Whoosh! Issue 29 - February 1999

IAXS project #556
By Brian Lashmar
Content copyright © 1999 held by author
This edition copyright © 1999 held by Whoosh!

8769 words

Author's Note: Many of the definitions given in this essay are taken directly from Eric Berne's book "What Do You Say After You Say Hello?"

Introduction (01-04)
Transactional Analysis/Definitions (05-33)
Why Analyze Transactions? (34-40)
Gabrielle's Child Ego State (41-42)
The Life Script (43-46)
Dead War Hero: Joxer (47-50)
Waiting for Santa Claus (51-52)
The Doctor (53-55)
The Good Daughter: Gabrielle (56-59)
The Parent/Child Relationship: Xena and Gabrielle (60-62)
The Perfectionist: Gabrielle (63-66)
Gabrielle's Illusion (67-75)
The NIGYSOB Game (76-77)
Xena's Relapse: THE DEBT (78-85)
Gabrielle's Revenge (86-89)
The Fascist Sneer (90-96)
Xena's Payoff (97-101)
Conclusion (106-107)

Gabrielle and the NIGYSOB Game


Maybe I'll change my hair colour again.  It's not like I'm going
to cut it all off or anything!

Gabrielle catches her reflection in FINS, FEMMES, AND GEMS.

[01] NIGYSOB is an abbreviation of the colloquialism "Now I've got you, you son of a b*tch". The NIGYSOB Game is a subconscious game that individuals play between themselves in order to gain justification for acting out various negative feelings. At first glance, this seems somewhat humorous, but I assure you this is a very serious topic, and these "games" are very serious business.

[02] The fact that the colloquialism seems amusing is because it gets right to the point, and it hits the mark dead center. Eric Berne (see bibliography below) states,

Psychological truths may be stated for academic purposes in scientific language, but the effective recognition of emotional strivings in practice may require a different approach. Therefore, we prefer playing the game 'Ain't It Awful' to the game 'verbalizing projected anal aggression'. The former not only has a more dynamic meaning and impact, but it is actually more precise.

[03] The purpose of this paper will be to explore the events that lead up to Gabrielle's third season betrayal of Xena and to try to explain Gabrielle's motives. This is not a condemnation of Gabrielle, nor should it be construed as "Gabby Bashing" and neither should it be seen as giving Gabrielle a pass on her actions. We will be studying Gabrielle's betrayal in the light of Transactional Analysis (TA) as put forward by Eric Berne, and Amy and Thomas Harris. An extensive bibliography of primary sources at the end of this paper provides for those wishing to further their research of the topic.

[04] Initially, it is necessary to give the readers a rudimentary working knowledge of the concepts found in Transactional Analysis (TA). For the sake of brevity, we will only be applying those concepts which apply to the characters in Xena: Warrior Princess (XWP).

Transactional Analysis/Definitions

[05] Transaction: a unit of social action. Any communication, whether it is a word, a look, or a slap is a stimulus. A stimulus invokes a response. Together the stimulus and the response make up a transaction.

[06] Transactional Analysis is

  1. A system of psychotherapy based on the analysis of transactions and chains of transactions that occur during social intercourse;
  2. A theory of personality based on the study of specific ego states;
  3. A theory of social action based on the rigorous analysis of transactions into an exhaustive and finite number of classes based on the specific ego states involved; and,
  4. The analysis of single transactions by means of transactional diagrams.

[07] Ego States: A system of feelings accompanied by a related set of behavior patterns. The human personality is made up of three ego states. They are: the Parent, the Adult, and the Child [See Figures 1A, 1B, and 1C].

The Parent: an ego state borrowed from a parental figure. It may function as a directing influence on the personality or be directly exhibited as parental behavior. It may be nurturing or controlling. Another way of looking at the Parent is to envision it as a tape recording of every thing some one's parental figure said (or what that individual may have thought the parental figure said). A parent figure may be a parent, a teacher, society, television, or God (religion).

The Adult: an ego state oriented toward objective, autonomous data processing and probability estimating. The Adult is the computer part of the personality; the sum of all one's knowledge (both correct and incorrect knowledge). The Adult can also be envisioned as having Star Trek's Mr. Spock inside one's head.

The Child: (More popularly known as the "Inner Child") that part of the personality that was developed very early on in life (usually between the ages of 2 to 5). This is the most valuable part of the personality, but it can also be the most damaging.

Sometimes, a rubberband helps with snowman stability. The 'bargain-basement' snowman. How a butcher would see a snowman.

Figures 1a, 1b, and 1c illustrate the intricacy of the Parent-Adult-Child paradigm.

[08] Life Positions: There are four main life positions. They are:

  1. "I'm OK, you're OK";
  2. "I'm OK, you're not OK";
  3. "I'm not Ok, you're OK"; and
  4. "I'm not OK, you're not OK".

    Two other life positions are:

  5. "They're OK" and
  6. "They're not OK".

[09] These life positions should not be equated with good and bad. For example, when Xena was evil she had a sense of being mostly OK while the good Xena tends to not see herself as being OK. An evil person with no conscience may be OK while a good person with a bad conscious may feel not OK. OK-ness and not OK-ness tend to justify decisions and are the positions from which games are played. People do not feel OK all the time. Some people, such as bad people, should not feel OK. Often bad people need to be moved from a state of OK-ness to a state of not OK-ness before they can be reformed. OK-ness is relative.

[10] Game: a series of transactions with a con, a gimmick, a switch, or a cross up leading to a payoff.

[11] Script: a life plan based on a decision made in childhood, reinforced by the parental figures, justified by subsequent events, and culminating in a chosen alternative.

[12] Script Matrix: the sum of all parental input (either real or illusionary) that the Child ego state absorbs and uses in the construction of the life script.

[13] Life Game: game that is relevant to the script and is played out over a long period, sometimes a lifetime.

[14] Role: a series of transactions played out in any of the three ego states according to the demands of the script.

[15] Currency: the medium that leads to a script payoff: words, money, Justification, anger, tissues (blood and body parts).

[16] Hamartic Script: a script with a self-destructive tragic ending.

[17] Pay Off: the ultimate destiny or final display that marks the end of a life script or a game.

[18] Degrees: Games can be played on three levels of intensity going from gentle to violent. A first-degree game is one that is socially acceptable in the agent's circle. A second-degree game is one from which no permanent, irremediable damage arises, but which the players would rather conceal from the public. A third degree game is one that is played for keeps, and which ends up in the operating room, the courtroom, or the morgue. (from Berne's Games People Play)

[19] Trading Stamp: a feeling "collected" as the payoff in a game. Examples of Trading stamps are: rage, justification, self-pity, sadness, and feelings of OK-ness and not OK-ness. Trading Stamps can be traded in for an immediate Payoff, or they can be placed in a file drawer in the back of the head and accumulated for a big Payoff.

[20] Witch Mother: Just as that personality is made up of three ego states, the individual Parent and Child ego states are also made up of ego states passed on from the parental figures.

[21] The Parent Ego State of an individual is made up of the Parent, Adult, and Child parent states of the individual's parental figures. The Parent Ego State found in an individual's Child ego state can be the Electrode, the Witch Mother, or the Fairy Godmother. The Adult Ego State found in the individual's Child Ego State can be the Little Professor. The Child ego state found in an individual's Child ego state can be: the Natural Child, the Adaptive Child, the Magical Child, or the Little Fascist. (They can also be many other things, but we will limit our discussion to the Witch Mother, the Little Professor, and the Little Fascist. Everyone has these aspects to the ego states inside their personalities to a certain degree, but usually the Parent and Adult ego states tightly control these.

And THIS is the EASY diagram!

Figure 3 shows how the paradigm affects the Child.

[22] Little Fascist: Each of us has that dark part of our personality we do not like to admit exists. This is the Little Fascist. If we were discussing spirituality in this paper, we would describe this aspect of the personality as that spark of evil that we all possess and that can never be released. Psychologists describe it as being a primeval survival mechanism that has become redundant. Berne describes it as that part of our personality that likes to consume tissue. Given the right set of circumstances, we can all release the Little Fascist. We only need look at 1930's Germany to see how a stressed out tolerant, moral, benevolent population can revert to its basest instincts.

[23] Little Professor: The Little Professor is the Adult portion of the Child ego state. Essentially, the Child ego state in an adult individual is the 5 year old child that individual was. That 5-year-old child had his/her own personality made up of a Parent ego state, an Adult ego state, and a Child ego state. The 5 year old's Adult ego state tends to be filled with some truths, a lot of half-truths, illusions, nonsense, and mush. This in itself is not a problem, but where the problem arises is that the individual often mistakes his Little Professor for his Adult ego state, and tends to listen to the Little Professor. There is a greater chance that the Little Professor will tell an individual what s/he wants to hear as opposed to what s/he needs to hear.

[24] Button: an internal or external stimulus that turns on the scripty or gamy behavior. If people can recognize their buttons, they can defend against them.

[25] Electrode: the Parent in the Child. When activated, it brings about an almost automatic response.

[26] Illusion: an unlikely hope that the Child clings to and which influences all his/her decisive behavior.

[27] Injunction: a prohibition or negative command from a parent.

[28] Re-Parenting: cutting off early Parental programming and substituting a new and more adaptive program through regression.

[29] Stroke: the fundamental unit of social action. Strokes can be both positive and negative [See Figure 4]. Negative strokes are sometimes called "kicks" [See Figures 5a, 5b, and 5c]. Humans need positive strokes to keep the Child healthy, but a stroke-starved individual will accept both positive and negative strokes. Psychologist Abraham Maslow called stroking "Optimal Stimulation" and listed it along with food and water as primary in the hierarchy of human needs [See Figure 4 below].

Magician instructions on how to make a ball disappear out of your left nostril...

...or the right... ...or for those with a deviated septum... ...and back again.

Figures 4 and 5 highlight the Parent/Child relationship.

[30] A good example of stroking in XWP occurs in the scene where Lao Ma bathes and grooms Xena. This stroking helps to establish a bond between Lao Ma's Adult and Xena's Child that leads to true intimacy. It also placates Xena's Child and makes it amenable to Lao Ma's re-parenting of Xena. Joxer is an excellent example of the stroke-starved individual. He receives very few positive strokes, and most of those come from his own illusions and are, therefore, of poor quality. Since he is unable to accumulate positive strokes, he accepts all of the negative strokes he can get in an effort to satisfy his "stroke hunger". Joxer's favorite game is "Kick Me".

[31] Intimacy: game-free exchanges of emotional expression without exploitation.

[32] Hero Worship: Hero worship should not be confused with admiring someone who can be a positive role model. This is simply "Having heroes", and it can be very healthy. We all need people we can admire. Hero Worship, however, occurs when an individual (the Fan) sees another individual (the Hero) as being "super OK". Not only is the Hero super OK, but s/he radiates OK-ness. When the fan enters the aura of the Hero, s/he will gain a sense of OK-ness. The not OK Fan will feel OK while the OK Fan will feel even more OK. The Fan places the Hero on a pedestal, and the Hero is either on the pedestal or s/he is a nobody. There is no in between state. We have all heard the expression "from a Hero to a Zero". Fans cannot see Heroes as merely being OK. They are either super OK or not OK.

[33] In THE EXECUTION (41/217), Xena admonishes Gabrielle for her habit of Hero-worshiping. She points out that Gabrielle not only put Meleager on a pedestal, but she also knocked him off when he was unable to measure up to Gabrielle's perfectionist image of what a hero is supposed to be. Because Xena and Gabrielle share intimacy, Gabrielle is able to see her fault in relation to Meleager. What Gabrielle does not see is that she also Hero Worships Xena.

Xena: You put people on a pedestal, sooner or later they're going to fall, and your expectations fall with them.

Gabrielle: I put people on a pedestal?

Why Analyze Transactions?

[34] We analyze transactions because people tend to say one thing while meaning something else. They also tend to hear things differently from what was said. For example, "You really look good today" can be construed as "So, you're saying I looked awful yesterday?"

[35] To provide a better understanding of TA, I will now give a short scenario.

[36] Mary gets up from working at the computer to get a drink of water. She looks out the kitchen window and notices that it is clouding over. She goes to the family room and sees her son John watching television. Mary says, "Please bring the laundry in off the line before it rains. John replies, "No problem, I'll get it in a minute". Mary goes back to work in the study.

[37] Later the front door opens, and Mary's husband Mike walks in carrying bags of groceries. As he passes the study door, he sees Mary and says, "Hi hon. It's raining outside". He then goes out to get the rest of the groceries from the car. Mary rushes to the window sees that it is raining and the laundry is still on the line. She then runs into the family room and yells, " John! It's raining outside!" John gets up and grabs a laundry basket and runs outside. Mike comes back in, puts the groceries down, looks out the window, and sees Mary and John gathering the sheets. He then goes out to the garage to work on the lawn mower. He sees that the rain is not going to let up, so he looks at his watch and remembers that Xena is coming on television. Mike decides that he will do the grass tomorrow, and he heads to the family room humming the XWP theme music to himself. He passes the laundry room, sees Mary putting the sheets into the washing machine, and says to himself, "I thought she just washed those sheets".

[38] As Mike enters the room, he sees John and he says, "Johnboy! It's raining outside!" John gets up from the chair and yells, "I already told mom I was sorry!" and leaves the room in a huff. Mike shakes his head and says, "What's with these d*mn kids today?"

[39] Let us analyze this. The Key sentence is, "It's raining outside". When Mike tells Mary that it is raining outside, his Adult ego state is passing information to Mary's Adult ego state. Nothing more, nothing less. "It's raining outside" simply means that it is raining outside. When Mary says to John, "It is raining outside", she is speaking to John's Child ego state from her Parent ego state. What she is really saying is, "Why didn't you bring in the laundry when I told you to?" The first "It is raining outside" begins the social level transaction. "Why didn't you bring in the laundry when I told you to?" begins the psychological level transaction. When Mike tells John that it is raining out, he is speaking to John's Child ego state from his own Child ego state, and he is saying, "Can't work, so let's play!" (psychological level) What John hears is Mike's Parent saying, "Why didn't you do what your mother told you?" When John says, "I already told mom I was sorry!" he is speaking to his father's Parent ego state from his own Child ego state, and he is saying, "Why are you guys always picking on me?" When Mike says, "What's with these kids today?" he is speaking from his Parent ego state.

[40] This is very simplistic, but we see that we cannot take communication at face value. There is always the social level transaction, but there may also be a hidden psychological level transaction [See Figure 6]. John also gets a free trading stamp at his father's expense (wounded indignation). He could have saved the stamp for another day, but he chooses to cash it in front of Mike whereby he gets to show how badly treated he feels. John has just played a first-degree game of "Ain't It Awful" on his unsuspecting father. What we need to remember is that John does not know that he just played this game. Mike could have ended the game (if he knew that John was playing a game) by confronting John and asking him why he said what he said, but he chose not to. Besides, he gets his own payoff. Mike is allowed to see himself as the long suffering parent of an ungrateful child.

The new Los Angeles freeway proposal.

Figure 6 adds the Adult to the formula.

Gabrielle's Child Ego State

[41] The Child Ego State is composed of our instincts and biological urges, genetic recordings, our physical selves, curiosity, and intuition. It contains joy as well as sadness. Whereas the Parent is filled with demands, directions, and dogma, the Child is filled with desire. The Child, like the Parent, is both an influence and a state. When we are in the Child State, we act and look like the little person we once were. The Child can be inventive, creative, and spontaneous. It can also be fearful, intimidated, and selfish. (from Harris' Staying Okay)

[42] We witnessed Gabrielle in her Child ego state in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205). When individuals suffer severe stress or trauma, they often revert to their Child. Gabrielle does this after the death of Perdicas. Not only does Gabrielle take the aspect and mannerisms of a young child, she also acts out in inappropriate childlike behavior, we witness Gabrielle enraged. She is hostile, cranky, and demanding. She throws tantrums, lies, is disobedient, and becomes obsessed with vengeance. Since both Xena and Gabrielle have intimacy, Xena is able to nurture Gabrielle back to a state of balance.

The Life Script

[43] Each person has a preconscious life plan, or script, by which s/he structures longer periods. These periods may be of time months, years, or his/her whole life filling them with ritual, activities, pastimes, and games which further the script while giving him/her immediate satisfaction. Periods of withdrawal and sometimes episodes of intimacy interrupt these scripts. Scripts are usually based on childlike illusions that may persist throughout a whole lifetime. (Berne, What Do You Say After You Say Hello?)

[44] People can have either winning or losing scripts. (Most of us have what is called a "non winning script"). Those people who are winners belong to the "Life Crowd", and they tend to be mostly OK; however, their OK-ness is often dependent on the successful completion of the script. The losers belong to the "Death Crowd", and they tend to live unhappy lives. The individual usually writes the script before s/he has reached the age of six. Sadly, enough children already know at this early age whether they are going to be winners or losers. So our life scripts are formed at an age when we cannot tell facts from delusions and our hearts and heads are already filled with the aspirations and disillusionment of our parents.

[45] Most children believe in Santa Claus, but they do not believe in death. Adults believe in death, but they do not believe in Santa Claus, or at least they say they do not. Nevertheless, as children they were taught that if they were good, Santa would come leave a gift. Therefore, as adults, many people spend their lives waiting for Santa Claus. Moreover, some children are taught to believe in death. These are the children of disappointment. Santa may not always come, Santa Claus may disappoint, but death will never disappoint - death will always come.

[46] Many people, depending on what script they choose in early childhood, go through life either waiting for Santa Claus or waiting for death. These two events bring the script to its conclusion, and if the individual has done well, then s/he can claim his/her Payoff and reward. People who are waiting for death are not OK but they believe that if they die, they will either become OK or at least they will end their state of not OK-ness. Suicide is an example of dying to end not OK-ness. Dead War Hero is an example of dying to become OK. (This does NOT mean that most of the people who died in battle were not OK).

Dead War Hero: Joxer

Joxer the Mighty, Seasick with Dignity...

Joxer follows Xena and Gabrielle in TEN LITTLE WARLORDS.

[47] A boy grows up hearing about his mother's brother who died in Vietnam. The mother idolizes the dead brother and constantly talks about him in glowing terms to her son: "Your uncle was wonderful; he was a hero, he died in battle; he was a real man". She would take him to the memorial in Washington and show him his uncle's name written in stone and say: "Your uncle is now immortal".

[48] Whenever the boy falls short of his parents' expectations, his mother would say, "Why can't you be more like your uncle? He was perfect. He was a real man". His father would say, "Stop acting like a child and be a man". The boy grows into adulthood believing that the only way he can become a man and please his mother is to die in battle. If he dies well in battle, he can claim his reward immortality. This does not mean that his parents want him to die. All they ever wanted was for the boy to grow into manhood and they used the idolized uncle as an example.

[49] Joxer's life script seems to be the Dead War Hero. Joxer describes himself as being the black sheep of the family because he is so inept as a warrior. All through his life, it seems that he could not meet the expectations of his parents and family. He comes from a family of warlords and the only way he may be able to feel OK is if he is able to impress his family. Joxer may be going through life waiting for Death.

[50] Joxer's Parent Ego State tells him: "Be a man! Be a warrior!" His Child Ego State replies, "I will be a man. I will obey". His Adult Ego State says, "Slow down! Death comes soon enough so don't hurry it!" However, his Little Professor (the Adult in the Child) says: "Getting killed in battle will really impress mom and dad, then they'll really be proud of you". Joxer may tend to listen to the Little Professor instead of his real Adult, and so he may see heroic death as a solution to his state of constant not OK-ness. If his death is heroic enough, he will be immortalized in song and legend. In BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302), Xena says to Gabrielle, "Joxer died a hero. That's what he always wanted".

Waiting for Santa Claus

[51] People who are waiting for Santa Claus usually are living in a state of conditional OK-ness. That is, their sense of OK-ness is dependent on the completion of the script by bringing it to the Payoff. When the script has been successfully completed, they can then choose to live their lives script free (Although most tend to find new scripts to fill their time).

[52] What happens if they do not successfully complete the script? Sometimes Santa Claus is death in disguise.

The Doctor

[53] Mary's mother constantly tells Mary about her grandfather, the village doctor. Mary's grandfather was the most important man in the village and everyone admired him. Mary's mother worshiped him. All through Mary's childhood, her mother would say, "Your grandfather was a great man. You would make me so proud if you became a doctor. I need you to carry on the tradition of the family. When I was young, I couldn't become a doctor because I was a woman, but you can and should." Mary's aunt comes over and says to Mary, "I hear you're thinking of becoming a doctor. Your mother will be so happy. She worshiped your grandfather". Mary fails her first year at the university and drops out of school.

[54] Mary's mother says, "It's ok dear, you tried, and I love you". Mary's Parent ego state tells Mary's Child ego state: "You let down the family, you worthless daughter". So, what does Mary do? Mary's Parent says, "You let down the family so Santa Claus won't come now".

[55] Mary's Child says, "I'm a worthless daughter so Santa won't ever come". Mary's Adult says, "Santa Claus is a fairy tale. He doesn't exist. The old script is garbage now, so either you can throw your life away, or we can sit down and write a new script. The choice is yours. What's it going to be?"

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