Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

A Fuzzy Tale

Originally posted on August 29, 2013

One of my favorite anecdotes is “A Fuzzy Tale,” written by Dr. Claude Steiner, an advocate for Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis (in the 1970s). Part of that theory overlaps with how I think about things and vivifies Berne’s theory of giving and getting “strokes.”

This is a wonderful story, first written in the 1970s, about giving and accepting appreciations or well-wishing sentiments. The original story had the nice woman giving out “warm fuzzies”—positive strokes—big hips. It was a play on the idea that the woman was a hippie, and the original story has a line that was left out on his website version: “She was born under the sign of Aquarius.” (I suspect that this was a now-outdated literary allusion to the then-popular musical theatre play, “Hair”—especially the song, Aquarius. There was at the time some mild sense of optimism about the better sentiments of the hippie movement, ignoring the news of the more decadent elements of that cultural turn. I confess that I still resonate with those positive sentiments—it was a powerful era in my life, a defining era.)

Anyway, the point of the story is that people really need psychologically positive expressions of recognition, enjoyment, approval, and appreciation—i.e., warm fuzzies, positive strokes. It also notes that people are so hungry for social connection that they’ll even accept tainted communications, “cold pricklies,” because even negative attention is better than being ignored and feeling cut off from humanity.

I am impressed with the intensely social nature of human beings, their need to belong, feel connected. This, though, has masked the way people try to stay connected and yet also keep up their defensiveness. Thus, sadly, many people I encounter interact with other by keeping up a façade of smiling teasing, as if they felt too vulnerable to express in their manner of speaking a simple “I like you.” Steiner’s story hints at that, too. So check it out! It’s worth reading.

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