Psychiatry reminds me of economics in that each field is full of “experts” making a good living (as Mel Brooks noted in his movie High Anxiety) and who never really explain anything clearly. These days psychiatrists operate as pill dispensers for PhRMA, using the DSMV-5 as a bible even as it is riddled with speculation and assumption, even bold dishonesty. They are quacks.
Eric Berne (1910-1970) would have eschewed pill-popping, as to him the study of human behavior could be explained in far more concrete terms. His 1964 work, Games People Play: The Basic handbook of Transactional Analysis, was not so much an isolated work as the primary public thrust of a movement in the field. His “games” are not as we understand the term to be passive time-filling exercises, but serious endeavors to achieve status and harmony in life. Often enough the “games” are life and death matters.
Years ago in my former home town I ran into a pal from softball at Wendy’s and we had lunch together. He was newly married, and confided in me that his wife was now undressing in the closet. In game analysis it would have been understood during courtship that each of them had a role to play, so that her turning frigid after marriage was predictable, and his frustration not real: she was not at all enamored by men, possibly misandrous, and he was possibly a repressed homosexual. So each got a payoff.
Berne would probably laugh at my analysis there, but that is the thrust of his work from my amateur view on the sideline, that games involve subtle and sublime communication, and that there is always a payoff for each participant. Often enough games are destructive, and many a rotten marriage is built around one or another of them where, if one partner gets healthy and withdraws the other deteriorates and the marriage ends.
On the other hand, games are often positive. I have been in two marriages, the first resulting in our picture on the back cover of the book (humor), and the second its opposite, a wonderful partner and a happy and calm household. If my wife and I are playing games now, they are wholesome and fun.
Berne was described by a colleague as having “… four personal characteristics: his burning intelligence; his laserlike focus; his dry, quirky humor; and his ability to see underlying order and patterns in the apparent chaos of human interactions.”
Maybe less an iconoclast as a mere standout, I think I would have liked this guy. If I needed a psychiatrist, I would call on him and would emerge wiser … and pill-free.