The Mind Game You Need To Lose To Defeat Negative Thinking

We all face disappointments and failures in life, but one major way we cope isn’t doing us any good. Here’s a healthier way.

The Mind Game You Need To Lose To Defeat Negative Thinking
[Photo: Flickr user r. nial bradshaw]

“Why did they get the promotion and not me? I’ll never get promoted!”


Immediately the question races through your mind when you hear the bad news. You force yourself to congratulate the successful candidate through gritted teeth, wondering how they managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the interviewers. Conspiracy theories swirl through your head.

Then a horrific thought sets in: “If this faker is valued higher in the organization than me, I have no hope of ever progressing!”

Many of us have faced this negative thinking before, but it’s possible to circumvent the game our minds will play next to justify this thought as a reality.

The “Yes, But” Game

Oftentimes a deeply negative thought like this sets in and we want to begin what psychologists call the “yes, but” game with a trusted friend or coworker. It looks something like this:

“I’ll never get promoted” is the first move in the game. A friend may be suckered into playing by saying, “Of course you will, we just need to work on your interview skills.”

The game continues: “But I tried that, I did lots of prep, and I was still overlooked.”


“Well, how about we try rehearsing before the next interview?” volunteers your friend.

“Yes I could try that, but I hate role playing.”

“What about if we get feedback on why you were unsuccessful?” asks your friend, now frustrated.

“Sure, but I already know what they are going to say, so there’s no point.”

“I could speak to HR and see if there is anything they could do?” puts forward your friend.

“There’s no point, HR is on the side of the director; they’re no help.”


The game usually keeps going like this until your friend gives up and offers no more solutions. In fact, the point of the game is to have no solutions to the problem.

First popularized by Eric Berne, MD in his psychotherapy book, Games People Play, the “yes, but” game redefined how psychotherapists and psychologists approached patients. No longer attempting to offer solutions to patients’ problems, which would just be rejected multiple times, psychologists recognized the game being played and refused to allow it to continue by using various strategies.

Here’s how you can stop playing these games:

  1. Recognize

    The first step is self-awareness that these games are being played on an unconscious level. It requires discipline and observation in the early days to recognize these games even exist.

  2. Share

    Next, choose those who you trust and share with them these games. Ask them to help spot when you both play them. It’s a lot easier to discover self-awareness when someone points it out.

  3. Accept

    Lastly, accept that these games are hardwired into our psychology. They have developed over the years and we all play them. Where you can win these games is by recognizing that you are playing them in the first place and either use them to your advantage or stop playing altogether.

Ross Kingsland is a speaker, author, and entrepreneur who writes about real psychology in real business so that everyone can understand and achieve the results they want more effectively. Ross and his licensed trainers support organizations and individuals to achieve the outcome they want using the science and art of inspiration. Follow him on Twitter.