Transactional Analysis (TA) is a psychological theory and therapeutic approach developed by Eric Berne in the 1950s.
One of the key concepts in TA is the notion of “drivers,” which are unconscious forces that shape an individual’s behaviour and personality.
Taibi Kahler, a renowned psychologist and TA practitioner expanded on Berne’s work and further developed the theory of drivers. Kahler also introduced the concept of “stroking” as a fundamental element in understanding human interactions and psychological well-being. In this essay, we will explore Taibi Kahler’s drivers and stroking in Transactional Analysis.
Drivers, as described by Kahler, are the unconscious scripts that individuals adopt early in life to meet their psychological needs. These drivers are deeply ingrained and play a significant role in shaping a person’s behaviour, communication patterns, and overall personality. Kahler identified five primary drivers: “Be Perfect,” “Please Others,” “Try Hard,” “Hurry Up,” and “Be Strong.” Each driver reflects a distinct set of beliefs and behaviours that individuals develop in response to their environment and early life experiences.
The “Be Perfect” driver reflects the belief that one must strive for flawlessness and avoid making mistakes. Individuals with this driver are often highly self-critical and have high standards for themselves and others. They may become perfectionists, constantly seeking validation and feeling inadequate when they fall short of their own impossibly high standards.
The “Please Others” driver is rooted in the need for approval and the fear of rejection. Individuals with this driver often prioritize the needs and wants of others over their own. They may struggle with assertiveness, constantly seeking external validation and avoiding conflict at all costs. This driver can lead to a lack of self-care and an imbalance in personal relationships.
The “Try Hard” driver emerges from the fear of failure and the need to constantly prove oneself. Individuals with this driver feel the pressure to excel in everything they do and may become workaholics or overachievers. They may struggle with work-life balance and experience chronic stress due to their relentless pursuit of success.
The “Hurry Up” driver stems from the fear of wasting time and the need for efficiency. Individuals with this driver are always in a rush, trying to complete tasks quickly and move on to the next one. They may struggle with patience, relaxation, and enjoying the present moment. This driver can lead to a constant sense of urgency and stress.
The “Be Strong” driver is rooted in the belief that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Individuals with this driver often adopt a stoic and self-reliant approach, avoiding emotional expression and seeking to appear strong and invulnerable. They may struggle with asking for help, connecting emotionally with others, and experiencing and expressing their own emotions.
While the five drivers describe distinct patterns of behaviour, individuals can have a combination of drivers, with one or two being dominant. Understanding these drivers can be transformative in coaching or therapy, as it helps individuals recognise the unconscious motivations driving their actions and facilitates personal growth and change.
In addition to drivers, Kahler introduced “stroking” as a fundamental aspect of human interaction. Strokes are the basic unit of TA recognition, validation, and communication of worth. Strokes can be positive (e.g., praise, appreciation) or negative (e.g., criticism, disapproval). The exchange of strokes is vital for individuals to experience a sense of psychological well-being and fulfilment.
Kahler identified four main types of strokes: verbal, physical, visual, and implied. Verbal strokes involve spoken words of acknowledgement, encouragement, or criticism. Physical strokes encompass touches, such as a hug or a pat on the back. Visual strokes involve non-verbal cues, such as a smile or nod of approval. Implied strokes are subtler and may be conveyed through actions, such as active listening or showing interest in someone’s well-being.
The quantity and quality of strokes individuals receive significantly impact their self-esteem and emotional well-being. Positive strokes contribute to a sense of being valued, loved, and recognised, while a lack of strokes or an abundance of negative strokes can lead to feelings of rejection, unworthiness, and low self-esteem. Stroking plays a crucial role in building healthy relationships, fostering trust, and promoting positive communication.
Taibi Kahler’s work on drivers and stroking in Transactional Analysis provides valuable insights into the unconscious motivations behind human behaviour and the importance of recognition and validation in psychological well-being.
Understanding and addressing these drivers can empower individuals to challenge and change limiting beliefs and behaviours.
Moreover, recognising the significance of strokes in human interaction enables individuals to cultivate healthy relationships and improve communication patterns.