You look around. Everyone seems to have it better than you. They laugh, they hug, they walk hand in hand, kiss… or have friends who like them… but you? If feels like you have no one, no one cares about you, no one responds well to you… You are not getting enough “strokes”… from others.
A “stroke” (in Transactional Analysis) is a unit of social transaction. A hug. A nod. A smile. A hello, a thank you, a “how are you?”, or an f… you…. these are all social transactions. The more strokes you get the less your spine will shrivel up on you…
Experiments show that babies stop thriving if they have insufficient social transactions… Other experiments how that rats are the same way. But the most surprising thing is: for a rat (and I guess for a human) an electric shock, a slap on the face, and insult also count as a stroke… preventing their spine from shriveling up.
Widowers, retirees, divorced men often die sooner, because they don’t feel needed: life isn’t telling them to exist… 1
As long as Life tells you you exist for a reason, you want to continue existing
My personal interpretation is: as long as life tells you you exist, you want to continue existing. Solitary confinement tells you: life doesn’t care about you existing or not.
I have students in the Playground who only get strokes in their partner calls… the rest of their life is organized so they get too few strokes… so they stroke each other in the partner calls…
You need to manage your “strokes bank account”… life has a weird way of denying you strokes, unless you have enough… just like with money and real banks. When you need it, it is denied to you.
To do well in life, you have to be generous with strokes… Not too generous, mind you, but generous enough.
You have to answer, you have to reciprocate, or else you create a negative balance with the people you didn’t answer to… whom you denied a stroke to. Weird but is so. Violate this “rule” at your own demise…
Humans need “strokes”, validation of their existence, to stay alive. The expression Eric Berne uses is, that their spine doesn’t shrivel up.
Any strokes will do…
Rats thrive, whether they are caressed or given electric shocks… both prevent their spines from shriveling up…
That “strokes” are a need is new to me…
Not “it’s new to me” and therefore it’s wrong… Instead: “OMG, I have never thought about that. It explains a lot!” new.
And I wish I had caught that 30 years ago when I read the book Games People Play… and other books on Transactional Analysis. But, of course, you can’t see, can’t hear what you are not ready for.
My mother gave me strokes when I grew up. While other children got hugs and conversations, and whatever, my mother beat me regularly. That is how I knew I was noticed. A few times I did something wrong, like I got home later than I was supposed to, and she didn’t do anything, didn’t say anything, didn’t beat me. Those are the times I felt that she didn’t love me, that she didn’t care whether I lived or died. It was horrible.
I think I still earn some strokes by misbehaving. Not from my mother, she died 22 years ago, but from others. At my webinars, in the community van, at my exercise class…
Some of the deadness I experience from some people is probably due to not being stroked. And then again, some people get stroked like I do: by attacks, slights, etc. Some cry to get some strokes. Good behavior, doing the work you are supposed to do, getting good grades, being good at anything doesn’t get you strokes. You get no thanks, no validation: they take you for granted, like a furniture.
I watch people. They talk to their cars when the car tends to misbehave… They caress the steering wheel, they sweet-talk the car… I don’t know anyone who talks to a car that gives you no issues.
If you don’t give your parents issues, you become invisible.
Some children make up elaborate ruses to get some attention. “I want a sex change operation” says one. “I can’t do my homework” says another. “I don’t want to do…” says a third. they are all begging for strokes…
This is a whole new way to look at life, to look at behavior.
Life, seemingly doesn’t care if the transaction is “positive” or if it is “negative”… it cares that there is an exchange.
In my humble (or not so humble) opinion, Hillel the elder’s famous three lines are a lifesaver for most of us.
If you are not for you, who is for you?
If not now, when?
If you are only for yourself, who are you?
You need to know what you need to be well, to be validated, to be noticed, and start providing it for yourself. If you have been “misbehaving”, find new ways.
One of my favorite students felt completely inconsequential, ignored for a long time. Then he was asked to lead a class of recovering drug addicts. Suddenly he is all alive, life told him, and tells him, that life needs him to be alive… I am going to ask him how he did it… what prompted him to provide for himself… because I am 100% sure he did it. He initiated this change in the world. I am proud of him. Really.
I think what makes caregiving nearly unbearable is that there is no stroke exchange…
I used to be too stingy…
When you feel entitled for whatever reason, you often respond with stinginess which suggests that you hold back the strokes you “owe” other people.
My entitlement was two-fold: I was a victim (haha) and I was smarter (haha). They owed me.
I gave strokes my way: I shared my brilliance (haha). But that doesn’t land as stroke… It stroked me only. Desire to receive for the self alone.
Only after I was able to see that
- there is no such thing as a victim, and that
- I was no smarter than anyone. And
- no one cares about my brilliance,
- people only care about the strokes I give them.
… that is when I managed to break out of my habitual way of being: desire to receive for the self alone.
This is still “not automatic” for me. I have to remember. But now that I am learning this whole “what shrivels up your spine” idea, I aim to get more generous, and more “Life-giving” consciously and consistently.
One favorite way of some humans is to deny the reciprocal stroke when they get a stroke. To be ungrateful, unappreciative, to withhold it. Certain soul corrections are “famous” for that, like Silent Partner.
What they don’t know is this: you cannot cause damage to another without causing damage to yourself. And by the same token: you cannot derive a benefit without cause benefit for another.
Hm… energy economy, I think.
Some stuff I have noticed over the years that violate the energy economy are these:
Gossip, according to Kabbalah, is a cardinal sin: shedding blood. It is up there with shaming.
In gossiping you talk about a third person in a way that sheds their blood… by damaging their reputation. It kills them in a way.
What happens is this: your gossip partner will now think of the third party as trash, stupid, bad, etc. while you go home to them and make love to them, etc.
Or if it is your teacher you trash… you’ll continue attending their classes…
But your environment now discourages you from doing so: because why would you want to study with a trash? A bad person? A stupid person?
You meant to let off some steam, some frustration, but you weren’t conscious of the fact that words create worlds.
I have lost many students due to them gossiping about me or my classes.
I can tell if and when a student has gossiped about me: they have now an inauthenticity. They built themselves up at my expense. And they cannot learn. They cannot surrender. They damaged our relationship. They now have to be angry to cover it up.
What happens if they come clean? I have rarely seen that happen. Trust broken is broken.
Lately some of my students use the Playground’s partner call to come clean. They don’t directly talk to me, but because I listen to all the calls, they manage to tell me what they did… and nowadays I haven’t been losing people to their gossiping. Big sigh of relief.
Now, is it possible to talk about another in a way that it is not blood shedding?
I have been working on this for years.
And most people wait with baited breath to put down someone. Why? Because their precious oversized delusional “I” thrives on comparison.
If someone else does well, their precious “I” feels devalued. Not because there is any connection… but because they are not intelligent enough to be able to tell that there is no connection.
I remember when I was like that. If an ex classmate of mine did well (and most of my classmates did exceptionally well!) I felt crushed. I felt like they ate up all the success pie, and consequently I was a failure.
And when now, at old age some of them are sick and feeble… conversely I noticed that I feel that I am better, because I am still relatively well…
So I am still not 100% intelligent, emotionally. I still have a precious “I”… although the distance between my real self and my made up self is smaller. 7%, the way I measure in the Starting Point Measurements.
Most people have a huge gap between their real self and their precious “I”… and therefore have a lot of experience of devaluation/overvaluation. Not pleasant.
- Someone speaks with an accent? Their English is not so good? I am better, English is my mother tongue…
- Someone takes too much time to see what they think? I am better: I think faster
- Someone is searching for the right word. I’ll give it to them… I am smarter… Hah.
- Someone needs their hair braided? I am offering… that will make me feel better than anyone else…
The fastest way to be treated as a pariah…
2. Arguments, justifications, blaming, explaining
All are a sign that you are only concerned about your own self-interest, and nothing else. This responds to “to what degree you are about yourself… aka lack of humility”. Your precious “I”.
All other things you do are a pretense…
3. Meekness, obedience…
Whether this is true or not, my hunch is that going limp is a game. To avoid what you must avoid at all cost, so no one finds out that you are not as smart as you fancy yourself to be, that you don’t really want what you say you want.
That you are about survival at all cost.
But you are hiding a biting aspect of your personality, like caged lions. Remember the white lion that mauled his trainer in Las Vegas?
There is a saying about the barking dog… That Barking dogs seldom bite, They let steam off by barking. Same with “barking” people…
I am one of those “barking” people… I never do wrong to anyone… but I bark a lot. Maybe even threaten. Give ultimatums. Do this or else…
But the silent ones, the meek ones… beware of those people: they bite.
4. Stroke economy… energy economy
The unwritten contract between humans is to be in balance. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.
Stingy people don’t thrive. But the willfully giving people don’t thrive either.
I used to be stingy, as I said above. I was also too giving, I gave both stuff and “love.” I was clueless about social contracts. It was very disappointing, lonely, not having anyone to exchange strokes with. I often felt my spine shrivel up…
Willfully, forcefully giving doesn’t give strokes. Their “giving” benefits the giver only, their precious “I”. Look how good I am. How forgiving, generous, rich, magnanimous… etc. Desire to receive for the self alone. “Revealing the Dark Side”, “Removing Hatred” soul corrections are known for this…
No stroke is landing in the giving, their gift is self-congratulatory… and instead of giving, it takes energy from the other.
If you catch me being like this: please warn me. Thank you.
The more ways you can look at the invisible, the unconscious, the more dynamics you can distinguish, the richer your life can become, and the more you can become an adult as possibility… instead of a child, a pawn, a cog in some invisible machine.
Life becomes, or can become more satisfying… and between you and me, life satisfaction is the most important thing you can have. It is the foundation for health, wealth, for healthy relationships, and fulfillment.
But given that your field of vision is almost fully occupied by what you want, and what you fear, you look at life through a the narrow cone of vision and life satisfaction doesn’t seem to be in your hand. It is. Fully and wholly. In your hand.
Healing, happiness, health, success, fulfillment, belonging are all in YOUR hand.
My articles, my courses, my workshops, my coaching provide the wider and deeper view that you are missing.
- There is this old college professor who lives on my street. His wife died a couple of years ago. He walks HER dog. The dog is getting old, but the dog still needs him to walk him. So life, in a way, tells him that he is needed. But he is getting thinner and thinner, and doesn’t even want to stop to chat any more. He is not willing to give strokes, and he is not getting any. So he is ready to die with HER dog. He is in his early 80’s.
In contrast, I know another guy, 92 years old, who spends, every day, with this other old person, 77 years old woman, who takes him to shop, to do things, who roots him on… and no surprise: he is thriving. 92. Many strokes, back and forth. I know them from my exercise class… yeah.
I remember when the only reason I had to get up in the morning is that people, readers of my magazine needed me, because I gave them strokes… Otherwise, in my personal life: no reason whatsoever. No strokes to mention.
If you ask me who I exchange strokes with, I would not hesitate to say: with people other people consider “no-person”. The driver of the community van that takes me to shop. The checkout person in the stores. The sample person in the store. Sometimes other shoppers. Other older people in the van. I hoard strokes when I can get them… or I won’t get any.
And I am really generous with strokes: I am always on the lookout to notice something nice, something worth acknowledging people for. So I have been “generating” occasions for people to give me reciprocal strokes…
When I measure my well-being number (health number), the more outgoing I am the higher it goes.
My next door neighbors seem to be moving. I am going to talk to them, thank them for being good neighbors… a little stroke exchange will push my health number, my energy level, my happiness score, my life satisfaction score a little higher. It is at 70% now.