“Give me a hug – I need some Strokes!”

“Give me a hug – I need some Strokes!”

Ragini Rao

Psychotherapist, Trainer and Life Coach


Satish is a 30 year old software professional, working for a MNC. He moved to Bangalore from a small town in Bihar. His initial feeling was one of excitement and joy.

However six months later, Satish realised things were not the same for him. He would often feel low in energy and also experienced a lack of enthusiasm at work.

When he tried to analyse and reflect on what was causing it, he was unable to place a finger at the right spot. On the face of it everything seemed fine and yet he was not feeling happy.

 Satish decided to see a counsellor.

As the counsellor explored with Satish the various aspects of his life, many obvious facts came to light.

  • It became evident that because Satish was new to the city, he had very few or almost no friends.
  • The nature of his job also involved him working alone for long hours with minimum interaction with his superiors or peers.
  • There was also no recognition of what he was doing. Work was just a chore he had to complete and deliver.
  • He lived in a PG accommodation with no roommates, so he was not talking to anyone there either.

What was missing in Satish’s life became clearly apparent to the counsellor.

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He had minimum interactions with people at work or otherwise; and no one really recognised or acknowledged either his presence or his work.

 Strokes – Psychological Need of all human beings

All human beings have a need to connect, interact and be recognised by others. It is a basic psychological need. There is enough research that shows evidence of that.

Dr. Eric Berne, psychiatrist and founder of the theory of Transactional Analysis, named this recognition as Strokes.

Different Strokes – one for each situation

He emphasised that strokes were as important or more important than our basic biological needs.

  • Strokes can be verbal or non-verbal. Non verbal include a smile, a nod, a pat or a hug.
  • They can be Positive or Negative; Conditional or Unconditional.
  • Conditional strokes are those that we receive for what we do. Example- “That’s a job well done!”
  • Unconditional strokes are for who we are- for just being the person that we are. Example- “I love you!”

All of us need a good balance of these different kinds of strokes.

Human beings are wired such that we seek positive strokes; however, in the absence of positive strokes, we tend to settle for negative strokes because even negative strokes are better than no strokes at all!!

For example, often, individuals continue to stay in abusive relationships, fearing the alternative of being left alone.

Berne said, “If you are not stroked, your spinal cord will shrivel up”.

Find opportunities for Strokes – and enjoy getting them

Let’s come back to Satish.

The counsellor facilitated, through discussions, the awareness of what was missing for Satish. He became aware how his internal stroke bank had completely depleted in the six months! With very little interaction with people around him his source of strokes was unavailable.

He was invited to look at how he could make changes in his everyday routine that could help him with this.

An action plan was put in place that involved – joining a gym; connecting with people in Bangalore who hailed from his home town; proactively making friends at work; initiating casual chats with colleagues during coffee breaks.

In 3 months time, Satish started feeling much better. His low moods were less frequent, he found himself more energetic and happy.

 What happened to Satish is not uncommon.

In a world where people are constantly moving cities; and even countries, for purpose of work, very often individuals can find themselves in situations like this, which could result in feeling low and depressed.

Not just movement of place; any change – at home, school, college or workplace; or in relationships in a person’s life, can create such situations. However, often, people get caught up in monotonous routines and ignore these basic needs for strokes.

In such situations, it is important to recognise it, talk to friends about it or seek professional help if need be.

 We have a right to be happy and to seek love and affection. We need to believe that we deserve it !!



Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.

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indu Sridhat
indu Sridhat

Ragini, the simple lines of the narrative make the message clear and strong. Very well written. Indu Sridhar

Ragini Rao

Thank you Indu! Hope it reaches the people who need to understand this 🙂

Anindita Lakhani

The article reminds me of the chapter we did in school and is so relevant still – “Man is a social animal “


Excellent article Ragini .

Ragini Rao

Thank you Meenakshi !


Article is very useful for counselling as well as understanding our needs. Thank you Ragini ?

Ragini Rao

Welcome and thank you!

Mousumi Choudhury
Mousumi Choudhury

Very good article Ragini…And so true. All of us have a strong need to be loved and appreciated. We can apply that to all relationships.

Sonal Kothari

Beautiful introduction of Strokes Ragini. Enjoyed the illustration of the concept of Strokes through Satish’s example a lot. Relevant to me as a counsellor and also probably for the lay person. Will be using this article a lot to share with clients and family and friends. Looking forward to more concepts simply and relate-ably explained. xoxo A whole series maybe??? I hope so.

Ragini Rao

Thank you Sonal! The intention was to keep it simple and reach the layman .
Yes hope to write more .

Neeta Bhatia
Neeta Bhatia

Sooper Ragini. Todays unfortunate reality. Loved the example. Stories make a point better than anything else. Thanks for sharing. 💛

Gobind Seth
Gobind Seth

You are v right Ragini , positive stroke has a great value in our lives.

Zara kaushik
Zara kaushik

Ragini, I think you have touched a very raw nerve in today’s society and that is importance of maintaining social connections through talking and taking time out to meet people.


So true Ragini. It’s as if you snatched the words out of my heart. I completely agree with every word you have said. Because I strongly believe in order to be called a human being you have to first learn to be human. Because there is a sea of difference between human being and being human.