Get You Some Attention

Illustration from The Pied Piper of Hamelin

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Frances was five years old and her dad was long gone.  Mom was not parenting much in those days, meaning when Frances laughed in timing, parked her bike in the rack and watered the dog, she felt transparent.  When Frances kicked and screamed, Mom gave her a bunch of attention to redirect her.  When Frances sat at the table quietly, no one spoke.  However, Frances did need attention so she spoke with her mouth full of food and said bad words.  Her motives were not bad.

Frances being young, she was still primitive.  She didn’t see the dimensions of life.  Her thoughts were concrete and told her to scream.  She didn’t know her motives were parenting her.  And while she grew up, her brain was myelinating those behaviors right into her own Indian trails of learned responses.  And not only did Frances have these neuronal grooves of negative attention, she had poverty of paths toward positive attention.

Years later, after much brain-city planning and hard work, Frances had herself some hard-earned different neuronal traffic.  She consciously named her basic emotional needs that motivated her behaviors, such as attention, love, trust and safety.  She deliberately responded more often than automatically to things.  We were even able to joke about it.

Frances said that she should be the Pied Piper for negative drama.

Everyone with negative emotions and theatrical behaviors, follow my car!  And then I’d drive them into the ocean.

We all have legitimate reasons to seek emotional succor.  Me.  We may find ourselves moving from crisis to crisis to get attention, but we don’t have to.  We don’t need crisis to deserve good things.  When doing well emotionally and behaviorally, we are equally deserving of asking for attention, love, trust and safety from ourselves and others.

The motive is rarely the problem.  It’s the timing.  That’s what automatic behavior means.  It is in the positive times that we need to drum up more positive drama; get that feedback that we so crave.

Engaging in a dangerous performance that gets Me hurt is not friendly.  Being friendly to myself might mean learning to re-time when we get dramatic.

Some people cut and burn themselves on purpose materially.  Some people do it emotionally.  A key to our insight here is owning that we have the power.  That everything starts and ends with Me.  When the knives and fire are ablaze on stage is not when we want to get involved.

What’s your timing?

Questions:  How do you see timing play into when you think that you are loveable? Do you think that when you are hurting is when you deserve to be loved?  Does the suffering make you more deserving of connection with others than being in a “good” place emotionally and behaviorally?  Please tell us your story.

Self-Care Tip – Time your efforts to receive love, attention, trust and safety.

18 thoughts on “Get You Some Attention

  1. You hit the nail on the head. I use food for everything (instead of knives and flames, and I am getting healthier!) What was always curious to me was, why I used food when I was happy or excited the more “positive” emotions. I could understand medicating the “sad” ones, grief, loneliness, sadness, feeling unloveable, hopelessness, (see I can list the sad ones, I just rattled off two for the positive ones hmmmm . . .)

    Anyways, why medicate/sabotage, mentally succor when I am happy. To enhance the experience. To add a bit extra to ensure that I am happy, that I couldn’t possibly be happy by my own self induced experience, that I would need to add from the outside world, that was tangible. I like the little girl was invisible, until someone wanted something (sex, work done, off loading of some sort) and then I was visible until they were finished and then I was shelved.

    I like the advice when things are blazing step away for a bit. I remember being a young teenage (when rebelling is a right and expectation! ahhh the good old days) and having this sense of recklessness, knowing I shouldn’t do something and the delicious experience of doing it anyways. The recklessness was about the outside world and what was going on around me or to me (or my perception) and my response to that. Turning it inward! Self harm. A familiar experience, a frisson of thrill, “I’ll show them”! Flames and knives. I had all but forgotten the essence of that until recently and saw it pop back up when I was with a friend. We had been talking a lot about our childhoods and teen years and we are both experiencing things as adults that do not make us too happy and its about our spouses and responses to each other. I had brought up that sense of feeling reckless and self inducing, she remembered that too. It was good to wake up to that and see it consciously again.

    Step away and observe. Just like the “circus” performers you had spoken about before. Its a stage and just sit back and observe. They are thoughts we put meaning to or not. Just thoughts nothing more.



  2. I did everything for everyone – anyone – because I was convinced that I would be more loved and that I was more loveable because I was so willing to be on any committee, in every organization, involved in any life, etc. It was exhausting but I actually thought it was working.

    When I got sick, then, at 52, all of those people looked at me (if they even did that!) with horror and pity and, sometimes, fear. I didn’t feel loved or loveable at all. I felt guilty for letting them down with my illness…and, although it’s better now that I am better, in my mind (I suppose) I will never be who I was before I got sick to those who knew me then, and I still feel the guilt sometimes. However, I know that now, when I get involved in something, it’s because I want to – not because I think someone will like me better – and, as a result, I feel better about what I’m doing and I actually feel loveable doing what I do because I’m doing it because of Me.

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  4. We are ready to receive “emotional succor” only when we are healthy enough to give more than we need for ourselves. If both partners are at that level, things should work out well. If one or both are entering the relationship bringing deficits, well that dooms both to misery.

    • “when we are healthy enough to give more than we need for ourselves” – that is the bomb. i didn’t get it at first but now see that u r saying so well that if we don’t take care of ourselves than we don’t have much to give and want to take more than our share. way! thanks carl.

  5. interestingly because I am a health care provider and caregiver in my professional and personal life, when I need help I can’t find anyone to help me. Why is that? because I’ve surrounded myself with people who take everything from me and have nothing to give? I’ve been told before that even if I am down (I’m never really out) because I’m so good at taking care of others than I can easily take care of myself. I used to be very childish when needing attention or I’ve mostly been left alone to figure it out on my own and pull myself out of the pit I’m in.

    I need to get better at surrounding myself with positive and supportive people. AND being a better listener and waiting for my time to act. I hope all this patience pays off.

  6. At one stage of life, I realized that people close to me were very nervous if I was having a downer. I realized that I had convinced myself that I had to be the one who was well, together, happy, balanced, spiritual, etc, etc. As a partner said, “I don’t know who you are!”

    I now share my foibles with my close friends and family. I talk about being down, sad, hurt, angry…and I like the feeling of friendship and being on an equal playing field.

    The best benefit is that I am playing again with friends who delight in fun. I suspect I was a boring parent persona before.

    Who sings, “That was when I was much older, I’m way more younger now.”?

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