Are you a Buccaneer or Racketeer?

Are you a Buccaneer or a Racketeer?

Cartoon of children in pirate costumes

Graphic kindly courtesy of

What’s the difference?

Buccaneers are renowned as freedom loving, feel the wind on your face types; adapting in the face of danger and relishing new opportunities for adventure.

Well that’s the Hollywood image and it sounds good.

What about a Racketeer?

A Racketeer relies on cons. Yes, they’re wily and adaptable but only in  so as it leads to the advantage they want. Their behaviour is contrived, not freedom loving.

Most importantly a Racketeer can’t operate without drawing in people to con. What he wants is a predictable outcome from his practiced behaviour. His only comfort is in getting that practiced outcome. No swashbuckling adventure suits him.

How we Racketeer instead of Buccaneer

In this series of posts we’re looking into how we’re too often unconsciously drawn into a pattern of repeated arguments or frustratingly heated discussions that go nowhere and end unsatisfactorily. See, The Unhappiness of Repeating Arguments.

Quite likely we can easily point out people in our lives with whom this all too frequently happens or has happened with in the past.

Other times we see a pattern to the type of arguments we get into with different people though not always with the same person all the time.

When we feel we’re a victim of someone’s manipulation we feel like we’ve more like we’ve been preyed on by a Racketeer. The predicable feelings we fall into after repeated arguments or go-nowhere conversations feel staid, tired and not all buckaneering.

These patterns can drive us and others to predictable outcomes of behaviour. See, Your reward for enduring Repeating Arguments and ‘go-nowhere’ conversations.   Someone throws their hands in the air whilst another walks out. Blame follows blame and one or other retreats to a place of shame, upset and regret. Others may storm off indignantly and defiantly.

Such endings are accompanied by those familiar feelings that seem to have followed us throughout our lives whenever  episodes of stress or attrition arose. We’ve talked of how these family feelings are called Racket Feelings. They are  a product of ancient feelings first conceived in childhood in times of insecurity and vulnerability.

These feelings derive from times when as young children we felt wounded by a lack of support for our authentic needs at a crucial time from people our home environment; from parents or other caregivers.

People often say; hey, my childhood was perfect; I don’t think I spent an unhappy day. Or we might say; well, no parenting is perfect and I didn’t feel neglected as far as I can recall.

The point is that all parents relate with their children differently. In our infancy we absorb a perception of how our parents perceive themselves. In so doing as young chidren we also mix into that our own limited childlike perceptions of the options open to us in how we forge out our best links, our best attachments to our parents, carers and others. The feelings and the behaviours we forge to bond our attachments form survival strategies.

How we find comfort in the familiar

At the same time we recognise these ancient feelings, often feelings of being low, beaten down or misunderstood as being perversely comforting in their familiarity. The same is true for those others in our lives with whom we frequently find ourselves drawn into recurrent arguments or frustratingly ‘go-nowhere’ negotiations.

These self comforting Racket Feelings are preceded or succeeded by behaviour which helps reinforce the emotions we’ve developed since infanthood whenever we’re caused to reflect on our own sense of self-worth. This behaviour is called Racket Behaviour.

We’re unconsciously compelled to rehearse the same patterns of behaving towards and communicating with other people so as to unconsciously improve the chances of bringing about an outcome that’s familiar to us. See, Are you running a Protection Racket?

That outcome in return serves to fan the embers of our ancient Racket Feelings. Turning full circle we’re reminded of those early perceptions of how worthy we feel in relation to others.

Here in diagram form is The Racket Cycle.

Psychological Racket behaviour diagram

The Racket Cycle

The comfort of Racket feelings invites Racket Behaviour. Racket behaviour in turn requires a predictable outcome that promotes Racket Feelings. The Racket Feelings are reassuring and so when our ‘comfort cage’ is shaken in the future we respond with Racket Behaviour. With Racket Behviour comes the comfort feelings and so on and so on…..

How Racketeering reaffirms our Life Position

Racket Feelings that are commonly painful, make us feel demoralised and leads us to self-downing. This leads to a sense of us being ‘Not Okay’. We sense that, once again life circumstances have taught us we’re not as good as others or that once again other people have got the better of us. See, “I’m Ok; You’re OK” .

In Transactional Analysis (TA) psychology we call it our sense of holding a ‘Not Okay’ Life Position.

However in some people whose Racket Feelings from childhood had the effect of defensively blocking-out for them a deeper sense of insecurity can feel themselves holding an I’m Okay – You’re Not Okay.

They come over as thinking themselves more entitled to have their own way and their Racket Behaviour leads them to behave in a way that suggests they feel justified in asserting their will over others.

Such a person’s Racket Feelings will deny the person the opportunity to open up honestly to others. Their Racket Feelings of superiority will sweep away the more healthy option of addressing their deeply felt insecurity .

These people also control their behaviour so as to reject the possibility of more honest, authentic interaction with others. Their Racket Behaviour might be typified as argumentative, overcritical, sarcastic, bullying or superciliousness.Their Racket Feelings drive their Racket Behaviour so deny them the comfort and reassurance for just being themselves they deep down crave.

The ‘Not Okay’ Life Position

Those of us who feel, ‘Not Okay’ perceive that we’re one-down from others. We sense we’re lacking in comparison an essential element that makes a successful character.

We can feel less intelligent, less qualified, less loveable, less social confidence, lacking in streetwise savvy. You name it.

We unconsciously use our Racket Behaviour to draw towards or be drawn towards other people who will treat us in a way that brings about a reinforcement of this early ‘Not Okay’ Life decision .

Conversely those whose Racket Feelings mask deep down vulnerability and insecurity use their Racket Behaviours of bravado, confident gregariousness, or critical argumentativeness to unconsciously seek out ways of interacting with others so to boost their self-deceived Life Position of I’m Okay – You’re Not Okay.

Fanita English is a legendary mind in the development of Transaction Analysis psychology. She coined the term Racketeering to describe this process in which we unconsciously seek out people and interact with in an unconscious style so as to remind ourselves of, and perverely comfort ourselves in, our Life Position.

How we each ‘Racketeer’, the style it takes, depends on the Life Position we hold of ourselves.

So, how can we be more buccaneering than racketeering? First its important to identify what style of Racketeer you are. And as importantly what style of Racketeer you attract.

Read next Coming Soon; What style of Racketeer are you?