In Hay (1995) I introduced the idea of using Velcro to illustrate games. My thinking was that we engage in games because we have the relevant ‘hooks’ that will connect with the ‘hooks’ of whoever is our game-playing partner at the time. Rather than wonder about the differences between what Berne (1972) called the con and the gimmick, I prefer to think of it as being like what happens when we close two sides of Velcro together – the ‘hooks’ connect to each other very tightly and it is difficult to pull them apart. The way in which they suddenly come apart, with an interesting sound effect, also seems to me to be a useful metaphor for what happens as the players take their payoffs from the game.
Also in 1995, I drew a cartwheel to illustrate the ongoing nature of games. This was based on an article by Jenni Hine (1990) in which she described how the end of the game often tended to be the beginning of the next game – when asking a couple how their game had started, each one blamed the other for something that had happened previously, until they had more or less arrived back at their honeymoon.
This prompted me to use the metaphor of imagining that each of us is a cartwheel, and we are rolling around until we come into contact with another cartwheel. On the surface of each cartwheel are various hooks depending on the particular games we have learned to play as we were growing up. These hooks can be thought of as different colours of Velcro (to make this metaphor work, please ignore the fact that you know that all Velcro is formed in the same way regardless of the colour 😉)
If we come into contact with a cartwheel that has no hooks that correspond to our own, we will not engage in game playing with that person. We are unconsciously seeking those who have the matching hooks, especially when we are desperately in need of strokes and are unknowingly going to settle for negatives because they are easier to generate than positive strokes.
This metaphor can also be useful when someone decides that they will stop playing games. Having identified again that they now realise they have been playing, it is still not easy to simply stop. This is because the other person – the other cartwheel – has become accustomed to the fact that we have the right hooks, or Velcro, so there will be an automatic connection whenever our cartwheels come close enough to each other.
Metaphorically, when we decide to stop playing a game, it is not enough to do the equivalent of fixing Sellotape over the Velcro. That will work for anyone that we are meeting for the first time because they will not then recognise that we have those hooks. However, for someone who already knows us, they expect the hooks to be there. When the connection does not happen, they will escalate the game. What this means metaphorically is that they will move back slightly and then roll their cartwheel even more forcefully towards us – and the extra momentum will probably mean that they burst through our Sellotape and connect with our hooks - in other words, we may play an even harder version of the game. This is why we may need to avoid our familiar game-playing partners for a while when we decide to stop playing a game. We need enough time for us to remove our Velcro so that we will be presenting a ‘clean’ area of cartwheel.
Berne, Eric. (1972) What Do You Say After You Say Hello? New York: Grove Press
Hay, Julie (1995) Donkey Bridges for Developmental TA Watford: Sherwood Publishing
Hay, Julie (2012) Donkey Bridges for Developmental TA 2nd edit Hertford: Sherwood Publishing
Hine, Jenni (1990) The Bilateral and Ongoing Nature of Games Transactional Analysis Journal 20:1 28-39
© 2018 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.