Many of us can’t help but play games with ourselves and with each other. I don’t mean recreational sports or the harmless give and take in romance. I’m thinking of the mental and verbal games we use to protect ourselves or to get our own way personal relationships and professional power struggles.
Denial of reality is a big motivator for these games. We may not wish to face who we are or who we think we should be, or who the other person is, so we justify verbal sparring, lying, and a total lack of empathy and consideration for other people’s good intentions or kindness. We may even see such qualities as weakness or an opportunity to “go in for the kill.”
The computer age has made game playing all too easy. Texting, anonymous forums, message boards, dating sites, and emails have become covers for some of the nastiest, meanest, and most dishonest game playing between and among people. This is especially true when lonely people are seeking to make connections. Past social settings, where eye contact and body language told much of the story, have been replaced by mere code words on a screen, taking on much more power than they ought, and thus hurting all the more.
When we play dishonestly with others we are usually being dishonest with ourselves. For example, a lot of men use games to hide from fear, rejection, or any other feeling they believe will make them vulnerable to harm. Many worry that the person they are attracted to for friendship or for love will reject them if they show who they really are. They may also fear really knowing what the other person is all about; better to keep indifference or a superficial fantasy alive than to really begin caring.
Can we examine the games we play by looking at how we really feel about ourselves? Do we think we have to cover up something in order to be acceptable? Are we focused more on our imagined inadequacies than on our strengths? Are we willing to be honest and candid, and let the other person walk away if they don’t like us? Can we be content living alone? Hard questions for which I have no answers, since each of us must come up with our own.
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