Have you ever wondered why other people are so attention seeking, but you are not? It’s because people do not know that they are attention seeking. In their heads, they are venting or acting out because they are unhappy or in pain. They think that they are just trying to feel better and expressing how they are feeling. So how can people tell if they are attention seeking or not? How can we tell if we are attention seeking, and we are not aware of it? I think the answer to this lies in looking at the “end game”.
What are we hoping will be the outcome of expressing our feelings? Do we want validation? Do we want comfort? Do we want things to be more fair? Do we want to be understood? Do we want a hug? Do we want people to not abandon us? Do we want our parents to finally show that they care about us? Do we want our partner to not leave? By themselves, these are all valid and logical reasons for expressing our feelings. But have you noticed that they all result in us getting more attention? So how do we know when we are seeking attention, or when our attention seeking becomes pathological? The key to that is in the frequency of these expressions, the intensity of the expressions, and the reasonableness of the desired outcome.
How do we measure the intensity of our emotions? I think one way of doing that is to gauge how much they scare others. If you mention that you are suicidal, that certainly scares others. If you say you are going to cut yourself, that scares others. But what about if the other person still ignores you? Some people then make suicide attempts, or they actually go ahead and cut themselves. They might think they are doing it to relieve their pain, and that is certainly one benefit, but they are also doing it to obtain love and caring from other people. The ones with the most intense displays of emotions are often the ones who have been deprived of affection the most.
Another way of measuring the attention-seeking nature of our emotions is to see how often we display them. Are you sad every day, or just when something bad happens? Do you threaten or attempt suicide on a frequent basis? Do you cut regularly and then wear short sleeves? Do you have anger outbursts almost daily? Do you cry at the drop of a hat? Do you send text messages and then wonder why people got upset about them? These are all ways that we express ourselves, and none is done with the conscious intention of attention seeking. However, our sub-conscious is hard at work making sure that we get the emotional support and kindness that we crave.
Lastly, one can look at the reasonableness of the desired outcome. Do we secretly hope that our loved ones will come rushing to the hospital when they find out that we attempted suicide? Or do we hope that the psychiatrists and therapists will teach us how to understand ourselves and expect less of others? When we have an emotional argument with our partner, do we hope that we will understand ourselves better to avoid further upset? Or do we secretly hope that the other person will see the error of their ways? A reasonable person seeks a reasonable outcome. An attention seeking person seeks comfort and kindness.
I did not write this article to invalidate anyone’s emotions or needs. It is almost impossible to control our needs, and our needs are very valid. The purpose of the article is to increase awareness of one’s secondary goals. To bring the sub-conscious into the conscious. All of us need love, kindness, and support. But there are nicer ways of getting attention (compliments, giving gifts, cuddling, etc.), and there are times when we need to change our expectations. Other people rarely change, and sometimes we have to accept that they are never going to be loving, kind, or consoling. We just have to move on with a hole in our heart.