The games we play

Josh Pitzalis
2 min readMay 4, 2022

We survive in groups.

To not belong in one is a fearsome state for a social animal to find itself in.

However, the collective alone does not make for fulfillment. We are rarely content to linger on the lower rungs. Likable but useless.

Our primary drive is towards survival. Once we are safe we start seeking groups to join. Once we belong we begin to desire significance. Acclaim. To be of value.

If we’re to flourish, admiration and respect are critical. And as much as we hate to admit it, we need them. A sense of worth is an essential nutrient found not in meat or fruit or sunlight but in the successful playing of our lives.

When we feel chronically deprived of it, and disconnected from our groups, anxiety, and depression set in and our minds and bodies turn against us.

This game we play is deadly serious.

And hidden are the rules.

Yet the strategies by which we earn our place shape who we are.

Our position in the world is not fixed or declared publicly, instead, it is sensed. There is no way to keep track of this stuff and it’s hard to make sense of. So instead we share symbols and make up elaborate rituals to keep score.

In this strange and restless dream world, we’re continually offered new and shifting symbols of what it is to be a winner: thinner, rounder, whiter, darker, smarter, happier.

The game never ceases.

And to a large extent, we become puppets of the games we play.

But we can take consolation in the knowledge that nobody ever gets there.

Nobody wins.

The point is not to win, but to play.

These are a collection of rearranged notes from Will Storr’s ‘The Status Game’. This book clearly breaks down the mechanics of self-worth and social position.

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