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'Poor me' Game


Explanations > Behaviors > Games >  'Poor me' Game

Purpose | Game play | Discussion | So what?



Primary: Sympathy, Displacement

Secondary: Social capital

Game play

  • A gets into a situation where they feel hard done by, where the world in general or someone in particular is unfair to them.
  • A tells the story to B, lamenting how unlucky they are, how unfair things are.
  • B offers sympathy and concern.
  • B also now has gained some social capital from this and can ask for something in return.


A's source of pain can include other games such as 'Stop me if you can' where A is the real cause of the situation, or variants of the Blame game.

This is an archetypal victim game, although victimhood is at the heart of many other games. People who play victim in various situations often get their reward later on in poor me sessions where an accomplice offers them sympathy. Victims also get the benefit of absolving themselves from responsibility. Nothing is felt to be really their fault (although they may berate themselves). They are victims of circumstance and other people. They enjoy the anticipation of hope of rescue in the manner of the helpless child.

If there is nobody else, then an alternative is to play the second person themselves. This lack of support, of course, just gives another reason to feel 'poor me'.

A common response from B that balances out the social capital is to also do a 'Poor me'. The game can then become a to-and-fro discussion of how terrible and downtrodden they are.

Note that there is a big difference between the victim in a game and a 'real-life' victim. The game victim enters into the state voluntarily (albeit often subconsciously) and gains some comfort from this state, as described above. The real victim is the person mugged on the streets or an orphan in a war-torn country, who has no choice: they are made a victim by circumstance or the actions of others.

So what?

If you are happy to be the shoulder to cry on for other people, then you can gain social capital and ask for something in return.

Also, watch out for becoming the person about whom A is complaining.

See also

'Clever me' Game, 'Recognize me' Game, The Drama Triangle, 'Poor me' Game, Blame Game, Stop me if you can

Eric Berne, (1964), Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Balantine Books

Thomas Harris (1996), I'm OK-You're OK, Avon books

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