Berne, Eric


Eric Berne (May 10, 1910 – July 15, 1970) was a Canadian-born psychiatrist who created the theory of transactional analysis as a way of explaining human behavior.

Berne’s theory of transactional analysis was based on the ideas of Freud but was distinctly different. Freudian psychotherapists focused on talk therapy as a way of gaining insight to their patient’s personalities. Berne believed that insight could be better discovered by analyzing patients’ social transactions.

Berne was the first psychiatrist to apply game theory to the field of psychiatry.

Eric Berne was born on May 10, 1910, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, as Eric Lennard Bernstein. He was the son of David Hillel Bernstein, MD, a general practitioner, and Sarah Gordon Bernstein, a professional writer and editor. His only sibling, his sister Grace, was born five years later. The family immigrated to Canada from Poland and Russia. Both parents graduated from McGill University in Montreal. Eric was close to his father and spoke fondly of how he accompanied his father on rounds, traveling by horse-pulled sleigh on cold Montreal winters to visit patients.

Berne’s father died of tuberculosis when Berne was 11. His mother then supported herself and her two children working as an editor and writer. She encouraged her son to follow in his father’s footsteps and to study medicine. Berne received his baccalaureate degree in 1931 and an M.D. and C.M. (Master of Surgery) from McGill University Medical School in 1935.

Berne came to the United States in 1935 when he began an internship at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey. After completing his one-year internship in 1936, he began his psychiatric residency at the Psychiatric Clinic of Yale University School of Medicine, where he worked for two years.

In 1939, Berne became an American citizen and shortened his name from Eric Lennard Bernstein to Eric Berne.[citation needed]

In 1949, he was admitted as a Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association.

Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships is a bestselling 1964 book by Dr. Eric Berne that has sold more than five million copies. The book describes both functional and dysfunctional social interactions.

The essence of games described by Berne are that they are not zero-sum games (i.e. one must win at the other’s expense), where the person who benefits from a transaction wins the game. On the contrary, the “games people play” usually pay all of the players off, even those who ostensibly are the losers, since they are about psychic equilibrium or promoting adopted self-damaging social roles instead of rational benefits. These payoffs are not consciously sought by the players but they are leading to the ultimate unconscious life script of each as set by their parental family interactions and favored emotions.

Despite having been written for professional therapists, the book became a New York Times bestseller and made Berne famous.[3] The book clearly presented everyday examples of the ways in which human beings are caught up in the games they play. Berne gave these games memorable titles such as “Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch”, “Wooden Leg”, “Why Don’t You… / Yes, But…”, and “Let’s You and Him Fight”.

Berne said that “any social intercourse (…) has a biological advantage over no intercourse at all”, so, people need any form of “stroking” (a physical contact, e.g., exchange) to live.

Berne was married three times. His first wife was Ruth Harvey (the Jorgensen biography used the pseudonyms of “Elinor” and “McRae” to protect the privacy of Berne’s first wife). They married in 1942, had two children, and divorced acrimoniously in 1945.[8] In 1949 he married Dorothy DeMass Way, with whom he also had two children before their divorce in 1964.After his popular success, Eric married a third time, to Torre Peterson in 1967. The couple took up residence in Carmel, California, where he wrote, but he continued some clinical work in San Francisco. This marriage also ended in divorce, in early 1970.

Berne died of a heart attack in Carmel on July 15, 1970.

(From: Wikipedia)

Berne, Eric

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