Whoosh! Issue 29 - February 1999

Gabrielle and the NIGYSOB Game

The Good Daughter: Gabrielle

Don't forget to send money when I go off again, Daddy!

Gabrielle with her father in the Prisoner-esque Village Scene of THE BITTER SUITE.

[56] Gabrielle may be the personification of the Good Daughter (also known as "Daddy's Little Girl"). The Good Daughter usually evolves into the "Sweetheart" or "Goody Two Shoes". The male equivalents are, "The Good Son", "Mother's Little Man", and "The Good Guy". The Good Daughter follows all of the Parental injunctions. Some of them are: be good, be nice, and be perfect. Nice little girls are polite. Nice little girls do not get angry. Nice little girls do not talk back. Good little girls always do what they are told. Good little girls are loyal to the script. Good little girls remain virgins until they marry.

[57] This was true for Gabrielle. The writers and producers, however, seem to have taken it one step further by making "blood innocence" a form of spiritual virginity. In this sense, Gabrielle cannot lose her spiritual virginity until she marries the script or fulfils the requirements of the script. The Primary Parental Directive is: "What ever you do, don't come home pregnant!"

[58] Some Parental Precepts are: girls who lose their virginity are bad girls. Santa Claus does not visit bad children. Sometimes God punishes bad girls by allowing them to become pregnant. Some Parental Promises are, "If you do as I tell you, I will love and protect you, and without me, you are nothing. Do right and no harm can befall you. Your parents can do no wrong. We are perfect".

[59] Once again I must caution the reader that mothers and fathers do not intentionally set up their children to live out Hamartic Scripts, nor do they mean to send these messages to their children. What parents say and what children hear are often two totally different things. In addition, from the little information that we have, we can assume that Gabrielle's parents were loving, nurturing, and better than most parents. We also know that Joxer's mother loves him and so does his brother (although the brother has a tendency to belittle him).

The Parent/Child Relationship: Xena and Gabrielle

[60] One of the aspects of the relationship that Xena and Gabrielle share is that Xena sometimes takes on the role of Gabrielle's surrogate parent. The main duty of a parent is to nurture and protect his/her child. Both Xena and Gabrielle agree to this arrangement.

[61] The transaction may have gone something like this: Xena's Adult ego state to Gabrielle's Adult ego state: (Social level): "I am trained in weapons and fighting, and I am willing to kill when necessary, so I will protect you". The Parent and Child ego states would see the relationship differently. Xena's Parent ego state to Gabrielle's Child ego state: (Psychological level) "I love and cherish you, and I will nurture and protect you". Gabrielle's Child ego state to Xena's Parent ego state: (Psychological level) "You will love and protect me as long as I'm good. You will punish and persecute me if I'm bad". [62] Parents in general do not see themselves as punishers and persecutors. To the parent, punishment falls under the category of nurturing and protecting. When parents punish, they see themselves as protecting their children from future consequences of inappropriate behavior. Children usually do not see it this way. They see the role of Protector and of Punisher as being separate entities.

The Perfectionist: Gabrielle

Eventually, 'A' got fed up with both 'C' and 'P' and just didn't show up ever again.

Figure 7 illustrates Gabrielle's internal battles.

[63] In his book: Cry Anger, Jack Birnbaum lists some of the traits found in Perfectionists. Perfectionists tend to over analyze everything. They tend to be experts on trifles and trivia. They tend to be extremely indecisive. They can only express anger from a position of moral superiority. Some demand perfection from everyone (although they will rarely admit this, even to themselves), while others only expect perfection from themselves. They tend to see themselves as being very tolerant of others, when in fact, they are not. They often tend to be filled with suppressed rage.

[64] We find that Gabrielle possesses many of these traits, especially in her hero worship of others. She demands that her heroes live up to her standards of what a true hero should be. We saw this in her treatment of Meleager. In addition, she can only show anger and stand up to Xena when she is certain that she holds the moral high ground.

[65] The curse of the Perfectionist is that often s/he is living in a script that has no hope of ever being successfully completed. The Perfectionist sets himself/herself up for a life-shattering fall. And then, after s/he has failed, the Perfectionist's Adult Ego State jumps the Perfectionist's Child ego state and kicks the tar out of it. A severe beating of the Child Ego State can lead to the individual committing suicide.

[66] The Perfectionist brings a cunning and a duplicity to the NIGYSOB game that makes him/her the most subtle of NIGYSOB players. S/he is so subtle that not only does s/he fool everyone else; s/he also often fools himself/herself.

Gabrielle's Illusion

[67] Gabrielle's own illusion is that if she is perfect and if she is true to her script, Santa Claus will come and bring her a prize. She tells us in her own words what is expected of her: "I was going to break the cycle. All the pain and violence was going to end with me. I was going to revere life peace. Heal! Something I never doubted was my role as peace maker" [THE DELIVERER (50/304)]. This is a terrible burden for anyone to have to carry, but it is the burden placed on Gabrielle by her script.

[68] When Gabrielle kills Meridian [THE DELIVERER (50/304)], she goes against the Parental injunction against losing her spiritual virginity. Her Parent begins to punish her Child. In addition, when Xena fails to protect her from Dahak, Gabrielle's Child Ego State may have started to think that Xena no longer loved her because she was bad.

[69] Her Child ego state would remember the Parental maxims: "Little girls who loose their virginity are bad girls. I will punish you when you are bad. Santa Claus does not visit bad girls". She knows that she can no longer fulfil the requirements of the script. Gabrielle has failed the script.

[70] Gabrielle's Parent ego state begins to punish her Child ego state. Gabrielle says, "There is an evil in me". Xena, in her parent role, tries to protect Gabrielle from her Inner Parent. Xena says, "You are talking nonsense. What happened in that temple cannot destroy the core of your goodness". Gabrielle's Child ego state says: "I'm being punished for killing Meridian". Gabrielle accepts that she will be punished, and Xena tells her that she is punishing herself.

Gabrielle: I feel that I should be punished for what I've done.

Xena: You are being punished by your conscience. For someone like you, there couldn't be a worse torture.

How to lace an early-Greek corset.

This figure analyzes an interchagne between Lao Ma and Xena in THE DEBT.

[71] Xena and Gabrielle discover that Gabrielle is pregnant [GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/205)]. The Child ego state would remember the Prime Parental Directive, "What ever you do, don't come home pregnant!" Gabrielle may feel that she is now cut off from home (home being her state of innocence), and she thinks that she can never go back. Gabrielle's Child ego state also remembers the maxim that God sometimes punishes bad girls by allowing them to become pregnant. (This is not true, but her Child ego state believes it). So now, she must also deal with Divine retribution in the fact that she has been given to Dahak.

[72] Through all of this, Xena in her role of surrogate parent tries to protect Gabrielle. Gabrielle has completely lost all sense of OK-ness, and only Xena's stroking protects Gabrielle from the ravages of her Parent ego state.

[73] After Gabrielle's baby (Hope) is born, Xena decides that the baby is evil and must be destroyed. Now Gabrielle's Child ego state no longer sees Xena as protector, but instead it sees her as punisher. Gabrielle sees Xena as replacing the positive stroking with negative stroking. Gabrielle's ideal of Xena's super OK-ness begins to crumble. (We must remember that Xena may not even know that Gabrielle thinks of her as Super OK.)

[74] This completes Gabrielle's decent into not OK-ness. She remembers the parental decree (as heard by the Child ego state): "I will protect you if you're good. I will punish you if you are bad". Gabrielle now faces the ultimate punishment. She must give up her baby. She also faces the disillusionment that all children face when they finally realize that their parents are not perfect. Xena tells Gabrielle more or less that she is doing this for Gabrielle's own good. Gabrielle's Child ego state submits. Gabrielle's Child ego state now feels that Xena no longer loves her. Her Parent and her Adult try to tell her that this is not so.

[75] Gabrielle's Child ego state is beaten, alone, and filled with incredible rage. She remembers the Parental injunction: "Nice little girls don't get angry". Gabrielle is filled with all this rage, and, unfortunately, she cannot express it without moral justification.


[76] Since Gabrielle is not allowed to express rage, she turns her rage into Trading Stamps and places them in the drawer she keeps in the back of her head. She has also decided to forgive Xena for making her give up Hope. According to Berne, forgiveness is next to impossible and is usually only achieved after the injured party no longer cares about the injury.

[77] Only through Spirituality can true forgiveness be achieved, but many psychologists in Berne's time did not see spirituality as a viable option. Berne believed that most people merely put the "Forgiveness" in the same drawer where they placed their Trading Stamps to be pulled out whenever needed. This is what Gabrielle does. It should also be noted that Gabrielle's traumatic experiences have helped to severely lessen Gabrielle's opinion of Xena, and this leaves Xena on a very shaky pedestal. Xena and Gabrielle no longer have intimacy.

Xena's Relapse: THE DEBT

[78] It would do well for us to remember that the old Evil Xena was a master game player. Her favorite games were "Ain't It Awful", "You Can't Trust Anyone", and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore". All three games were played to the third degree and the Payoff was always in tissue. Luckily for Xena, there is a certain duplicity in her playing of the "It Don't Matter Anymore" game, since simply by playing the "Ain't It Awful" game she is proving that it does matter. All three games usually end in murder. The "It doesn't Matter Anymore" game also often ends in suicide.

[79] We do not have enough information to know if Xena was "waiting for death". The new Good Xena seemed to be writing her own script and seemed to be game free for the most part. When she consoles Gabrielle at Joxer's death in BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302) with the words, "Joxer died a hero. That's what he always wanted", she may be buying into Joxer's script, but we cannot say for sure.

[80] Much has been written about Xena's relapse. Why would this suddenly happen after she was doing so well after over two years? The problem is that the old script never really disappears. It is buried deep within the Child ego state while the Adult rewrites the script and updates the Parent. During this time, Xena is very vulnerable to "Buttons". (Unfortunately, she does not know this).

[81] The main "button" in Xena's life is Julius Caesar. The mere mention of his name pushes Xena's "button", which turns on her "Electrode". Her Parent in her Child ego state takes over from her Parent ego state and her Adult ego state and throws her immediately into a state of relapse. Lao Ma is another "button" which shows us the true evil of relapse in that it can use good as well as bad feelings to bring about regress. When she decides to murder Ming T'ien, Xena continues her descent down the "slippery slope" to total relapse.

[82] When Xena tells Gabrielle that she is going to Ch'in to murder Ming T'ien, she gives Gabrielle's Child ego state the opening it needs to start the NIGYSOB game. During the journey, Gabrielle constantly berates Xena about the fact that Xena is going to commit a murder. During this drawn out process, Gabrielle is slowly gaining the moral high ground (remember, Gabrielle cannot act out on her rage until she owns the moral high ground).

[83] The "con" comes when Gabrielle asks, "You owe someone so much that you would just throw away these last few years?" Xena says, "Yes". This looks like a normal transaction between Gabrielle's Adult ego state and Xena's Adult ego state. However, what we have is a duplex transaction between Gabrielle's Inner Child's Parent ego state (more specifically the Witch Mother) and Xena's Child ego state [See Figure 8]. The real question is: "You love someone so much more than me that you are willing to forget all I've done for you, all I've given up for you over the last few years?" This is the question that Xena says yes to.

An X-rated snowman scene.

Figure 8 illustrates a duplex transaction.

[84] The following sequence of events all happens simultaneously and subconsciously. Gabrielle's Parent and Adult are overwhelmed by Xena's admission. Gabrielle's Child turns to the Parent and Adult and says: "See! Just as I told you! Give me control!" Gabrielle's Parent and Adult give up control and give her Child a free reign. The Child opens the drawer, takes out the old Trading Stamps, and adds them to the new ones. Pulling out the Forgiveness, revokes it, she turns to Xena, kicks the pedestal from beneath her, and says: "Now I've got you, you son of a b*tch".

[85] Gabrielle now has permission to do what ever she wants to Xena. She also holds the moral high ground so she can tell herself that she is trying to prevent a murder (while in reality she is actually trying to cause one). Gabrielle is playing a third degree game, she is playing for keeps, and the Payoff is tissue). Whatever Gabrielle does to Xena, she is secure in the knowledge that she is doing it for Xena's own good. She can now release The Little Fascist.

Gabrielle's Revenge

Oh, hi Xena.  I was just, uh, betraying you, I mean napping!

Xena gets a big surprise as to what's under the covers in THE DEBT.

[86] It is hard to believe that Gabrielle would not know what Ming T'ien would do to Xena once Gabrielle betrays her. She has known enough kings to have a good idea about what would happen. This may account for her crying foul over Xena's treatment as an attempt to relieve her own conscience for her role in Xena's punishment. Gabrielle even helps Ming T'ien abuse Xena under the pretense of beating Xena into agreeing to banishment - a banishment that Ming T'ien had already said that he would never agree to.

[87] I wondered why Gabrielle did not come to Xena's aid when Xena finally makes her bid for freedom. We have seen a Gabrielle who throws herself over David to protect him from execution. We have seen a Gabrielle who puts her life on the line to protect many people. We have seen a Gabrielle who is capable of disarming guards and using a staff to great effect. We saw this in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205). While Gabrielle is no where near the caliber of warrior that Xena is, she is an Amazon princess and an accomplished fighter in her own right. At Ming T'ien's court, Gabrielle does nothing more that make a token gesture. Why?

[88] Gabrielle is playing a third degree game with tissue as its payoff. When she visits Xena in the dungeon, she asks for Xena's forgiveness, but she does not forgive Xena. What Gabrielle does in the dungeon is reinforce her illusion that the whole affair was a horrible mistake brought about by her desire to prevent Ming T'ien's murder. Also, she succeeds in gaining Xena's forgiveness, and that helps to reinforce the illusion.

[89] In addition, Gabrielle again asks Xena why she felt that she has to kill Ming T'ien. She even supplies Xena with the answer that she wants to hear: that Xena was repaying Lao Ma for saving her life. However, Xena says it was much more than that. Lao Ma saved her soul. Saving Xena's soul was Gabrielle responsibility, and she may not have liked the idea that Lao Ma had usurped her in this area also. Finally, although Gabrielle was the one who knocked Xena off her pedestal, it is up to Xena to climb back on herself.

The Fascist Sneer

[90] The Fascist Sneer has been used throughout history to justify superiority. The Romans used it against the Gauls. The Romans would call a Gallic king a filthy savage, then they would lock him in a cage and brutalize him for several weeks, and they would end up with a filthy savage. They would then put the unfortunate man on display, thus proving to themselves that all Gauls were filthy savages.

[91] The same thing happened to the African slaves when they were transported across the Atlantic in the horrible conditions of the slave ships. When the plantation owners first saw them, they would see filthy brutish people. This would reinforce their belief that they were dealing with a degenerate race and that the Africans were better off as slaves.

[92] This is the game between the torturer and the tortured, and the torturer always wins. Under torture, the victim is proven to be not OK in the eyes of the Torturer, and this leaves the torturer with a sense of heightened OK-ness. This is what Ming T'ien does to Lao Ma. In his own mind, he has proven her to be a fraud because she could not stand up under the sort of torture that no one could endure. He is doing the same to Xena. By leaving Xena in filthy conditions, he is trying to strip Xena of her hero status. Gabrielle has already knocked Xena off the pedestal, so it is easy for Gabrielle to buy into Ming T'ien's game.

[93] Xena's torture/death will prove to both Gabrielle and Ming T'ien that she really was not a hero. She was just another fraud, like Lao Ma. As I said before, when Xena makes her bid for freedom, Gabrielle seems to take a "wait and see" attitude. Only after Xena re-establishes her hero status does Gabrielle come over to her side.

[94] Gabrielle forgives Xena when she tells Xena that she loves her. Again, this merely means that she has placed the "Forgiveness" back in the drawer. Gabrielle has taken the game as far as it can go, and she has gained as much satisfaction as she is likely to get, so she calls an end to it.

[95] Ming T'ien has not finished with his game. The fact that Xena has gained Lao Ma's spiritual powers has increased his disgust. Ming T'ien seemed to see everyone around him as sentimental fools or frauds. Thus, he was able to maintain his sense of OK-ness. The only person he seemed to have any real respect for was the old evil Xena. The two of them seem to share an interesting fascination with each other that goes unexplained.

[96] Ming T'ien needs to prove that the new Xena is no better than the old Xena if he wants to maintain his own sense of OK-ness. Therefore, he uses the "Lao Ma button" to goad Xena into killing him, thus proving to himself that she is just a common murderer. Ming T'ien wins the game, and Xena loses her newfound spirituality. This shows the extremes that people will go to when playing their favorite games.

Xena's Payoff

[97] In order for a true game to occur, all parties must have a payoff. So, what was Xena's payoff? As stated earlier, the old Xena was a master game player, the new Xena seemed to be game free. That does not mean that she has lost any of her skill, however. As I stated, the old Xena's favorite game seemed to be "Ain't It Awful". This became a life game, and she made it the centerpiece of her script. Some of her favorite whines would be:

"Look what they did to Amphipolis. Ain't it awful!";
"Look what Caesar did to me. Ain't it awful!";
"Ming hunted me like an animal. Ain't it awful!"

[98] All of Xena's emotions and actions become justified, and no matter how evil she became, she was always left with a sense of OK-ness.

[99] When Xena's "Caesar Button" is pushed, she reverts instantly back to gamy behavior. She begins to play her old game of "Ain't It Awful", but this is a warn-out game, and she has a weak hand. This interferes with her already weak perception of OK-ness, and it becomes easy for her to halt the regression after she has avenged herself. She even manages to momentarily take on Lao Ma's high degree of spirituality.

For those who missed the previous bodice lacing demo...

This figure illustrates a crossed transaction.

[100] Ming T'ien is able to goad Xena into killing him. Xena's reward for this is she wins back her rage, and she is able to free it after having to suppress it for so long. Rage has been a part of Xena for so long, that it becomes like a vital organ or a precious child, something to be mourned when lost, and something to be rejoiced over when found again. Given the choice, it seems that Xena would rather have her rage than Lao Ma's spirituality.

[101] Xena's real gain comes when Gabrielle betrays her. Xena can now play the "You Can't Trust Anyone" game, and she can play it for all it is worth. After all, if we cannot trust Gabrielle, then whom can we trust? Later, after the death of Solan [MATERNAL INSTINCTS (57/311)], she can even combine it with the "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" game for a really big payoff - that being the murder of her best friend and maybe even her own suicide. Either way, her prize will be spiritual death, and that seemed to be what she wanted.


[102] Both THE BITTER SUITE (58/312) and FORGET ME NOT (63/317) become elaborate Psychodramas with the purpose of freeing both Xena and Gabrielle from scripty and gamy behavior for the purpose of re-establishing intimacy. They are also being freed from Parental injunctions and precepts, and since these are essentially spiritual journeys, true forgiveness and true healing occur. this is not always the case with mere psychological therapy.

[103] In THE BITTER SUITE (58/312), Gabrielle is often warned by the Tarot that she is not as she seems, that she is hiding selfishness in the disguise of goodness. Unfortunately, the real reasons behind her betrayal of Xena are buried so deep within her Child ego state that they almost become lost. The most that can occur in BITTER SUITE is that these secrets become dislodged so that they can float close enough to the surface that Gabrielle can begin to sense them in her dream states. Gabrielle must take full responsibility for her actions, but she cannot do this until she understands her true motives for betraying Xena.

[104] In FORGIVEN (60/314), Gabrielle is reconciled to the Divine when she asks for forgiveness at Apollo's temple. Remember that Gabrielle felt that she had broken with the Divine when she went against the parental injunction, and she saw her pregnancy and the fact that she was given to Dahak as Divine punishment.

[105] FORGET ME NOT (63/317) essentially becomes a session of "pealing the onion" as layers of Gabrielle's personality are pealed away to reveal the truth. Only when Gabrielle finally faces the truth of her betrayal can she truly go home (going home being a return to innocence). As we remember, she felt that she lost that right when she killed Meridian and became pregnant. With Gabrielle's return home, both Xena and Gabrielle can finally bring closure to the "Rift Arc", and they can begin to rebuild their lives through mutual re-parenting.


[106] Although Gabrielle's motives were hidden in her subconscious, the fact remains that she betrayed Xena. This was an inexcusable act, and Gabrielle must and does take responsibility for her actions. When we discuss the concept of "going home", we need to separate the idea of home being a point of time as opposed to being a state of being. Gabrielle can never go back to that moment before she killed Meridian. That is lost forever. What she can do is return to a state of innocence, the state of rediscovered innocence that comes with wisdom.

[107] In XWP we deal with characters who are Homeric in magnitude. Just as their goodness is magnified, so are the evil deeds that they do. As we watch these heroes deal with their own issues of good and evil, it becomes easier for us to see our own strengths and weaknesses. The glue that holds Gabrielle and Xena's relationship together is intimacy: A game-free exchange of emotional expression without exploitation. Only when they lost that intimacy was their friendship threatened.


Barnes Graham, Transactional Analysis After Eric Berne, Harper's College Press, N.Y. N.Y. 1997.

Berne Eric, Transactional Analysis In Psychotherapy, Grove Press, N.Y., N.Y. 1961.

-----, Games People Play, Ballentyne Books, N.Y.N.Y. 1964.

-----, What Do You Say After Hello, Grove Press, N.Y.N.Y. 1972.

Harris, Amy and Thomas, I'm OK, You're OK, Avon Books, N.Y.N.Y. 1967.

--------, Staying OK, Avon Books, 1985.

Steiner, Claude, Games Alcoholics Play, Ballentyne Books, N.Y.N.Y. 1971.


Brian Lashmar Brian Lashmar
I was born in 1949 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where I still live. I received a B.A. in Anthropology and a diploma in Addiction Studies from McMaster University. My hobbies include researching Medieval and Classical heroic literature. I also enjoy fly-fishing for sunfish and trout. I hate computers for the godless contraptions that they are, but unfortunately, I'm addicted to one. I am a fan of Samurai movies, and I admire the works of Inagaki, Kadokawa, and Kurosawa. The Seven Samurai and Ran are two of my favorite films. I have a dog named Suzie, and two nameless cats.
Favorite episode: THE BITTER SUITE (58/312)
Favorite line: Joxer to Xena and Gabrielle: "What if none of this really is happening, and we're like all in somebody else's head and they're making us up". BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203)

Previous Section
Table of Contents
Return to Top Return to Index