In Transactional Analysis the term stroke is used to represent a unit of human recognition. We all have basic human needs to be in contact with people.Our hunger for contact and recognition explains why solitary confinement is such a severe punishment. It is also why babies left without attention and stimulation, fail to develop normally.
As adults we vary in the amount of recognition we need, however we must all get at least some attention from others if we are to function as healthy human beings.We develop patterns of interactions between ourselves and the people we are in contact with so that we receive a supply of strokes to match our needs. It is likely that we unwittingly form relationships with those people who are likely to provide the levels and types of strokes that we became used to during our childhood.
In this way our stroking pattern becomes integral to our way of being in the world; if our customary balance is upset we feel uncomfortable and seek to re-establish it. As a result an alysis of our stroking patterns can play a significant role in the work of Transactional Analysts in all four fields.
Positive Strokes - Any form of recognition, verbal or non verbal, which we experience as pleasant.
Negative Strokes - Any recognition we experience as painful or unpleasant, can be verbal or non verbal.