Sunday, October 30, 2011


For the average person, the word STROKE immediately conjures up a terrible image of a heart attack that leads to death. For the less panicky, depending on their favorite game the work STROKE can have a much more favorable image being seen vividly. The word instantly brings to mind some exquisite backhand down the line stroke or a forehand cross court stroke for tennis buffs and for the cricket enthusiast the same word could trigger images of an array of strokes executed by batsmen over the years. The golf enthusiast won’t be far behind either with some exciting and vivid imagination of his/her dream stroke. However, today we shall focus attention on a less well known but widely accepted and exceptionally useful concept of a psychological stroke which in effect could be seen as Stimulus Transferred Regularly Often Kindles Encouragement.

Broadly there are two types of stokes that one is generally aware of; the positive stroke and the negative stroke. However in real life a large number of people go around without getting any stroke. These are the unfortunate people who end up getting No Strokes and live a lonely life, walk around like lost sheep, lack self pride, feel insignificant and victimized and perceive the world to be against them. With this background we can attempt to understand how the concept of STROKEs has both relevance and utility to each one of us in our everyday life. In fact a better understanding of the topic would enable us to enrich our own life and positively impact the lives of the many people around us. 

While negative strokes ( like getting slapped, shouted at, insulted, blamed etc.) are seen as the most avoidable type of stroke, the subtle reality is that getting No Strokes is perhaps the worst emotional and psychological trauma for a human being especially since we are the most evolved social animal. To appreciate this it is essential that we need to understand what a no stroke situation is. Imagine a prisoner kept in an isolation cell. This is normally done to the most dangerous and violent criminal and the idea is the break the prisoner down since as a social animal he/ she need the company of other human beings. While none of us may experience this kind of isolation, imagine the plight of a machine operator working an 8 hour shift or a bus driver seated all alone in the driver’s seat without the benefit of frequent human interaction. Some may have had the experiences of forcibly being isolated when suffering from chicken pox and apart from the suffering from the illness, the loneliness and forced rejection by others may have worsened the trauma. 

When subjected to no strokes, the human tendency is to seek some stroke even if it is a negative stroke. An understanding of this reality can perhaps explain why last benchers in class are often disruptive, naughty and mischievous. This also could provide a clue to why bus a driver keeps blowing the horn or revs the engine of the bus whilst at a traffic signal provoking angry stares and possibly shouts and abuses from others around. 

Ideally every one craves  positive strokes. A smile is the simplest, cheapest and most effective positive stroke. A pat on the back, a word of praise and appreciation are other common means of extending a positive stroke. Positive strokes are of two types. When the stroke is freely given without any expectation it could be called a positive unconditional stroke whereas a positive stroke given with an expectation is a positive conditional stroke. An example of the latter would be a parent offering a reward for doing well in exams or a person obliging another in the hope of getting a return favor latter. Obviously the best possible stroke is a POSITIVE UNCONDITIONAL STROKE for that is when Stimulus Transferred Regularly Often Kindles Encouragement.

Action Points:
  1. Over the next 1 week make a list of the different people with whom you had a chance to interact and who gave you strokes and classify the same into negative, positive unconditional , positive conditional and no strokes. For the same list of people and situations outline what kind of strokes you gave or times when you didn’t give any stroke. Examine your emotions for each recording.
  2. What kind of strokes would you normally give to the following people
  • A widower who is considered a crank neighbor by others
  • Your boss or school/ college principal whom you meet on the road suddenly
  • Your former girlfriend/ boy friend who you unexpectedly meet at a party
  • The person at the check out counter who is slow, confused and obviously not well trained in his./ her job
  • A key team member who did not turn up for a match because of an emergency that occurred about which you are not convinced.
  • The person who scored first place by one mark over you.
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