Did you ever play Gotcha Last when you were little? My sisters and I used to play it all the time.
You tag someone, shout gotcha last, and run away. Then they do the same thing back to you. This can go on until one person says, “I quit”. If you’re ten years old, the other one gloats in victory.
It’s fun for about a minute. But after that? Pretty pointless.
When you “win”, have you really won? When you “lose”, what have you lost?
There’s an adult version of this game, and most people don’t even realize they are playing it. But stopping the game can add a ton of yippee to your life. Especially this time of year.
Gotcha can be especially popular during the holidays, and each person is bringing his or her own (unexpressed) positive and negative expectations to the table.
The dialogue might go like this:
Is there egg in this?
Oh I didn’t realize you didn’t eat egg. When did that start?
It’s been over 5 years. Don’t you remember?
Do you think I can remember everything everyone eats and doesn’t eat?
Well you never seem to forget about John’s coconut cake.
But coconut cake is part of the family tradition and besides everyone loves it.
Same as always, you just do whatever “precious” little John wants.
In your family Gotcha may be about your haircut, clothes, your children’s manners, not having a child, wife, husband or enough money. You may feel ignored, undervalued, unseen, criticized, disrespected and taken for granted.
Whether or not your feelings are “justified”, you have them! You also have choices. You can either react out of those feelings or….
Shift your attention to your intention.
Is there egg in this? Ask yourself if this is really a request for information OR is it the first step in GOTCHA (i.e.: You DO remember and care about my special needs don’t you?)
Oh I didn’t realize you didn’t eat egg. When did that start? This reply may be just an “Oh dear I forgot!” Or… I’m on top of everything so this must be YOUR fault that you forgot to tell me. GOTCHA!
It’s been over 5 years. The game continues. You don’t even remember because I’m not important and my needs are not important, besides you think what I’m doing is silly. GOTCHA.
Pay attention to your intention and ask yourself if you are trying to be: RIGHT, JUSTIFIED, or ENTITLED. If so, you are stuck in the game of Gotcha!
And how do we stop it?
My mother used to tell me and my sisters that it takes two to make a fight but only one to stop it.
Here’s how you can stop Gotcha right in the middle:
It’s been over 5 years. Don’t you remember? But don’t worry, I appreciate your having us over and all the effort you put into making it a special time.
Regardless of how the previous comment was intended, he takes the opportunity to recognize the other’s need. Now she feels recognized and appreciated, she can respond differently. Instead of: Do you think I can remember everything everyone eats and doesn’t eat? Thanks for the appreciation. I could make some without egg if you want me to!
Feeling valued, he can either accept graciously or say there is no need to make adjustments.
You can never know someone else’s intentions. You can only know your own. But when we start from a place of good intention and assume the other has them, too, it creates the space for playing a different game – one where everyone is a winner.
Hopefully when the game of Gotcha stops, we can all have a fabulous holiday… and life!
In the comment section I’d love to hear your experience of Gotcha or a time when you quit the game early so you could play a game of Yippee instead!
Until Tuesday. YIPPEE!