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Welcome to a practical pastoral counseling site of Dr. Harold L. White

 Every pastor can be a valued and competent counselor.


Different Strokes

Positive strokes are pleasurable, and carries a "You're OK" message, and usually
results in good feelings for the receiver.
They tend to encourage growth and foster self-esteem.
In TA language a positive stroke is described as a "warm fuzzy."

Negative strokes are painful, and sometimes carry a "You're not-OK" message,
and may result in unpleasant feelings for the receiver.
Filtered strokes are strokes which are distorted or contain non-relevant information,
and therefore are actually discounted strokes.
It is like saying, "Of course I respect women," which is said with a sneer.

An unconditional stroke is a stroke for being, whereas a conditional stroke is
a stroke for doing.
Unconditional strokes pertain to characteristics which occur naturally
and do not require special effort, such as being alive, male, tall, and so on.
Since no conditions are placed on these attributes, they cannot be earned,
and since a person has little choice about them, strokes for these natural qualities
are usually experienced very strongly.

Positive unconditional strokes are very desirable and do not lead to any
constrictive script decisions.
Negative unconditional strokes have no constructed use whatsoever, and often
lead to a very destructive script.
"I love you" (just for being you) is the epitome of a positive unconditional stroke.
Unfortunately, strokes which are meant to be positive and unconditional
are not always experienced as conditional or even as positive.
"I love you" may be experienced in some instances as conditional, especially by someone
who is afraid to trust.

Many people would like to receive unconditional strokes other than the ones
they are used to, since the ones they are used to have been reinforced so much
that the Adapted Child has taken charge of the attribute and now works at enhancing it.
So, they have turned them into conditional strokes.

For example, women: strokes for being pretty or nurturing.
Men: strokes for being strong or smart.
Children: strokes for being lively and adorable.

Instead, they might prefer:
Women: strokes for being intelligent or witty.
Men: strokes for being gentle or warm.
Children: strokes for being OK even if they are not performing.

Most people get the majority of their strokes for what they do.
Conditional strokes, both positive and negative, are often used to influence the behavior
of other persons and to provide a valuable source of feedback.
Used appropriately and consistently, conditional strokes provide a powerful tool
with which persons are taught healthy, adaptive responses.

For example, a mother gives her child a positive conditional stroke by praising him
when he uses the toilet, and she gives him a negative conditional stroke by scolding him
when he has bowel movements on the floor.

Each person develops a style of giving and receiving strokes based on her life position.
Persons who feel OK about themselves and others tend to seek out exchanges
of positive strokes.
Persons who feel not-OK about themselves and/or others tend to seek out negative strokes,
which they use to maintain or increase their not-OK feelings.

When positive unconditional strokes are not given to or accepted by an individual,
she will seek out other kinds of stroke exchanges rather than do without any strokes at all.
Since strokes are necessary for survival, a person will do whatever she thinks
she must in order to receive the strokes she needs.

Claude Steiner lists five restrictive rules regarding stroking with which many children
are taught, and suggests that following one or more of these rules results in what
he calls a loveless script.

1. Don't give strokes if you have them to give.
2. Don't ask for strokes when you need or want them.
3. Don't accept strokes even if you want them.
4. Don't reject strokes when you do not want them, even if you do not like them.
5. Don't give yourself strokes.

Unfortunately, most people follow some or all of these rules and so remain
at least a little stroke-deprived.

They either reject or do not bother to seek unconditional positive strokes,
and settle for more positive conditional strokes and negative strokes than they really want.

Stroke Power

Each stroke can be thought of as having a certain amount of stimulation power,
ranging from one up to 100 for positive strokes, and perhaps to 1000 for negative strokes.
The disparity between negative and positive strokes exists because negative strokes
are potentially more powerful than positive ones.

People can yell and pound out their anger very loudly and powerfully,
while love cannot be expressed so potently.
Not only can negative strokes be delivered more powerfully, but humans are physiologically
structured so that negative strokes will have a stronger impact.

Our instinct for survival requires that we respond to negative inputs with more
immediacy and energy than we need for positive inputs.

Here are some examples of strokes with various amounts of power:

1 positive stroke -- "Hi!"
10 positive strokes -- "Hi, Mike!"
50 positive strokes -- "You're doing great!"
100 positive strokes -- "I love you!" delivered with a warm smile and a soft touch.

1 negative stroke -- " Hi," in a a disinterested tone of voice.
10 negative strokes -- "I don't like what you just did."
50 negative strokes -- "That's terrible! Don't do that!"
100 negative strokes -- An angry " Go away!"
200 negative strokes -- "You're just like your father!" Slap!
1000 negative strokes -- A beating with unintelligible anger.

The value of strokes is also significantly affected by the source.
A source from a casual acquaintance usually will not have as much impact
as one from someone important to you, such as an employer, respected peer, or lover.

The healthy individual seeks out and accepts both internal and external strokes.
Generally, since people do not like to give up strokes until a replacement is assured,
it is easier to raise a low rating than to lower a high one.
When the low rating goes up, the high one will usually come down.

Giving strokes is OK.
You will rarely spoil anyone by giving him too many positive strokes
For their first eighteen months or so, you can freely give positive strokes to your children,
and they will soak them up and become happy, optimistic, and have a healthy body
which will help sustain them for the rest of their lives.

Positive strokes are also welcomed and needed by older children -- just omit over-nurturing,
which slows down their growth.
Positive strokes given to friends, lovers, employees, and others will also result
in good feelings and warm, pleasant interactions.

If you are open to them, you will tend to get back an amount equal to what you give.
Many people want to give strokes only after others have given to them.
Giving first, works better.

Taking strokes is OK, also.

You deserve them!
Well-trained adults, who do not know it is OK to take positive strokes,
they quickly say thank you and shrug off the stroke, or tighten up and wonder what they must
do to repay the favor.
A freely given stroke does not obligate a response.
If it feels good, take it, enjoy it, and do not look for attached strings.

It is also OK to ask for strokes, and the ones you get by asking can count just as much as
those who are given spontaneously.
Do not expect people to read your mind for what you want.

Refuse to give.
You do not have to give what someone else wants.
If you give when you really do not want to, you will not enjoy doing it,
and the other person will not get much of a good feeling from it either.
Unfortunately, those people who give whether they want to or not assume that other people
are behaving the same way, and so they discount most of the strokes they are offered.

Give only what you want to give and help establish an honest stroke economy.

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