Hungry But Not For Food


We aren’t Polar Bears. Humans are socialised and communal.  We developed in small hunter-gatherer groups, co-operating with each other, dividing labour up and working together to survive. These are the roots of our development and from them we have certain hungers that need to be fed.  These are hungers that aren’t about food.

The theory goes that there are three other hungers, known as the 3 S’s

S number one – Strokes

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What might you need more of?

Strokes here isn’t the medical stroke. No, Strokes here means other people recognising you.  Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, coined the term thinking of the pleasure that young infants get from physical stroking. He used the term with great deliberation to mean the need and the payoff of people being recognised by each other.  So here Stroke means unit of recognition.

If someone says ‘Hello’ to you in the street, that’s a Stroke. Your existence on earth has been recognised by another member of the human tribe.

There are positive and negative strokes.

‘You look great!’ 

‘You are useless!’

There are positive conditional strokes.

‘I love it when you buy me things.’

And positive unconditional strokes for being.

‘I love you’.

And there are negative conditional strokes

‘You look awful in that hat.’

And negative unconditional strokes

‘I hate you.’

Have a think next time someone gives you a stroke, what kind of stroke is it?

Did you like it?  If you didn’t and you feel safe to do so with the other person, you might like to give them their stroke back, with a ‘you know I’m not going to hold on to that, you can have that back’.

Strokes. We need them for our mental health.  Children need them, and if there aren’t enough positive strokes, we will strive to get negative ones, because any stroke is better than no stroke.  Which explains a lot of child and adult behaviour.  It’s about ATTENTION good or bad.

That’s how much of a fundamental hunger we have for STROKES. 

S number 2 – Stimulation

Another hunger we have is for Stimulation.  Alot of depression is down to understimulation and passive behaviour like turning on the tv, not to watch something actively, but to use up time.  We’ve all done it, it’s a way of zoning out of our surroundings, of our needs.

Stimulation is vital to psychological health.  Doing things, everyday or new and challenging.  We need stimulation or something inside us atrophies.  The stimulation of doing something and being around others, of stretching ourselves and our abilities. 

S number 3 – Structure 

The last hunger but not for food, is for structure.  We need to have a shape to our time, a boundary, different sections of our day.  It’s good to put your own in place if you have free time.  It’s important to be as active as you can, even about relaxation.

Often if people are depressed and out of work, they may not give themselves enough of the 3 S’s.

So those are the three S’s, the three hungers that are not about food, that we all need for our mental health, Strokes, Stimulation, and Structure.

If you are interested in finding out more about these and other helpful theories or would like to find out more about counselling in the Aylesbury area then give Paul a ring on 07804 350757




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