From Dr. Claude Steiner’s web page:
THE STROKE ECONOMY. One of the harmful aspects of the Critical Parent is that it has a set of rules that govern the giving and taking of strokes (Don’t give, ask for, accept or give yourself strokes) The effect of these rules, called the stroke economy, is that people are prevented from freely stroking each other and taking care of their stroke needs. As a consequence, most human beings live in a state of stroke hunger in which they survive on a deficient diet of strokes — in a manner similar to persons who are starved for food — and spend a great deal of time and effort in trying to satisfy their hunger. Positive strokes, sometimes called “warm fuzzies,” such as holding hands or saying “I love you,” give the person receiving them a feeling of being OK. There are also negative strokes, which are painful forms of recognition such as sarcasm, putdowns, a slap, an insult or saying “I hate you.” Negative strokes make the person receiving them feel not OK. Still, even though unpleasant, negative strokes are a form of recognition and prevent “the spinal cord from shriveling up.” For this reason, people prefer a situation of negative strokes to a situation without strokes at all. This explains why some people seem to intentionally hurt themselves in their relationships with others. It is not because “they enjoy hurting themselves” but because they can’t get positive recognition, and choose painful negative strokes to having no strokes.
People can learn to exchange strokes freely, open the hearts and give and ask for strokes without shame or embarrassment. Different strokes appeal to different people and everyone has their special, secret wishes. There are many kinds of positive strokes – there are physical strokes and verbal strokes. Physical strokes can be hugs, kisses, holding, caresses, strong or light, sexy, sensual or just friendly, nurturing or slightly teasing and so on. Verbal strokes can be about a people’s looks – their face, body, posture or movements or about a person’s personality – their intelligence, loving nature sensitivity or courage. In any case, people need and deserve strokes and if they ask for them they will usually find someone who has just the strokes they want and is willing to give them