The thirteen TATORS and the activity within which they are
included represent a way of encouraging the client to look at himself and at
others within his family in behavioral terms in relationship to what may be
perceived as problematic participation within the family. Typically, individuals will be inclined to
infer the existence of negative motivations and complex psychological issues
when dealing with family members who are into TATOR roles. At the same time, these individuals will also
be inclined to interpret similar behavior on their parts as justified,
reasonable, necessary, and free from negative motivation or psychological complexity. The usual approach comes in terms of, When I
am a TATOR I am functioning in the best interest of the family; but when you
are a TATOR you are being a pain in the neck.
The idea of the activity is to move away from these types of
interpretations and toward understanding the behavior and participation of each
family member as simply reflecting their individual and idiosyncratic
style. In addition, the activity gives
the client new names or labels for certain behaviors or participation styles. This is a positive step since the names or
labels given to behavior or participation do, themselves, affect the behavior
and reflect a general attitude toward the individual and less directly toward
the family as a system. The more neutral
or acceptable the label, the more neutral or acceptable the attitude and the
easier it is for each family member to understand and relate to other family
In addition to the general value of the activity, the client
also benefits from looking at his intrafamily behavior in terms of tendencies
he may have to take on somewhat stereotypic roles or behavior patterns. Most individuals will find it easiest to
decrease TATOR behavior in those areas where such behavior is reflected less
often, while increasing their ability to deal nonreactively with family members
for whom TATOR behavior is more frequent.
More specifically, it will be easiest for individuals to decrease
behavior in which they become involved on a seldom or almost never basis. Alternatively, they will be best able to
develop a strategy for relating to and responding to TATOR behavior in other
when that type of behavior is the normal or usual pattern seen in another
family member. Generally, it is easier
to develop a strategy for responding to the behavior of others when that
behavior is reasonably frequent and predictable. More difficulty arises when such behavior is
less predictable, more occasional, and more likely to come up on an
unexpectedly spontaneous basis.
Recognition of particular problematic behavior is the key to
reducing or modifying that behavior.
Education comes through seeing how involvement and the TATOR role is
perceived by and interpreted by others.
The brief descriptor in the activity lets the individual see how others
perceive him when he is a TATOR.
Consultation then needs to focus on alternative ways of relating and
interacting. The next activity will be
especially useful in this respect. For
example, being assertive, decisive, and considerate as discussed in the next
activity are very useful alternatives to being a DICTATOR.
When learning to respond to TATORS, the client will be best
served by techniques and strategies that understand and refuse participation in
the game. In the remainder of this
discussion, focus will be on the game, how not to get hooked into the game,
and productive alternatives to being a TATOR.
The AGITATORS game is based on focusing on the negative side
of people and situations, emphasizing those negatives or problematic pieces,
and tempting others to become defensive or negatively reactive. If another family member does become
defensive or negatively reactive, the AGITATIR has won the game by being
validated as someone with enough power, control, and influence in the family to
get others upset and negatively interacting.
Importantly, this is simply a style that develops as the result of its
having been reinforced over time, a history of the games resulting in the
agitators winning. The agitator is
reluctant to give up the game since it provides for him a position of power,
control, influence, and reinforcement within the family.
The key to avoiding being hooked by the agitator is to
anticipate his behavior. It is
predictable that he will criticize, make things seem worse than they really
are, and try to keep things stirred up.
Through ones behavior and active interaction, the first step is to
simply refuse to react to the negativism.
Simply sit quietly and say nothing.
Next, it is important to convey to the agitator an understanding of the
game. Your usual style is to be an
agitator. This is true when there are
problems but is also true when there really are no problems. Also, you make a sport out of criticizing and
finding fault. You are an AGITATOR. I am simply not going to react to you any
more. Now that I know how the game
works, I refuse to play. The
alternative for the agitator is to move to a position where he is more
positive, fair, and playful, spending less time and energy being negative and
The ANITATOR game develops for individuals in much the same
way as the AGITATOR game. The payoff or
win comes through perceiving ones self as one up or somewhat superior to
others. For the anitator, this position
in the family is important as a way of developing and maintaining his
self-esteem and self-confidence. If
other family members respond by arguing, trying to get in the last word
themselves, or by refusing to let the anitator butt in or impose himself in
to the conversation, the anitator will feel rebuffed and will probably
pout. This behavior then becomes the
second level of the game, designed to get others to apologize or to try to coax
the anitator back into anitating behavior.
However, the process proceeds, the anitator is in control.
The key to not getting hooked by the anitator is to first
directly confront the anitator about his behavior. Say, You are an ANITATOR. You always seem to have to have the last
word, have to get your two cents worth in whether it is wanted or not, and
always act like you know more than everyone else. This type of behavior causes me to have
negative feelings toward you and makes it very difficult for me to relate to
you. It will surely be nice when you no
longer feel like you have to play one up with everyone all the time. In the meantime, I am simply not going to
listen when you have to get in the last word or try to put your two cents worth
in when it is not wanted or are criticizing people or putting people down.
The key here is to stop.
No matter what the anitator says next, do not get hooded again. Also, simply ignore the anitator if he
chooses to pout and withdraw as a result of being confronted by his
behavior. The anitator needs to learn to
be a better listener, more patient, and more tolerant of others. Also, he needs to learn to be more
considerate of others and their needs for attention, recognition, acceptance,
The COMMENTATOR plays a similar but slightly different
game. The win comes for the commentator
through constant interaction and attention seeking. He has not developed alternative
interpersonal and intrafamily skills that assure interaction, attention, and
feedback from others and has learned to assure these through being a commentator. His behavior has the effect of getting others
into arguments and states of conflicts through tattling and gossiping which
result in increased interaction and tension in which commentator vicariously
participates but for which he is not held responsible.
The first step to avoid being hooked is to confront the
commentator in a manner similar to that used with the anitator. Let him know that you are aware of the game,
do not like it, and are not going to play anymore. Let him know when you are interested in
listening and when you are not, subject matter that is of interest to you and
that which is not, and be sure not to react negatively to or interact
negatively with other family members based on information you have received
from the commentator. He needs to learn
to be more relaxed, more loyal to members of the family, and more dependable in
terms of the accuracy and importance of the information he conveys. Also, let him know that you simply assume
that he is saying the same types of things to other family members about you as
is being said to you about them. The
commentators game can get vicious; so it is very important that other family
members unanimously refuse to play.
As with all family TATORS, the adults in the family must
take primary responsibility for dealing with the family TATORS, although older
children and teens may actively participate in the process to the extent that
participation is permitted by the adult DICTATOR if there is one in the
family. Remember that children are not on
a par with adults in terms of their ability or position when trying to deal in
healthy and constructive ways with older TATORS in the family. They may have little alternative to playing
the game, although consultation directed specifically to children can help them
develop the techniques and strategies that minimize the negative effects of
interacting with older TATORS, including adult game players.
The DICKTATORS game is straightforward. He directly exercises power, control, and
influence which are the underlying motivators of all TATOR game players. The win comes through controlling, being in
charge, and holding more power than other members of the family. If the client is in the position to refuse to
capitulate to the will and direction of the dicktator, doing so on a reasonable
and consistent basis is the best way to respond to the DICKTATORS game.
When the dicktator is into his role, simply stop to think
about whether or not the dicktators advice is sound, direction is correct, or
ideas are worth further consideration.
If so, let the dicktator know that, after due consideration, his
dictates are being followed. This step
by itself lets the dicktator know that he is not in charge, is not the
boss. By the same token, it is important
to refuse to go along or follow the dictate, if doing so does not seem
reasonable, appropriate, or productive.
This moderated, responsible approach will gradually reduce the authority
and dictatorial behavior of the dicktator.
One must avoid a simple negative reaction in terms of
routinely refusing to cooperate, refusing to follow directives, refusing to
listen to the dicktators point of view.
Blind refusal is as counterproductive as blind capitulation and
represents an alternative way of playing the game, but still constitutes game
playing. Directly confronting the
dicktator about his behavior is seldom useful but is probably in the interest
of healthy and assertive acceptance of personal responsibility. The dicktator needs to gradually become more
accepting, more aware of those things that do and do not contribute to his
attractiveness to other family members, more flexible, and more supportive of
other family members. The key to this is
becoming more tolerant of the interests, preferences, and idiosyncratic styles
of other members of the family.
The Gravitator plays a game noticeably different from those
discussed to this point. The games
considered thus far have an active, doing quality about them. GRAVITATORS game is more passive and
considerably more subtle. He wins by
intruding into the activities of others, forcing other people to accommodate to
him, and doing all of this in a way that avoids his having to put forth effort
and energy, take responsibility, or show any significant degree of
initiative. Others find this behavior
annoying, frustrating, and see it as an imposition; but the hook is in terms of
their feeling guilty if they confront gravitator, demand their space, or insist
that gravitator do his share. It is as
if they were making demands on an individual who is unable to respond or
comply. Pushing would feel a little bit
like victimizing the victim. The result
is that they expect very little from gravitator, respond to what come to be
seen as his demands, and allow gravitator to have considerably more than his
fair share of family space, energy, and socioemotional tolerance.
The key in dealing with gravitator is to understand that it
is a game that he plays. Other family
members need to be more assertive and responsible in terms of insisting on
their rights and on gravitators carrying his share of the load. On the one hand, other family members simply
ignore gravitators behavior while on the other hand refusing to respond to his
direct and indirect needs that usually come in the form of pleas and weak
request. Say to gravitator, I need my
space or privacy and will appreciate your laying around some place else. Also one might say, I am no longer going to
be helpful to you and respond to your needs and interests unless doing so becomes
a reciprocal arrangement. Gravitator
needs to become more helpful, more actively involved in the family, more
responsible, a more dependable participant in the family system, and
considerably more energetic both at a personal and family system level.
Within the family game arena, HESITATOR plays a game with
many similarities to that of GRAVITATOR.
Although hesitator brings more energy to the family system, he takes a
very passive approach to family activities and involvements. It is a no lose game. If problems are solved, decisions proved to
be useful, and things go along smoothly, hesitator may share in the credit
since he agreed to and supported what happened.
Alternatively, if things do not go smoothly, do not work out well,
hesitator is free from responsibility since he can always plead having been
uneasy with the decision or plan to begin with and can note that he only
reluctantly went along. Either way,
Other family members will need to become more assertive with
hesitator, confront him about the game, whenever possible avoid making
decisions or taking positions until hesitator has committed himself, and simply
refuse to acknowledge the win. Things
worked out alright but you had nothing to do with that. It is not true that you supported or went
along with the decision. If you do not
take active responsibility at the beginning, you get no credit at the end. By the same token, when things do not work
out, you are as responsible for that as anyone else. Your refusal to actively participate does not
in any way diminish your responsibility within the family. Hesitator must learn to be more responsible,
more assertive, more involved, and more active within family life, good times,
bad times, and all.
As was true with HESITATOR, the LEVITATOR plays a game very
similar to the GRAVITATOR. The twist
comes in terms of levitators remaining detached and uninvolved from what seems
to be a sense of superiority. Hesitator
seems to reflect more a sense of inferiority, with levitator being at the
opposite end of the same illusory range.
The range is an illusion because it simply represents somewhat different
ways of avoiding involvement, responsibility, and active participation within
the family system.
The win for levitator comes either in terms of others
capitulating or their becoming frustrated and reactive. In either event, the
ideas, interests, and feelings of other family members may simply be
discounted. Levitator needs to be called
on the game, needs to learn that others will not capitulate or accept their
implied inferiority, and will only deal with him as an equal, active
participant within the family system.
Levitator needs to learn to become more attractive to other family
members in social and emotional terms, to be more considerate of the feelings
and interests of others, and to be more supportive of the needs and interests
MEDIATOR plays a game very similar to that of the HESITATOR
but brings considerably more energy and activity to the game. Meditator will accept responsibility for
decisions, plans, and other activities but will only do so if there is almost
complete certainty relative to the outcome.
The win comes through only taking responsibility for those things that
are nearly certain and thus being guaranteed of a positive outcome when he does
take responsibility. The rest of the
time, he can hold others accountable for problematic outcomes with the added
benefit of being able to say, I warned you or I told you so. Meditator is not refusing to participate and
shows no reluctance to participate.
The hook for others comes in terms of running the risk of
being held responsible when there are problems or when things do not work out
well. They want to avoid being the goat
and thus play meditators game. The key
to avoiding being hooked into the game is to understand two basic
concepts. First, consider the law of
probability. Although meditator will
approach 100 percent in terms of decisions and plans that work out, other
family members will come close to that same level based on their experience,
judgment, and general good sense. The
meditators track record will not be much better than that of other family
members over time. Second, playing the
meditators game results in many missed opportunities, plans that never got off
the ground, and activities that never happened.
Not playing the game results in a lot more positive outcomes for the
family with only a slight increase in problematic outcomes. The small risk is well worth the significant
payoff over time. Meditator needs to
learn to be more decisive, more flexible, more playful, and more relaxed about
the ups and downs of life within the family system.
MILITATOR plays a game similar to that played by
DICKTATOR. Whereas the dicktator is
intent on exercising power, control, and influence by making all of the
decisions and telling everyone what to do, the militator similarly exercises
power, control, and influence by not letting anyone in the family exercise
power, control, or influence over him, tell him what to do.
For the militator, the win comes through always having
control, always having the upper hand, by never letting anyone put one over on
him or exercise control in relationship to him.
The key to dealing with militator is to confront without arguing. Anytime militator becomes argumentative or
confrontive, simply say, I appreciate your sharing your point of view and will
take it into consideration. Militator
will likely try to continue confronting or arguing. It is then appropriate to say, You simply
like to be confrontive for confrontations sake, like to argue for the sake of
arguing. I have told you that I
appreciate your sharing your point of view and will take it into
consideration. I have no more to say on
this particular subject. Stick to this
decision and do not discuss the topic any further with militator. He needs to learn to be more accepting of
other family members and of their feelings and ideas, to be more assertive
without becoming confrontive or argumentative, to be more considerate of the
needs and interests of others, to be more flexible, to be more gentle, and to
be more patient and playful with others.
PRECIPITATOR plays a game similar to that played by the
MILITATOR; but the precipitator plays it more indirectly and is able to get
others to do his bidding. The win comes
through getting others upset and into conflict without needing to get upset or
participate in the conflict in any direct way.
The payoff is vicarious and indirect.
The strategy for dealing with the precipitator is somewhat
unlike that used with other TATORS.
Here, the key is for all other family members to talk with each other
about the precipitators game, how they are getting hooked in, and how the win
works for precipitator. Other family
members may then simply refuse to react, come to the bait, or becomes upset
with each other as a result of what precipitator says or does. In addition, it may be useful for the family
as a group to sit down, talk with the precipitator about his game, and share
with him how it is going to be dealt with by other members of the family. The precipitator needs to learn to be more
actively involved in family life, to maintain a more positive orientation to
each member of the family, and to accept considerably more responsibility for
his behavior and participation within the family.
The SPECTATOR game within the family has qualities similar
to the games of the GRAVITATOR and the HESITATOR. However, spectators game is much more
passive and indirect. In fact, spectator
is simply refusing to be an active part of the family. The win comes through consciously being
isolated, uninvolved, detached, and apart from other family members. The payoff is in safety, an absence of responsibility;
and although spectator does not enjoy the benefits of family participation,
neither does he have to deal with the tensions, conflicts, problems, and
difficulties that come up from time to time.
Simply ignoring spectator only serves to perpetuate his
game. Gentle confrontation is in order
combined with increased acceptance of spectator, increased assertiveness with
him, more consistency when dealing with him, a little more energy brought to
relationships with him, and increased spontaneity within relationships with
spectator. He needs to learn to be more
assertive, more attractive to other members of the family, more energetic in
terms of family participation, more giving in social and emotional terms, more
playful and more responsible in terms of the value of and need for his active
participation in the family.
The family FACILITATOR plays an interesting and somewhat
unusual game. The main difficulty in
spotting the game comes in terms of the apparent value or desirability of
playing facilitators game. He is
helpful, will do almost anything for anyone, and is always there when others
need him. These desirable qualities mask
or hide the underlying game. The dual
win comes first in terms of having others feel obligated to facilitator. They owe him for past favors. The apparently freely given favors and
services are the hook. The underlying
aspect of the win comes in terms of facilitators not needing to accept
responsibility, make decisions, show leadership, or deal with his fair share of
the give and take within family life.
Even if these negatives are upsetting or irritating to others, they have
difficulty dealing with facilitator about them since they feel obligated as a
function of past favors and as a function of favors and services anticipated in
the future. The result is that
facilitator is left free from sanction or criticism.
The key to dealing with facilitator comes in terms of simply
refusing to accept favors or services which one could get along without or
reasonably provide for himself. In
addition, it is equally important to avoid feeling that one should pay back
the facilitator by not holding him responsible for family involvement and
participation. He might say, Why do you
treat me this way after all I have done for you? An appropriate response would be, I relate
to you and deal with you in what I believe to be reasonable and fair ways of
relating to and dealing with members of our family. All you have done is indicative of the way
you choose to relate to and deal with the rest of us. In our family, we are helpful to each other
and also hold each other accountable for and responsible for appropriate
participation. Facilitator needs to
learn to be more personally accountable, more responsible, more dependable
during times of difficulty or stress, and more open and up front about his motivations
BABY SWEETATOR concludes the discussion about games played
within families. His game is similar to
that of the FACILITATOR, although the hook is in terms of personality as
opposed to doing favors and providing services for others. The game is to be and remain highly
attractive to other family members in physical, emotional, and social terms and
to emphasize positive interpersonal gain within relationships. Being involved with someone who reflects
these characteristics is the first level of the hook and is a nice and pleasant
experience for everyone else. The second
level of the hook comes in terms of Baby Sweetators getting upset, crying, and
implying through his behavior that others are being insensitive, inconsiderate,
unjustifiably harsh, and unappreciative.
The win comes, of course, through avoiding responsibility, criticism and
negative interaction with others, and being held accountable for his behavior
in both positive and negative terms.
Dealing with baby sweetator is handled the same way as was
seen with the FACILITATOR. Basically,
one says, Youre nice, a lot of fun, and very pleasant to be around most of
the time. Nonetheless, this does not
excuse you from responsibility, accountability, or full participation in the family. One then deals with baby sweetator in a
straightforward, reasonably objective manner, enjoying the positive aspects of
the relationship and dealing directly with the more negative or problematic
aspects of the relationships. Baby
Sweetator needs to learn to be more consistent, more dependable, more helpful,
more socially and emotionally honest, and more responsible in terms of his
overall participation within the family.