Original First Edition of Games People Play 1964 Eric Berne

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

Thesis. In its milder form, the thesis of “Stupid” is, “I laugh with you at my own clumsiness and stupidity.”  Seriously disturbed people, however, may play it in a sullen way which says, “I am stupid, that’s the way I am, so do me something.”  Both forms are played from a depressive position.  “Stupid” must be distinguished from “Schlemiel,” where the position is more aggressive, and the clumsiness is a bid for forgiveness.  It must also be distinguished from “Clown,” which is not a game but a pastime which reinforces the position “I am cute and harmless.”  The critical transaction in “Stupid” is for White to make Black call him stupid or respond as though he were stupid.  Hence White acts like Schlemiel but does not ask for forgiveness; in fact forgiveness makes him uneasy, because it threatens his position.  Or he behaves clownishly, but with no implication that he is kidding; he wants his behavior to be taken seriously, as evidence of real stupidity.  There is considerable external gain, since the less White learns, the more effectively he can play.  Hence at school he need not study, and at work he need not go out of his way to learn anything that might lead to advancement.  He has known from an early age that everyone will be satisfied with him as long as he is stupid, despite any expressions to the contrary.  People are surprised when in time of stress, if he decides to come through, it turns out that he is not stupid at all—any more than is the “stupid” younger son in the fairy tale.

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