The human need (not want) for attention

It seems that we humans have a profound mental need for attention – giving, receiving, or exchanging. (1)

This is a fundamental part of who we are, social animals, who can only succeed as a member of a group.

  • Too much can be bad (inefficient) and too little can be bad.
  • This attention can be ‘hostile’ or ‘friendly’ and still fulfil the appetite for attention. Our subconscious can wreck our life by getting us attention in awful ways, and it won’t tell our conscious selves what is going on. 
  • People are almost always stimulated by the offer of attention, because most are attention starved.
  • When people are hungry for attention, they are open to any message that accompanies that attention – the ‘price’ of the attention. (Great if you are getting attention from a therapist, terrible if you are getting it from someone with ulterior motives.)
  • Present beliefs have often be inculcated in situations associated with attention-demand, rather than through the means attributed to them.
  • Many paradoxical reversals of opinion, or of associates, may be seen as due to a change in the source of attention.
  • Conversely, if someone has their attention needs properly met, then they are able to properly assess the merits of ideas, people, etc.
  • This need for attention – giving, receiving, exchanging – is a part of almost all human activity.
  • The object of attention could be a person – but it could also be a cult, an object, an idea, an interest, etc.
  • Whilst societies develop effective and safe ways for their people to fulfil most of their needs, this development and training does not extend to learning how to best give, receive, and exchange attention. Which is unfortunate.
  • The inability to feel attention being extended, or control it being brought forth, makes us vulnerable to being influenced or even indoctrinated.

And I think that we hunger for attention not just as one abstract thing, but rather, the many separate parts of our lives have separate attention needs – e.g. family, personal, professional, peer, etc. Some parts could be having our attention needs fully met, but we could still have a need for attention in other parts of our life.

So, when do you find yourself responding very quickly when someone provides attention to a specific part of your life?

…that implies you have a particular need for attention to that, or from them, or with them.

Perhaps take some time to think of the absolute best way to get that attention need met?

We don’t want to be like the older lady who buys clothes she doesn’t really need, for too much, from the friendly tailor – because the tailor pays attention to her.

…let alone like the client refused by Milton Erickson – the younger daughter who spent years unable to get over grief of her husband dying … until her more popular older sister moved out of state, leaving her as the only sister that their mother had to talk to. (She wasn’t pretending, or even exaggerating – her subconscious noticed that she got more attention from her mother when she expressed her grief, so those neural pathways got reinforced, and so she felt that grief more & more. Our subconscious can and sometimes does throw an adult’s mind under the proverbial bus, to get attention to them, hence their family, i.e. for the benefit of any children they might have. Or sometimes, just because the subconscious isn’t clever enough to work out the correct thing to do.)

1 – Human Givens – Joe Griffin & Ivan Tyrrell, HG Publishing, 2013