Training Day: Ego States & Strokes

Ego States

The Parent is the part of the individual which evaluates (mind) and the Child is the part which feels (emotions & intuition). The Adult is non-judgmental and serves the purpose of data collection, taking in all available information through the five senses in order that the individual can act upon it appropriately.

  • Parent
  • Adult
  • Child

A balanced person is someone who uses both Parent and Child to interpret the information as fully as possible and thereby build up the most accurate picture of a situation in order to be able to act as effectively as possible. He feels with his body and evaluates with his mind. This relates perfectly to the definition of listening given earlier.

The Parent and Child ego states are sub-divided as follows:

  • Controlling Parent – finger pointing, moralistic, judgmental, setting boundaries, overbearing, frightening.
  • Nurturing Parent – open hands, consoling touch, caring, supportive, understanding, too nice, smothering.
  • Rebellious Child – fist shaking, “I did it my way”, boundary breaking, energetic, stubborn, chaotic.
  • Adapted Child – wanting to please, wanting to fit in, follow rules, the chameleon – always changing to fit the circumstance. This is where I spend the majority of my time. One of my long-term goals is to develop my parent ego state. My work with Karaj has been a massive help in this respect

A general point with respect to body language: the Parent ego state involves no movement (apart from gesticulations) whereas Child is much more animated. Also worth considering is the advice to run away from anyone who switches too quickly between Parent and Child.


These refer to the attention which we pay to each other. A stroke is defined by James and Jongeward (‘Born to win’) as ‘any act implying recognition of another’s presence’. A person can give and receive strokes in four different ways:

  • Unconditional positive – ‘I love you’
  • Conditional positive – ‘I really enjoyed your party’
  • Conditional negative – ‘Your party was a disaster’
  • Unconditional negative – ‘You’re stupid’

Conditional strokes relate to what a person does and unconditional strokes relate to who a person is. The ideal stroke profile should have high positives (conditional and unconditional), low conditional negative and zero unconditional negative.

The profiles for giving and receiving should be identical. My profiles differ in the case of the positives. I give positive strokes much easier than I receive them. I need to address this problem. Also, when I receive a negative stroke I take it far too personally.

The impact assessment of these different strokes makes very interesting reading. Imagine a bank account of self-worth and these are the values which add to or subtract from the confidence the individual has for himself. Bear in mind that I can also give myself strokes – positive and negative.

  • Unconditional +ve    +10
  • Conditional +ve        +1
  • Conditional –ve        -100
  • Unconditional –ve     -1000

The unfortunate consequence of these ratings is that many people prefer to receive a negative stroke than no stroke at all. The underlying logic of this is that even if the individual is being criticised or abused, at least their existence is being acknowledged. Humans are social animals and if nobody acknowledges our existence, we suffer immeasurably.

Additional posts: Training Day: IntroductionTraining Day: Games & DriversTraining Day: Conclusion
Related page: Transactional Analysis (Ego States)
Related post: 20 Minutes in 20 Years (Strokes) | Internal Dialogues (Ego States)

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