Filling Your Tank

Are you feeling depleted? Tired or depressed? It could be that your stroke tank is getting low.

What is a stroke tank? A stroke tank is a psychological theory called Transactional Analysis. As its name implies it is about the analysis of the transactions (conversations or interactions) that happen between people and their impact. It was created by Eric Berne, a psychiatrist in the nineteen-fifties.

Man rising from the water at the ocean

In his theory he talked about people having a “stroke bank economy” where we all have an imaginary tank that needs to stay 2/3 full in order to feel good emotionally and physically. He posited that our tanks can be topped off and we can “coast” for a while until the tank dips down below 2/3 at which point we are “just living”. If it keeps getting depleted and we’ll keep draining to the point where it gets dangerously low and we will be feeling sad, anxious, etc. He believed our physical health would suffer too.

So what is it that fills our stroke tank up? It is the positive and negative interactions that we have with other people and with ourselves. When we have positive interactions with others where we are acknowledged, appreciated or praise we derive good feelings and our tank fills.

And oddly enough when we have negative interactions with people--say conflict with our spouses, co-workers or kids, we are still being stroked, being paid attention to in some way. This is the same as what kids do when they cannot get their parents attention they will act out: pull the cats tail, fight with a sibling so that they are at least getting some kind of attention. 

What is it that brings your stroke level down?  By getting overly tired and not getting enough sleep, not eating well, not resolving conflicts in your friendships or marriage.

And what brings your stroke level up? Taking good care of yourself by getting the sleep or rest your need. And addressing the difficulties in your relationships and working through them, with the aid of a professional if needed. Choosing to not engage with negative or toxic people in your life is another way to feel better and raise your level.   Taking responsibility to yourself and your actions and setting healthy boundaries create a fuller tank.

Beyond good self-care the best fill up happens by having healthy relationships. Think about the relationships in your life and think about the people you are closest to and who matter the most to you.

Think about ways to spend more time with those friends or family members that you do feel good being with. Start by having one weekend evening a month to gather for potlucks or get-togethers is a good way to keep on going connections alive. Face to face interactions are optimal for humans and nothing is better than a hug as a way to fill the heart. If you don’t have many friends finding a group that engages with a sport or interest of yours is a good way to start more connection. Also joining a therapy group where relationships and intimacy is a focus can be an excellent way to learn about making friends and keeping them.

So the next time you are feeling down take a measurement of your tank and see what you can do in order to fill it up. Get it up above that 2/3 marker and you will feel happier and more alive.

You deserve it.

You can find out more on men's counseling here.