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Eric Berne's Theory of Relationship Structure

Eric Berne's Theory of Relationship Structure


  • Eric Berne believes that humans naturally seek structure in their relationships with others.
  • Just as our brains organize sensory input, we have an innate drive to create order in relationships.


  • Our desire for structure stems from our need to make sense of the chaos in our lives.
  • By creating structure, we can better understand and navigate our relationships.


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Patterns in Time and Relationships

Patterns in Time and Relationships

According to Eric Berne, people organize their time and relationships into 6 patterns:

  1. Withdrawal: disengaging from relationships and activities, avoiding confrontation and connection.
  2. Rituals: structured events that happen regularly and have shared meanings.
  3. Pastimes: enjoyable activities shared with others, but without much personal involvement.
  4. Activities
  5. Psychological Games: manipulative behaviors of power and control in relationships.
  6. Intimacy: genuine, open and complete sharing of thoughts and feelings with another person.


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  • Withdrawal means taking a break or distancing oneself from communication or relationships.
  • It's important to take time to recharge and reflect.
  • It can be a sign of needing space and boundaries.


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Rituals can provide structure and comfort, and can help us connect with others on a deeper level.

However, they may lack emotional depth and can sometimes feel superficial, even when interacting with strangers.


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Pastimes (small talks)

Pastimes (small talks)

We make polite and easy conversation and there are culturally agreed topics we can talk about, knowing we won’t get into hairy situations with our partners in the exchanges.

Both parties will avoid any controversial or painful topics.

Most people will get quite bored with it rather sooner than later.


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It is time we spend doing things with others, rather than just being with them.

It's shared time, and may include having a lot of fun, but it may also mean we are avoiding really being with the other and meeting them fully.


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Psychological Games

Psychological Games

Games are complex patterns of interactions where there is a hidden agenda and it can leave both parties with negative emotions.

Ultimately, games can be seen as a failed effort to connect with another person on a deeper level. With the nature of games being unclear and manipulative, it is important to be aware of these tendencies in relationships.


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This is an authentic encounter with another, a moment of shared openness, trust and honesty.

Intimacy means emotionally intimate, not necessarily sexually intimate.

It also doesn’t necessarily mean nice and peaceful.

An intimate encounter may be an angry argument, but conducted from a place of respect and openness to one’s own feelings and those of the other(s).

We are allowing the other person to impact us and change us.


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Present… here… now


Time structuring is piece of theory which allows us to think about how intensely we spend time with other people.


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