The psychology of relationships: strokes
The stroke profile
The stroke profile is an easy exercise which can help you find out more about how you give and receive strokes. Remember that we all need strokes on a constant basis.
This is due to our biological need for relatedness with other human beings.
If we don't have enough strokes in our lives, we start to feel depressed, empty, lonely and all sorts of other unpleasant things.
It's as if the glass starts to look half empty all the time, because there isn't enough warmth in your life to make it seem half full to you.
The stroke profile gives you a chance to visualize the amount of strokes you give and receive. It works like a bar chart and you can fill it in on impulse. Don't think too much about it, go with what feels right to you. You can analyze it later.
Here is the diagram:
Positive (+) Strokes
Negative (-) Strokes
The top half (above the boxes which are colored blue), is about positive strokes and the bottom half is about negative strokes.
You fill it in by thinking about each category, giving, taking, asking for, and refusing to give, both in relation to positive strokes (top half) and negative strokes (bottom half).
You start off with the first column, asking yourself the question written on top of the column: how often do you give positive strokes to others?
Choose how high your column reaches by selecting never, seldom, often, frequently or always. Once you have decided how many positive strokes you give to other people on average, color your column in up to that amount.
Do the same in the bottom half of the diagram asking yourself the question: how often do you give negative strokes to others? Proceed in the same style with taking, asking for, and refusing to give.
How can you interpret the bar chart?
First of all, just look at it! What does it look like?
Reflect on what you think about it and what is shows you about the way you stroke others and are stroked by them. How does this affect your relationship with your partner?
How many strokes are there in your life? Do the columns all look pretty filled in, or is your whole graph really flat on both sides, which would indicate a general lack of interaction with people in your life?
If the columns are all filled in, are they equally colored on the positive and the negative sides?
One would want to end up with positive interactions rather than negative ones.
If there are a lot of negative strokes in your life, how can you change this into a positive pattern?
Do you give out a lot of positive strokes or negative strokes, or both?
One way of changing the pattern is to start becoming more proactive towards the positive side: give out more positive strokes, accept the positive ones you get, don't take on the negative ones you get, ask for more positive strokes, and don't give out as many negative ones to other people.
These rules follow the positive stroke economy.
I hope the diagram stimulates you to think about what you give out to the people around you and what you want to get from them.
Also, you could repeat the exercise and do a diagram specifically for your relationship with your partner. It would be great if the two of you could talk about it and make some changes together.
Or you could each fill one in about your relationship and then compare how you both see the interactions between you.
You might be astonished to see how different your perceptions are. What may feel like a genuinely warm and loving relationship to one partner might feel quite lonely to the other person, because their need for contact and relatedness is greater.
Think about how you could negotiate ways to deal with and allow for the difference in your contact styles, rather than argue from an "I am right and you are wrong and you have to change" type of perspective.
You may wonder how strokes relate to the concept of human sexual fulfillment. The answer is indirect: in that a relationship where the partners provide a lot more positive feedback for each other, rather than negative feedback, is one where sex is likely to be successful because the partners start out with an expectation and predisposition to be warm and loving towards each other.
This means that lovemaking's less likely to be interrupted by emotionally based problems like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. You can find out more about how to overcome fast ejaculation and erectile dysfunction treatment methods.