Understanding my Recurrent Patterns Using Discounting and Games

By Aruna Prabhakar

February 27, 2024

I understand a recurrent pattern as something that I repeat unconsciously over and over again. I use the concepts of Discounting and Games to describe recurrent patterns, which I learned in my TA101 program.

Schiffs defined Discounting as a “refusal to acknowledge or consider the information most relevant to the situation. Instead, a person acts from an internal frame of reference about what he thinks, believes, or imagines, ignoring what another person has actually said, done, or felt” (Schiff, 1975, p. 36).

Discounting leads to passivity. Schiff defines Passive behaviour as, “behaviour by which you avoid an autonomous response to stimuli, issues and options” (Schiff, 1975, p.10).

The Schiffs identified four behaviours as passive – doing nothing, over-adaptation, agitation, incapacitation or violence. I recognise that doing nothing and overadaptation are recurrent ways I respond to stressful situations.

Example 1:
During the lockdown last year, I had to cook for a family of seven with very little help. Though I realize now that I could have let go of many things and made my life much simpler, I did nothing on that front but instead over-adapted myself. Over-adaptation is accepting whatever is happening and going along with it without any active response or resistance. I didn’t consider what I wanted but adapted to what I believed were the desires and expectations of others. For instance, I could have lowered my cleanliness quotient and let go of many chores or cooked fewer items or asked my family for help. Instead, I discounted my ability to change things by acting on these options. So here my “Please Others” and “Be Perfect” Drivers were at play. I was internally replaying my script belief “I’m only OK if I keep my home spotlessly clean” or “I’m only OK if I please my family by cooking varieties of dishes”. And above all, I completely discounted my effort, my contribution, and my significance as a person by thinking “what I am doing is not a big deal”.

“The person who discounts believes or acts as though some aspect of the self, other people, or reality is less significant than it actually is. Impact is reduced, usually purposefully, to maintain a frame of reference, to play games, to further script, and to attempt to enforce or confirm symbiotic relationships with others.” (Mellor and Schiff, 1975, p. 295).

Over-adaptation finally took a toll on my health. This was like a wake-up call for me. I challenged many of my beliefs. The new awareness that “I am Important” and the realization that “I am OK” whether I follow the Driver messages was an eye opener. I questioned many of my standards around cleanliness and started letting go of these in many areas. I decided to attend to my feelings. It was important for me to be happy. These realizations have been such a liberating experience for me. When compared with the last lockdown, I can see a marked difference in my behavior during this lockdown. I have become very flexible and accommodating when it comes to what I want or how I feel. Now, I cater food from outside a few days a week and I am OK if the floor is not mopped for 2-3 days or I have not baked in weeks. “I will get to it when I get to it” I tell myself. Also, I have assigned specific chores to my kids so that I get more time for myself to relax.

Example 2:
Another example of my discounting which manifested in me showing passivity, specifically “doing nothing” was when I started writing my SAATA exam. After much effort, I wrote my first answer and got it supervised. I had planned on starting my second answer immediately after. But I kept postponing it. I said to myself “let me give myself a break for a few days”. Few days turned into few weeks and weeks into months. I couldn’t get myself to sit and focus. I started feeling frustrated. But still I did nothing. After wasting more than 2 months, I knew I had to pull up my socks. “But what can I do if I am not getting any inspiration”, I told myself. Though I felt momentarily justified by this statement, in reality, my problem still persisted. I was not taking any steps to solve my problem.

To understand the nature and intensity of discounting, I have used the discount matrix developed by Ken Mellor and Eric Sigmund. (TAJ, 1975).

Discounting can be categorized into 3 types –

  • Stimulus
  • Problems
  • Options.

Each of these can be categorized into 4 different levels based on the intensity of discounting –

  • Existence
  • Significance
  • Change possibilities
  • Personal abilities

The discount matrix is the diagram got by compiling all the possible combinations.

Figure 6: Discount matrix

As I explored my stuckness using the discount matrix, I recognized the following:
T1: T1 is the highest level of discounting which involves denial of the existence of stimuli. Here, I had identified the stimulus which was – I want to write the SAATA exam. I recognised that I am doing nothing towards writing the exam.

T2: Involves discounting the existence of a problem.
I was aware of the existence of the problem – Not able to start writing the answer. And also, the significance of the stimulus – Writing the exam is important for me to get the diploma. I wanted to finish what I had started. I believed that the exam would help me learn about myself.

T3: Involves the discounting of the existence of options.
I realized that this was where I was discounting. When I was discounting at T3, I automatically discount T4, T5, T6.
I felt stuck and I let myself think that I didn’t have any options. Because I knew how important the problem is, I started thinking about different options. I talked with my peers and I decided to get help from a therapist to improve my clarity of thoughts and to get me out of my stuckness.

I found a therapist. In my therapy session, I explored my stuckness. Just giving myself the space to think about it and receiving some suggestions prompted me to take action. In personal work I realized, I needed a structure to keep me on track. Meeting with the therapist provided me the motivation to finish. I also used some structured questionnaires from the book “Into TA”. By applying the options, I was able to regain confidence and got inspired to start writing my answers.

Finally, I completed my answers.

The other TA concept I have used to describe recurrent patterns is Games.

My understanding of Games :
Berne defines Games as “sets of ulterior transactions, repetitive in nature, with a well-defined psychological payoff.” (Berne, 1964, p. 43).

Berne discovered that all games can be represented by a set of transactions. He called this sequence of transactions as Formula G.

C + G = R -> S -> X -> P (Formula G)
Con + Gimmick = Response -> Switch -> Crossup -> Payoff

By what I have understood, as Games involve exchange of ulterior transactions, there are two messages, one at the social level and another secret message at the psychological level. A Con is basically an invitation to the other person to enter the game. It is delivered at a psychological level. The weakness of the other person to which a Con can hook into is the Gimmick. These are the needs of the other person that are based on their script beliefs. For example: “I must be reasonable” or “I must be helpful”. Response involves a series of exchanges that occur between the players which on the social level appears to be straightforward transactions but carry secret messages at the psychological level. The Switch is pulled when there is a change in the Drama Triangle roles. Switch is followed by a moment of confusion or Crossup. As the game ends, the players collect their Payoff or their respective racket feelings.


My husband wanted the whole family to go to Hrishikesh to join his parents who had left a few weeks earlier. I didn’t agree to this idea citing children’s school and the upcoming PTM. I said, “If you want to go, go ahead”. I was assuming the role of a Rescuer here, “helping” him or making it easy for him to make his decision. I recognize now that this was the start of a Game and this statement made by me was the Con. Below this social message was the unsaid psychological message “Of course you will know that I don’t want you to go”. My husband didn’t recognize my non-verbal message and took the invitation. His guilt at not being able to go with his parents and to be a dutiful son was the gimmick.

A few days later, he came home and told me that he had booked a ticket for himself and he will be leaving the following week. I was shocked. This was the Switch in the Game. I had moved from the role of a Rescuer to the role of a Victim. “How could you do this me?” I lamented. I was hurt at him for deciding to go alone. My husband was perplexed at my reaction. As far as he was concerned, he had consulted me and had arrived at this decision. My husband moved into Persecution by saying that I was not clear about my intentions and compared me to my co-sister who had clearly said to her husband that he can’t go, as a result of which my brother-in-law didn’t make any plans.

This all became evident to me when I learnt about Games. I realized that this was a recurrent pattern with me, as I often expect people to “understand” what I am thinking and act accordingly.

Now, I recognize that I had not communicated to him what I wanted. Instead of making a valid ask, I expected him to be a mind reader. This game playing finally ended with me displaying my Racket feeling of righteous anger and he, feeling annoyed and confused. And, I had reinforced my script belief of “I am not Important”.

I would like to mention an example of how I was able to step out of this pattern after this awareness.

We have a driver for our family and over the years I have come to realise that it’s not just for our family but for extended family too. Many a times I had to make adjustments so that it’s convenient for others to use the car. Eventually it went to such an extent that they used to directly call the driver and avail his services without asking us. I would feel angry and annoyed but instead of speaking my mind, I would expect them to be mind-readers and somehow magically understand my feelings. After becoming aware of this pattern of mine, I realised that I need to express my views on the matter instead of simply whining about the problem. Recently when I came to know that my co-sister had called my driver, I called her and requested her to check with us first before calling him so that we can plan accordingly. I felt relieved and happy for speaking my mind and making my expectations clear.

This newfound awareness of my recurrent patterns has been an eye-opening experience for me, thanks to learnings from the TA101 modules. I’m now training myself to speak up instead of assuming things, thus avoiding many misunderstandings.

About the author:

Aruna is a practicing Psychotherapist-in-training and supervision. She has a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Information Science. She has completed her Diploma in Transactional Analysis and is pursuing her CTA. She has worn diverse hats as a Software Developer, Montessori Teacher, Contracts Administrator, and Homemaker before becoming a Psychotherapist. She lives in Bangalore with her husband and 2 sons.


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