People who are not familiar with the theory of Transactional Analysis may not have heard of negative strokes.

To understand what this type of caress is, it is necessary to understand the meaning of caresses from the transactional perspective .

Caresses from Transactional Analysis

According to Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis, strokes are recognition units that provide stimulation to an individual. Therefore, from a transactional perspective, the concept is different from what is generally understood as stroking: Gentle, delicate physical contact is made by sliding the hand or fingers over someone’s body.

From Transactional Analysis, caresses do not only refer to physical stimulation, since it also includes psychological and social stimulation (recognition).

Everyone needs physical and psychological stimulation to have a full life, and caresses are a fundamental unit of social recognition. Both physical and psychological touches bring many benefits from an early age, and as we grow, social recognition becomes an essential aspect of psychological well-being.

Positive and negative strokes

In the theory of Transactional Analysis , two types of caresses are exposed according to the sensation they invite to live: the positive caresses and the negative ones . Positive caresses provoke pleasant sensations and emotions; and negative ones provoke unpleasant sensations and emotions.

Below are some examples of these types of strokes:

  • Positive caresses : I love you, you’re amazing, I love you. (tixagging)

  • Negative caresses : I hate you, you’re an idiot. (tixag=4)

The negative strokes can be:

  • Sarcastic comments
  • Ignore the actions of the other
  • Demeaning the other and humiliating the other person
  • Scraps

We all have the need to be accepted and touched

Berne talks about the hunger for caresses , as the deprivation of sensory aspects in children can cause psychic problems. Already at an early age, the lack of positive caresses (being stroked, praised, etc.) can cause the child to seek negative caresses to compensate for the lack of social recognition, and is a way of seeking attention that he or she does not receive.

Therefore, sometimes negative caresses are used with family, partners, friends, and these are toxic behaviors that poison our relationships and can have harmful effects on the members of the relationship. That is why giving and receiving negative strokes should be avoided.

This is especially so in the parent-child relationship, for in the case of parents it is due:

  • Being expressive : frequent kisses, caresses and hugs.
  • Be genuine in praising your children .
  • Be tender and understanding and accept the behaviour of the children.
  • Be measured and don’t forget that they are children.
  • Applaud the children’s successes and reward them when necessary.

It is also interesting to allow the child to grow up feeling loved and to adequately develop his or her emotional intelligence.

Not only does the one who does not receive caresses suffer, but also the one who does not express them

A Stanford University study conducted by James Gross indicates that suppressing the expression of emotions carries high psychological, social and health costs . Individuals who do not express their emotions are more unhappy and suffer from lower physiological immunity.

According to the data in this research, the lack of emotional expression not only does not reduce emotions, but magnifies negative emotions, causing problems for physical and psychological well-being. The expression of positive emotions brings about more rewarding experiences and improves interpersonal relationships.