How Do You Get Out of Here

Original First Edition of Games People Play 1964 Eric Berne

Original First Edition of Games People Play from Eric Berne’s private library.

Thesis.  The historical evidence is that those prisoners survive best who have their time structured by an activity, a pastime or a game.  This is apparently well known to political police, who are said to break some prisoners down simply by keeping them inactive and in a state of social deprivation.

The favored activity of solitary prisoners is reading or writing books, and the favored pastime is escape, some of whose practitioners, such as Casanova and Baron Trenck, have become famous.

The favored game is “How Do You Get Out of Here?” (“Want Out”), which may also be played in state hospitals. It must be distinguished from the operation of the same name, known as “Good Behavior.” An inmate who really wants to be free will find out how to comply with the authorities  so as to be released at the earliest possible moment. Nowadays this may often be accomplished by playing a good game of “Psychiatry,” Group Therapy Type.  The game of “Want Out,” however is played by inmates or by patients whose Child does not want to get out. They simulate “Good Behavior,” but at the critical point they sabotage themselves so as not to be released.  Thus in “Good Behavior” Parent, Adult, and Child work together to be discharged; in “Want Out” Parent and Adult go through the prescribed motions until the critical moment, when the Child, who is actually frightened at the prospect of venturing into the uncertain world, takes over and spoils the effect. “Want Out” was common in the late 1930’s among recently arrived immigrants from Germany who became psychotic. They would improve and beg for release from the hospital; but as the day of liberation approached, their psychotic manifestations would recur.

The description of this game on this page is incomplete.  For a complete description of this game, refer to Games People Play.