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Applied Game Theory, Life Coaching, and Transactional Analysis

Many mental health professionals and life coaches do not realize that Applied Game Theory has been explored as a tool for emotional healing since the 1960s

A great influence on my own work as a life coach has been the book Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships a 1964 book by psychiatrist Eric Berne. Since its publication, it has sold more than five million copies. The book describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions.


In the first half of the book, Berne introduces transactional analysis as a way of interpreting social interactions. He describes three roles or ego states, known as the Parent, the Adult, and the Child, and postulates that many negative behaviors can be traced to switching or confusion of these roles. He discusses procedures, rituals, and pastimes in social behavior, in light of this method of analysis. For example, a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling ‘parent’ will often engender self-abased obediencetantrums, or other childlike responses from his employees.

The second half of the book catalogues a series of “mind games” in which people interact through a patterned and predictable series of “transactions” which are superficially plausible (that is, they may appear normal to bystanders or even to the people involved), but which actually conceal motivations, include private significance to the parties involved, and lead to a well-defined predictable outcome, usually counterproductive. The book uses casual, often humorous phrases such as “See What You Made Me Do,” “Why Don’t You — Yes But,” and “Ain’t It Awful” as a way of briefly describing each game. In reality, the “winner” of a mind game is the person that returns to the Adult ego-state first.

In the game entitled “Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch,” one who discovers that another has made a minor mistake in a matter involving them both holds the entire matter hostage to the minor mistake. The example is where a plumber makes a mistake on a $300 job by underestimating the price of a $3 part as $1, so the plumber sends a bill for $302, the correct price. The customer won’t pay the entire original $300 unless and until the plumber absorbs the $2 error instead of just paying the (undisputed part of the) bill of $300.

Not all interactions or transactions are part of a game. Specifically, if both parties in a one-on-one conversation remain in an Adult-to-Adult ego-state, it is unlikely that a game is being played.

In the 1950s, Berne synthesized his theory of “human gaming” and built on work from Paul Federn and Edoardo Weiss and integrated results from Wilder Penfield to develop transactional analysis.  Transactional analysis, according to physician James R. Allen, is a “cognitive behavioral approach to treatment and … a very effective way of dealing with internal models of self and others as well as other psychodynamic issues.” Though Berne barely mentions Jon Von Neumann and classic Game Theory in his writings the influence is clear.

Berne’s work has also had a strong influence on the human potential and personal development movement.

In 1993, American therapist-turned-author James Redfield self-published The Celestine Prophecy influenced by the theory of Berne’s human gaming. Specifically, the life games to which Berne refers in his book is a tool used in an individual’s quest for energetic independence.

More than ever those who see the importance of creating life strategies have begun to explore Harrison’s Applied Game Theory in general and Eric Berne’s work in particular.


Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award-winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project



Winning The Game Of Life: A Primer On Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory


Lewis Harrison founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a is an executive and life coach, writer, mentor, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem-solving and strategizing based on game thinking, applied game theory, and Game Thinking.

He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.


Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.

WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentations from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.

If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading  Lewis’ books.

If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success.  Here are two basic ones to start with:




Other books by Lewis include:



The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness,  and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.

Here is a short interview with Lewis;




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