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.

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 !!

Author's Bio: 

Psychotherapist, Trainer and Life Coach.