A brilliant, yet obscure author called Kevin FitzMaurice recently published a book called Games Ego Plays. By describing the functioning of the ego as a board game, he has revealed a breakthrough new understanding the ego. The book, rather humorously, reads as an instruction manual for a board game. This Ego Board Game is played by individuals, governments, corporations, news services, movements, foundations, institutions, and groups of all types.
The game involves players switching among 6 different roles. You should read the book in its entirety, but for our immediate purposes I will summarize each of the roles that the ego plays (according to Kevin FitzMaurice). It is important to ask yourself whether you do any of these things. If so, you are projecting ego.
Everything that the ego is, and everything it does, is done from the same 6 positions or roles. The 6 positions of the Ego Game Board are as follows:
The Judge decides who is in the Offender position and who belongs in the Victim position. The Judge decides whether to agree with the Defender or Prosecutor. If the Judge identifies a Victim, then he may turn the Victim over to the Jailer for punishment.
The ego reveals its Judge in statements like, “You shouldn’t have done that” or “You are guilty of hurting me”.
The Jailer position of the Ego-Game Board enforces the consequences or punishments. The Jailer is given permission to jail the Offender whenever all parties agree with the Judge’s verdict. The ego reveals the Jailer in the form of a parent punishing a child for bad behavior, or in a spouse taking away the privacy of another spouse after an offense.
The Jailer’s role is to keep the Offender away from temptation, out of contact with Victims, and ideally provide a path to recovery. Most Jailers, however, aren’t great and can be overly cruel. They may even believe abuse is justified.
Think of how an attorney tries to establish who the Offender is by proving who the Victim is. This is the Prosecutor, who uses language like, “How dare you…” or, “Do you think it is acceptable behavior to…”, or “You always lie to me, drink too much, flirt with people…”.
When a couple argues, it is typically an argument between the Prosecutor and the Defender who are frequently switching roles without ever agreeing on the Judge’s verdict. All form of argument and debate is meant to appeal to the Judge, who decides the winners and losers. But the Judge only has authority if both parties are willing to agree who the Judge is. If they do not agree on the Judge’s verdict, then the argument continues and can go on indefinitely.
It is also interesting to note that roles can be easily switched. The accused may either choose to play the role of Defender or he may switch to the Prosecutor role. Here is an example of a switch in roles,
Woman says: “How dare you get drunk again!”
Man responds: “I only drink because you are constantly yelling at me and shaming me.”
In this way, the man’s “move” on the game board is to try to assume the role of Victim and Prosecutor rather than that of Defender (which is where his wife wanted to put him). If the wife falls for it by defending herself as someone who doesn’t yell or shame, then she has assumed the role of Defender and the man’s move has been successful. If she ignores the accusation of “yelling at and shaming” him, then she maintains her role as Prosecutor and can carry-on being right.
Regardless of what either party does, neither will ever win any real victory. Sure, you can win the game. But it is just a game and has nothing to do with life. True victory can only be found when you stop playing the game and start living in Love.
To avoid ego games, don’t assume the role of Defender. FitzMaurice, in his work as a professional counselor, has routinely advised clients that, “In most circumstances it was not a good idea to defend, explain, or make excuses for their actions, because this would only initiate or continue a game.”
If you are attacked by a Prosecutor and refuse to play the Defender, then you are refusing to allow the Prosecutor the position being sought. Even when you are attacked, you can simply see that someone is trying to start an ego game with you. Respond to their pain, but do not start the game by attempting to defend yourself.
According to FitzMaurice, the Offender is the “mean, guilty person who has hurt some poor, helpless victim.” A great Offender attempts to turn the Victim into the Offender (see example of drunk man, above).
In the film American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s character provides a great example of an Offender. In response to his wife assuming the roles of Jailer, Judge, Prosecutor, and Victim, he decides to stage a rebellion. He feels that his selfish, offending actions are justified because he sees himself as the Victim and is fed-up. The freedom he claims is not the freedom of Love; rather, the freedom to be an uncaring Offender.
Offensive behavior such as alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, or cheating on a spouse is always the result of the Offender role. If you are living within the realm of the ego, you might believe that the offensive behavior is your path toward freedom. While you may achieve a certain degree of freedom, you will also cause a great deal of destruction.
As an Offender, you might believe that your actions are justified by the unfairness of your situation. The pleasure you get as an Offender is an intense form of ego-gratification—physical pleasure combined with the belief that your sin is justified.
The Victim is the person who uses a wrong as an excuse. The Victim acts helpless, weak, and hurt. A person stuck in the Victim role often chooses this identity for life. While a strong person may attempt to let go of the Victim role, a lazy or weak person seeks pleasure by attempting to get sympathy from friends and family and to generally be let off-the-hook. The problem is that, as with any of the roles, the pain and suffering will continue while you remain within the boundaries of the ego.
The ego game is a win-lose proposition. The winning positions are the Judge, Jailer and Prosecutor because they can assume “rightness”. The losing positions are Defender, Offender, and Victim because they are assumed to be either guilty or abused. In truth, the game does not produce a winner or loser because, for most people, the game never stops. It just draws you in further and eventually makes you crazy.
Interestingly, the ego game takes place between people but it also takes place as that voice inside our own monkey-minds. We have become so indoctrinated in the ways of the ego that the voice in our heads knows how to play all these roles. Most of us have become experts at turning this game against ourselves even when we don’t have anyone to play with.
This internal ego game is perhaps even more destructive than the ego games we play with others. The internal ego game is on-going, exhausting, and depressing. There can be no true happiness or fulfillment within the Ego-Game Board because there is no love. There is no heart, no soul, no empathy, no freedom, no justice, no giving, and no forgiveness. This ego game is often mistakenly referred to as “the real world” by miserable people. In truth, it is a game. There is nothing real about it.
For thousands of years, humans have been exploited and controlled in a grand ego game. From the youngest ages, we are conditioned to the ways of the ego by our schools, then in the workplace, also through our legal system, in church, in our appropriate-minded social interactions, and throughout every other part of society.
The ego game is so pervasive that it seems real—it seems like truth. I am here to tell you that it is all a lie. Love is truth and the ego is a lie. I have discovered the way to live outside of the ego. I have found that this is the only path toward happiness, fulfillment, success, bliss, and goodness. Love is the way. We continue tomorrow and each day after that.
“Ego is about the roller-coaster ride of pride and shame or superiority and inferiority. Ego keeps you in a relationship with others' images rather than in a relationship with other human beings.”
Games Ego Plays by Kevin FitzMaurice