We all crave attention to some extent. The extent to which we crave attention depends on the following:
1. Low level of attention received
2. Low level of activity
3. Our emotional history
4. Our mental attitude
The first two of these factors relate directly to the actual level of attention we think we need at a given time. The second two factors relate to the total amount of attention we think we require. I will start by discussing issues relating to the first two factors.
As social beings, we all have a perceived need for attention and will attempt to fill our attention deficit by whatever means are available to us. We instinctively try to deal with this attention deficit by using solutions related to the first two contributing factors:
1. To compensate for the low level of attention received - we look for attention elsewhere. This may be attention such as that we get from joining a club, participating in a sporting activity or communicating with people over the internet.
2. Our low level of activity increases our perceived lack of attention because it gives us more time to think about it -we can address this by distraction. We can distract ourselves either by giving ourselves activities such as taking exercise or doing hobbies. Or alternatively we can use solutions which take our minds off the problem by watching television, reading books, drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
The key thing about the two solutions listed above is that our relief from our craving for attention will last only as long as we are doing the activity. Common reasons for feeling that we have an attention deficit are; that a work assignment can take us away from our friends and loved ones for a prolonged period or we think we have nothing new to talk about with our friends and loved ones and wish to open new channels of communications.
The important thing to realize is that these reactions are natural and come as a result of our inbuilt desire to socialize with other human beings. As long as we do not try to distract ourselves with drugs which are significantly physically addictive or make up for the attention deficit we perceive with our spouse by means of an extra marital affair, then our participation in these activities is entirely normal.
Why is it then that when we are getting a good level of attention from our spouse and friends, when we are filling our lives with participation in clubs or sports and we are distracting ourselves with television and the internet, that we sometimes still crave attention?
Why is it that actors and pop stars despite getting huge amounts of attention from millions of adoring fans and having money to spend on whatever type of distraction they wish, still end up with the feeling that they have a great void in their lives? Why did Janice Joplin commit suicide and why did Elvis Presley go off the rails at the end of his life?
One reason is that these people never got the type of attention they really needed. The other is connected with the second two reasons I listed for the craving of attention at the beginning of this article:
1. Emotional history
2. Mental attitude
It is important to understand that for people with an acute perceived lack of attention these two factors are usually linked. The key word here is perceived lack of attention. People who have acute perceived lack of attention can never get enough attention however hard people try to provide it.
In the case of several actors and pop stars their emotional history has probably left them with a craving for attention they can never fulfill. It is often this insatiable attention seeking behavior that propelled them to the position they reached.
After a childhood in which they never got the type of attention they really needed, over time they developed a mental attitude that they can never really be loved and cared for, maybe even that they are not worthy of being loved and cared for. When people try to provide the love and care they so yearn for they are looked on with suspicion and disbelief.
The chronic perceived lack of attention means that they will always feel that there is a void in their lives. People start obsessing over their distraction and attention replacement behaviors because however hard they try to fill or avoid the void in their hearts, they cannot do it. The drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling, internet activities or even television watching become obsessions.
They are psychological addictions because the characteristic of an addition is that over time you need higher and higher levels to have the same effect. In this case because the void will never be filled. So we can say the following:
chronic perceived lack of attention = addictive personality
The feeling of never getting enough attention, never feeling loved and never feeling worthy also gives rise to depression and in severe cases can lead to people taking their lives. Fortunately for many of us we do not fall into the category of chronic perceived lack of attention, however we can still have bad days when we find ourselves obsessing over activities we are using to replace or distract from our perceived lack of attention.
For example recently I found myself obsessing over the number of views I was receiving for my latest article on the Ezines web site. It was after midnight when hardly anybody is on but there I was, waiting for the next page view and obsessing about the fact that nobody was noticing me.
I suddenly thought to myself, "I am obsessing about this I have to stop it now". I had to force myself to log off and turn off my computer for the night. So what did I do, what can we do? I reminded myself that the number of page views I get in a day is not that important. I worked to re-impose my positive mental attitude. I told myself that my article would get read by the people who needed to see it. I made some mental affirmations for myself.
'My articles are good'
'People do read my articles'
'People are touched by my articles'
'I am making a difference'
My solution to the days when I feel I am not getting enough attention and I cannot distract myself from it, is positive mental attitude, and having faith in myself. This directly impacts on mental attitude, the root cause of my craving for attention.
A type of depression which would clearly not be a result of perceived lack of attention is clinical depression which is a result of a chemical imbalance. However it is likely that chemical imbalance will also cause the affected person to feel that they are deprived of attention.
Interestingly I list mental attitude as a contributor to perceived lack of attention, so if acquiring a positive mental attitude can reduce our craving for attention, is it also capable of helping to make a person less depressed even if the person suffers from clinical depression. My thought is that it may not cure a person of clinical depression but can be used as part of a therapy for people with clinical depression.
If you sometimes feel there is a void in your life and that people don't give you enough attention I suggest you read my articles 'Like me, like you' and 'Give First'. You could also read, 'Overcoming the inertia of negative attitude', 'The Placebo Effect' and 'Be Fearless'.
If that what I have said can help your friends, please send them the link to this article I want to try to ensure that the people who this article can help, get a chance to read it.
Take care, Simon