MIND, GAMBLING AND IDENTITY
There is a particular and strong interweaving between gambling and the affirmation of one’s identity. A mixture detectable in occasional players and no longer present in pathological players who, at a certain point, lose their sense of identity.
The so-called “social gamblers” those players who do it for fun and manage to stay within well-defined behavioral canons, attract psychology for their personality and behavioral characteristics. But can gambling offer something positive to the individual and the community?
The first to speak of and differentiate him from the pathological one was Dickerson in 1984. Psychology dealt extensively with the pathological gambler, focusing on causes such as being overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire to play. Or on the pleasure they feel about success, power, victory or the desire to take risks. The pathological player, with his constant mood swings, difficulty in self-control, extreme lability of the ego, presents evident characteristics of the borderline personality structure. In the event that we are faced with the social player we are dealing with a subject who feels the need to relax; an individual who is attracted to the easy and effortless gain that stimulates all the functions of the ego through play,
It is not possible to make a difference between pathological player and social player; but some characteristics attributable to one or the other typology are possible the social player has the ability to stop playing at any time. This most likely because its values are not related to the power of the game as for the pathological player. He feels and sees the game as a pastime, a fun that gives conflicting and libidinal gratifications but relies more on reality, is careful to limit losses, wise in the investment and knows when to withdraw, prefers games with high winnings even if rare and with low risks even if repeated.
However, a large slice of players is between the two types, that is, between the pathological and the social, so it would be better to differentiate the players from those who manage to maintain or not maintain greater self-control during the game, especially in relation to the illusion of control and the risk taking.
The characteristic aspects of the social player are manifold and this leads to different types of people who approach the game in a habitual way but which then flows into the pathological. For example, we have the one who plays because he believes he will win or lose based on his ability to guess a prediction. They are players who “study” what they bet on. These are people who delight in playing horses and consider themselves “capable” precisely because of their skills; the others, according to them, are incapable of such refinement as to allow them to go beyond a simple “vice of the game”. Then there is the player who believes he can act on the dynamics of the game, that he can manage his luck. Typical of lotto players and various lotteries or their derivatives. There is a tendency for the player to rely on the blindfolded goddess driven by superstition.
Finally, in the list of types of players there are those who manage to consider a substantial balance between luck and their ability to guess a prediction; here we refer to the football pools players or at least those who bet on sport. They consider their skills as a mixture of attention, passion and ability to interpret sporting events.
On a social level, the game is not totally stigmatized nor totally supported, that is, it is not the absolute way in both directions. The judgment criteria are subjective and therefore influence the vision of the game on a social level; therefore in social players it can be considered in two ways: on the one hand as a means of releasing stress, on the other as a potential source of economic and relational damage even of a certain severity. For many it remains a fun, a habit that is implemented once a week does not harm, does not create damage and also allows socializing and grouping. For social players, the game is considered an economic hope but they maintain a strong link with reality that leads them to consider the space of the game as an “other” space compared to real life.
However, when it comes to gaming, be it a simple pastime or a pathological addiction, it is good to dwell on some concepts that influence those who enter this world. The first concept to dwell on is that relating to luck: an archaic belief of man who believes that there is an abstract entity that can guide the evolution of a story that is related to the game or of vital importance. Here in the game many rely on the benevolence and manipulation (with rituals and superstitions) of luck to obtain the desired results; this leads to cognitive distortions.
First of all: “The illusion of control”, that is, an expectation of success present despite the fact that reality is absolutely opposed to this success; this illusion is manifested even more in subjects that are heavily involved as in the case of pathological players.
A high cognitive distortion very present in pathological players but also in social ones (clearly to a lesser extent) is the so-called “Fallacy of Monte Carlo” which consists in the tendency of the player to overestimate the possibility of success after a series of losses. Familiarity with the game can lead to easily overestimate one’s luck and in this case the association with frequent losses, an unconscious desire for revenge and the idea that there must be justice (for itself, obviously), can lead to increase a risk-taking behavior, therefore increase the level of the investment by playing the run-up to make up for losses.
The defeats are also forgotten faster, unlike the victories that instead remain more in the memory. This is most likely an unconscious raising of the Arousal level to forget about the losses. It is like saying that you become less sensitive (or attentive) to defeats and more reactive to victories. The presence of cognitive stimuli during the game, associated with emotional and physical stimuli leads him to become a “functional” recreational activity that satisfies the basic needs of man for self-confirmation and self-affirmation leading to see gambling as a belief in ability and identity opportunity.
The relationship between game, win and loss is something that has always had a strong bond, but most of all it is the attribution of what happens. In psychology there is a concept called: “Locus of control” which roughly determines the attribution of an event or responsibility to something external: external locus of control or directly attributable to the subject itself: internal locus of control. A system of expectations and beliefs that is characterized by people and events. In the game, the percentage of attribution of win or loss to external factors such as luck or internal factors such as skill is high; even if in the daily life of each individual the percentages can change attributing greater abilities to themselves and lower to external events and effects.
In conclusion, in the relationship between game, mind and sense of identity it is difficult to determine a clear difference between pathological player and social player; but a diversification can be made between greater or lesser propensity to pathology and compulsiveness. The danger in our society is to develop forms of addiction and this can occur at all levels, even in social players, especially when needs or ideas of making easy money emerge in times of need. It would therefore be necessary to develop campaigns that make the population aware of the risks that gambling faces and perhaps reduce the tendency to promise easy winnings. A player sees in the bet or the game an opportunity to give value to their life,
Stopping to imagine and fantasize about what could be done with a possible win, or be happy for the idea that this could come true is not a mistake, using the recreational event as an extemporaneous way to escape from everyday life, exploiting the opportunities offered by the environment does not lead to becoming pathological players.
The substratum of dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, desire for redemption from a life that does not satisfy, the attempt to fight boredom, these are the signals that must be considered if one approaches the world of gambling, because that is precisely the case where you can fall into an addiction.