The Games We’ve Always Played

By Greg Baer M.D.

September 11, 2017


In the early 1960s, psychiatrist Ronald David (R.D.) Laing analyzed human behavior with the mathematical models of game theory—which has been used in making complex decisions in wars, corporate competition, and elsewhere. His work is summarized in “The Trap,” a BBC Documentary from 2007 by Adam Curtis.

Laing gave a complex series of questionnaires to twenty couples in Britain, where he analyzed how each partner saw the other—moment by moment—in their daily lives. He repeatedly asked them what they thought the other really intended with their individual behaviors. He demonstrated that couples used their everyday actions as strategies to control and manipulate each other.

His conclusions were stark—that what were normally seen as acts of kindness and love were in reality weapons used selfishly to exert power and control. An expert commenting on this study said that Laing’s work stated that “love” was a way in which one person controls the other: “I love you, but with conditions . . . so you have to earn my love.”

Way back in the 1960s, then, somebody discovered and documented—using scientifically designed questions and game theory—that we play games and manipulate each other using what we call “love.” We’re still doing it, and the manipulation is so common that we no longer notice it. It’s accepted as normal.

We can learn how not to continue these behaviors. We can learn what unconditional love is, as opposed to the love that is traded and earned. And then we don’t have to analyze our relationships with game theory. Instead we can simply enjoy our relationships. Just enjoy.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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