Today I was reminded today of the life of Ken Windes
January 27, 1943 – March 29, 2005.
Ken was a man who initiated a magnificent (in my opinion) and transformational workshop called “The Game”. I also spent some time traveling and studying with Ken to be a “Game” director which was the most memorable time in my life to date. Ken and the process of “The Game” taught me the value of honesty – no matter what!
I have often thought of how great it would be to get some people together and recreate and continue the work that Ken started … and would particularly love to get in touch with Robert Mathison (Herbert) who I trained with at the time.
My photographs are currently in storage, but I’ve included a lovely, yet brief synopsis (if I can call it that) of Kens life and The Game written by Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D.
Game Over: In Memory of Ken Windes.
The Transactional Analysis community lost one of its most unique members on March 29, 2005, when Ken Windes passed away in Brazil, where he was undergoing alternative treatment for the hepatitis-C he had been fighting for the last several years.
Ken was the first graduate, and perhaps the most dramatic success, of Martin Groder’s Aesklepion program. Aesklepion was a treatment community created in the depths of the Federal Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois — the place built to replace Alcatraz, for convicts who had flunked out of the rest of the prison system. The core principle of the treatment community was to teach the convicts how to be something other than criminals; since Marty was a psychiatrist, he taught them what he knew — how to be a TA therapist.
Ken and Marty arrived at Marion at approximately the same time; Marty as a Public Health Service psychiatrist assigned to the Department of Corrections, and Ken as a convict at the end of the line, 26 years old, facing a 26-year sentence with no hope of parole. By that time, he had spent more than half of his life, from the age of 14, in one correctional institution or another. He had been sent to Marion after he assaulted a Federal Marshall who was taking him back to prison for jumping parole.
Ken’s story of his encounter with Marty Groder is rich and hilarious, but the short version is that it ended with Ken saying, “How did you do that!?!?”, and Marty saying, “Sit down, I’ll show you.” Four years later, after having been transferred to another prison to duplicate the Aesklepion program, Ken received a complete parole; he was a free man, ejected from the prison system because he had transformed so much that he no longer belonged inside it.
I met Ken in 1971, shortly before his release, when he was let out of jail for 24 hours to take his Clinical Membership exam in ITAA. I was on his Examining Board, along with Steve Karpman, Lois Johnson, and Mike Breen. We passed this brilliant young convict, because he obviously knew his TA and how to apply it; after he left the room, we looked at each other and said, “What have we done?”
The core of Ken’s transformation, under Marty’s mentorship, was a process called The Game. Originally derived from the Synanon drug treatment community, The Game was a group process of intense confrontation of every sign of “convict” behavior and thinking — pastimes, games, gallows laughs, discounts, etc. Since The Game was conducted by the prisoners with each other, they were all experts in recognizing these patterns.
After his release from prison, Ken practiced therapy for several years, and gradually began to formulate The Game Academy, refining The Game to make it more suitable for “straight” people. He incorporated many of the core concepts of TA into the process, and created an intensive personal growth experience in a weekend format; he spent the rest of his professional life conducting The Game all over the USA and the Pacific Rim.
It was in conducting The Game that Ken made his most profound contributions, helping people experience and claim their fundamental “Okayness.” His version of Berne’s “Frogs & Princes” concept was that we get scripted to believe we are Frogs, and then cover our frogness with a false Prince/Princess suit, so that we go around looking like and pretending like we are okay, while supporting others in the same pretenses (the “Act”). In The Game, the entire Act is confronted, both the false Prince/Princess and the Frog, since that is also false. When it works, people drop the Act and get back in touch with the reality of their authentic selves.
People do not necessarily take kindly to having their Acts confronted, even when the clear intent is to get past the Act to the real person behind it. Ken used to say, “We try to tell people they are really okay, then watch them argue with us.” What made it possible for him to succeed at this was that he clearly experienced himself and others as unconditionally okay, regardless of their behaviors or beliefs. It wasn’t just a good idea or a value system, it was his actual experience, and his love for others and his sparkling good humor about it made it possible for people to deal with the most difficult content in a light and accepting way.
At one point, we were discussing turning The Game Academy into a serious business, and insisted that we needed a “Corporate Purpose” or mission statement. Ken would have none of it; when we pressed him to define what he was up to, why he was here in the first place, he thought for a while and said, “To add value and have fun!”
Ken walked his talk; he was truly loved, and he will be missed.
Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D.
April 1, 2005
I thoroughly enjoyed practicing this honest and sometimes confronting process with like-minded people, or at least with people who are willing to play at a high level of honesty, openness and integrity, but the experience I had with Ken and Jane (Kens wife at that time), other participants and game directors in training, made me grow at an incredible and rapid rate in a short space of time.