THE BLOG

Attention Seeking - Do Not Be Afraid

01/05/2015 17:28 BST | Updated 29/06/2015 10:59 BST

Attention seeking is such a dirty word but maybe we need to discover if we are getting and giving the right amount of attention.

Suspend your prejudices for a moment on those loud mouth extroverts who demand to be seen and heard ( Mr Brand?) and consider the importance to your well-being of giving and receiving the correct amount of attention.

In their book Human Givens, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell suggest that attention is one of our basic needs and taking time to consider this need is important. Luckily most of us have not only the need but the ability, the human resources, to deal with any imbalance. The Human Givens approach to mental health considers other human needs and resources but the issue of attention strikes me as important and worthy of discussion.

It is particularly English of us to reject the need for attention. We are all too aware of the attention seeking addict who sucks the heart and energy out of a social situation. We vow never to be so crass and shudder at thought of being accused of narcissism. But this article is for those who have so completely rejected the notion of seeking attention that they are depleted in what is a basic human need.

The high street is, for many, a huge source of (paid for) attention. The hairdresser dances round us , the waiter checks we are happy, the greengrocer wraps things up nicely. How many of our everyday interactions involve the transaction of attention? The giving, receiving and sharing of considered human contact. No wonder we can get so angry when given bad service if our daily dose of attention is withdrawn. Notice how unsatisfying it can be to use automated checkouts. A machine cannot attend to us.

How to give attention

Consider the human being you are with and interact with them in a way that shows kindness, support and awareness ( you are allowed to take breaks as well). If there is no one around, attend to your surroundings, so that in a sense you are 'giving' your attention to what is happening around you. Putting your mobile phone away helps. Mindfulness demonstrates the benefits to many of giving attention to everyday moments, senses and interactions. Mindfulness is giving attention.

How to receive attention

This is much harder. Getting attention or being an attention seeker is a social taboo, however it is possibly one of our most important needs as human beings.

At the risk of seeming needy or turning into an attention seeking monster we first have to recognise this need as important to our well-being.

One simple method to get attention ( without having to buy it!) would be to open up to the give and take of human interaction. To take the risk that a certain amount of mutual backscratching is fine, that the give and take is not manipulative or insincere, but an important part of being emotionally healthy. Some people will understand this easily while others might need a little nudge.

Dismiss your need for attention at your peril as you risk either loneliness or flipping out and making a scene ( when your need for attention goes out of control). Or you may find yourself involved in activities that do not satisfy you because they are not meeting an unconscious need for quality human interaction.

Better to know your needs than to be blind to them.