To Top

Improve Your Relationship Today- Ditch the Pain Game

What’s the Pain Game?

Most of us are playing a game with our loved ones that we are not aware of. We play it with friends and co-workers as well. In fact, we tend to play it with just about everyone.
It’s a strange game, to say the least. The rules have never been explained to us though they have been taught to us. It takes at least two people to play, but others may join the game at the start or at any point along the way. The game starts without warning and can continue for hours or even days. It begins a different way each time, though if you watch carefully, you can see emerging patterns, providing clues to how it starts and what keeps it going. It is, by all counts, a costly game to play. And there are no winners. Welcome to the Pain Game.


Throughout our lives we experience the pain and suffering of a mind-created program that tells us we are not good enough. This program puts us at a disadvantage in life because it makes us believe that we are less than we really are. Through this belief, life is experienced in a reactive, chaotic and disconnecting state rather than in a peaceful, healthy and bonding one. This sets the stage for the Pain Game.

The Pain Game is simple. Player 1 says something to Player 2. Player 2 takes it personally and reacts with a return attack. Player 1 reacts back with a defense or an attack. In a split second, the game is on. Verbal confrontations and physical offensives are part of the game. Everything is meant as an assault on the player or players. The Pain Game is a game of criticism, demeaning, disagreeing and defense.

The first attack starts for any number of reasons, though all attacks and counter-attacks are based on internal unhappiness, one of the noticeable patterns. One attack is made in order to gain a return attack. Attacks go back and forth with mud-slinging and words that cut like knives until one player caves. Typically, the same player caves in every Pain Game no matter who the other players are. This is another noticeable pattern.

Repetitive attack patterns can be noticed when one of the players takes a position outside the game as an Observer. An Observer is a player who steps out of the game and is, therefore, no longer a participant. That is easier said than done since most of us don’t realize we are playing the game .¨ we think this is just how life is. On top of that, the grip of the battle when the game is in play is so strong that it makes us forget that we love the person we are attacking. And though two or more people can play the game, there are only two categories of players: Bullies and Victims.

The Players: The Bully and the Victim

In every Pain Game, there is at least one bully and one victim. They need each other to start and to continue the game. The bully needs the victim so they have someone to degrade and humiliate because this gives the bully a temporary high, which a bully needs in order to compensate for the original internal message, “I’m not good enough”. When a bully gets a temporary high, this is like scoring points. In order for the bully to play a part in the game, pot shots have to be taken and attacks have to be made as often as possible. Everything and anything is fair game. The bully does not know how to survive the game without them.

Feeling powerless, the bully must exert force in an aggressive, manipulating fashion justifying their actions with delusional thinking. The bully also endorses revenge, which keeps the game alive. The bully will play the game with anyone, but a victim, someone considered less powerful, is its favorite challenger in the game, since this is where the most points can be scored.

In The Pain Game, the victim needs the bully in order to play. A victim thinks life is out to get them so having a partner who consistently attacks them is a great match. Each time they are treated in a way that is equal to the way they feel about themselves, it is like scoring points. A bully is the perfect challenger for the victim in the game because the bully treats them the way they expect to be treated .¨ poorly. This is because victims, in their powerless mental state, feel unworthy of anything better. When a victim is being degraded and humiliated, it fortifies a pattern of thinking consistent with the original internal message, “I’m not good enough”.

Feeling powerless, the victim must exert force through blaming and complaining, a method of manipulating and controlling others into being responsible for their unhappiness. This is also justified through delusional thinking based in rationalizations and excuses. The victim scores points each time they cry, feel lonely, feel screwed by others and the life in general and when they feel worse about themselves.

The bully and the victim begin with the same foundation of defectiveness. Feeling defective feeds feelings of imperfection. This feeds feelings of limitation. Limitation feeds feelings of fear. Fear, created in the mind, is stressful and unhealthy to the body. From this we become sick and tired. We are at our wits end. Feeling wounded and powerless, we attack others as we project outward the internal suffering we experience.

Like energy attracts like energy. The players keep the game going by encouraging anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness. The only possible outcome is more pain.

It’s time for a new game.

Breaking Free and Improving Your Relationship

It is time to break free from the Pain Game. It is time to simplify our lives by focusing on love for ourselves and each other. We need to rewrite and transform our identities, leaving the bully and the victim behind. Each of these identities originated from the same fabricated foundation and have manipulation and control as their desired outcomes. None of this is based on truth or love.
Both require change and healing. Both need love. Love is where connectedness lives. Love is where healing begins.

If you identify with one of the players of the Pain Game, you can thank yourself for having the willingness and insight to see the truth about your situation with your loved one. Realize that the two of you share something that brews beneath the surface creating internal pain individually and as a couple. Know that each one of you has been raised to think you are not good enough. Then, you have both spent a lifetime trying to overcome this doom and gloom perspective in different ways. You have both struggled, felt lonely, felt afraid and felt unloved.

In Figure 1 below, it is easy to see the similarities between bullies and victims. It’s also easy to see that we are all suffering from feelings of inadequacy and insecurities. Let’s help each other overcome this condition.



Feels bad about self

Feels bad about self

Pretends they feel better about themselves than they really do

Wishes they felt better about themselves than they really do



Feels powerless, overcompensates with aggression

Feels powerless, overcompensates with blame

Intentionally hurts others physically or emotionally

Is hurt by other physically or emotionally

Feels out of control

Feels out of control

Experiences internal pain

Experiences internal pain

Fig. 1

Use this knowledge of similarities to connect you and to come to each other’s aid, being supportive, understanding, kind and compassionate. Being aware that you are involved in the Pain Game gives you an opportunity to see the deeper dimension in each other and to make the necessary changes. You have more that connects you than could ever separate you.

We all have challenging times and we fear doing something different – change is hard for us. But, if we work together and support each other, it will make it easier for us to shift back into love. Below are a few things you can do to get started. You can come up with your own ideas, too! Anything that is involves kindness, compassion, understanding and love will assist you in repairing your own life and your relationship.

1. Stop taking things personally. VICTIM: When someone says something derogatory to you, it doesn’t validate that you are unworthy; it shows that the other person is hurting and needs love. BULLY:
Instead of saying something derogatory to your loved one, stop and replace it with a loving word or phrase. It takes practice, but the more love you give, the more love you feel. Both are healing.

2. Stop using negative, harmful language. VICTIM: Get out of the habit of using demeaning words against yourself. Changing this will help you stand tall and climb out of the hole this habit keeps you in. You will no longer allow others to use such words against you either. BULLY: Get out of the habit of using condescending, patronizing and degrading words against others.
The heaviness you have been living with will begin to lift, allowing you to feel freer from the stress this habit creates. You will feel better about yourself, your health will improve and so will your relationship.

3. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. VICTIM & BULLY: Gratitude is the antidote to The Pain Game. It is the way the game ends for good and both players are relieved of the pain and suffering this game requires. Gratitude connects you and nurtures self-love as well as couple love. Gratitude allows each of you to see the other in the light of adoration and tenderness, which gives you a true picture of the person you fell in love with.

There may be circumstances where professional assistance is needed in the form of a counselor, therapist or transformational coach. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone like this who can assist you with the changes that need to be made. Healing from the internal pain and suffering that created the Pain Game can be a big undertaking, but it is one that gives you your life back. Everyone deserves that. It’s time to ditch the Pain Game. It’s time to love.

Bo L. Arnold

  • Save

More in Great Mind

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap