfire, far from all criticism. But, deep down, you’re not thrilled with the role you’ve assigned yourself. It’s even more frustrating when others get away with stuff you’d never let slide. Here are some games the Carrier might play to remain innocent:

The Doormat: Ok, I’ll do it—again.
The Martyr: You guys just go… I’ll finish up here.
The Role Model: If only other people would work as hard as I do.
Mother Teresa: My kindness knows no bounds.
The Path of Pain: It’s all so very heavy, but it is what it is (sigh).
The Complainer: I’ll do it all, but not because I want to.
The Saviour: Lean on me; I’ll save you.

The Achiever’s games. You love accomplishments. For you, it’s all about the result, even if it means confronting someone. It’s nothing personal and as far as you’re concerned, emotions have nothing to do with this. You simply make sure everything stays under control. Here are some of the games the Achiever plays, to make sure they stay in control:

The Director: Let me tell you exactly how you should think.
The Relentless Critic: Oh seriously, is this it?!
The Indispensable One: Without me, it’ll be total chaos.
The High Bar: No matter what you do, it can always be better.
The Micro-Manager: It’s just that I’m afraid it won’t go well otherwise.
The Know-It-All: Sure, do it your way. But you’ll see I’m right.
The Icicle: I turn cold and distant, so no one knows how I really feel.


Feel like some of this hits close to home? No worries, we’ve all been there, especially when the pressure’s on. 

But here’s the deal — not all games are created equal. Some look harmless, making it seem like one person plays games while the other doesn’t. This sets the stage for a bunch of unnecessary (and sometimes really unfair) dynamics between the supposed “perpetrator” and the “victim”.

If your game is all about making yourself seem neutral, innocent, or small (think Switzerland, the Wounded Child, the Martyr, or the Nod-A-Lot), you usually get a lot less pushback compared to when you’re playing the game of making yourself look bigger (like the Pusher, the Relentless Critic, or the Director). But this is the thing — they’re both games, meant to influence things in a certain way, get what we want, or avoid what we don’t.

If you play innocent games all the time, you keep everyone happy, but at some point, you’re making someone else get their hands dirty, like by being critical. Because, after all, somebody’s gotta do it. 

In the example from earlier, here’s how it plays out: the employee feels intimidated by the Relentless Critic game, then slips into the victim role, becoming the Wounded Child. This automatically puts the boss in the perpetrator role. Now, she’s pretty much forced to play guilty games. Both parties have good intentions — they feel responsible and just want to do things right. And they both fear failure or rejection. Still, the boss is labeled as an ice queen at the coffee machine because of her “guilty” games, while people sympathise with the employee and his “innocent” games.

This is “the power of innocence”. That’s why both games can be seen as being both guilty and innocent.

The intentions behind your games.

Chances are, you pull out your games in specific situations and around certain people. In those moments, your ego feels the need to play games, trying to keep that armour intact. You just don’t want to reveal your true self. It’s quiet and cosy behind the armour. It feels safe and familiar there.

But make no mistake, your games don’t actually make things safe because they create distance between you and others. You’ll never truly connect with someone if you’re playing games.

Sure, there are situations where it’s not practical to be vulnerable. That’s just how our ego-driven world works. But if you genuinely want to break a pattern, you need real connection — and that means shedding that armour.

It starts with awareness. Yet, becoming aware of your games is trickier than you might think. Sure, you might notice some games — you might even find them amusing, or at least understandable. But there are games you don’t recognise as games, so you’ll need others to point those out to you.

This can stir up a bit of resistance though. After all, who is someone else to tell you how you sometimes behave? Because you of course know yourself best, right? 

Well, not always.

This chapter might be the toughest one yet because it asks you to let go of the idea that you know yourself best. Everyone has blind spots. In a way, we’re all a bit lost in the desert when it comes to ourselves. That’s why we need others to help us navigate.

Becoming aware of your games means becoming aware of your role in relationship troubles — whether at work, in love, with friends, or in parenting. With more awareness comes freedom of choice: now that you know this, what will you choose to do? Will you keep pulling out your armour?

It starts with recognising your own behaviour. Then you need to learn to understand what’s behind your game. So, what are you avoiding or protecting? And why?

And what’s the true intention behind the games you see in others? Behind all that commotion?

If you can show that to each other — if you can take off your masks — then the wall between you starts to crumble, and real connection happens.



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