Being attention hungry

I tend to be critical in my posts on drama, and attention seeking behaviour. I find it exhausting to deal with and I don’t feel much empathy for people who need to generate drama in order to be in the middle of things all the time, so I have challenged myself to try and look at this from some different angles.

Being attention hungry is a real thing. It can have deep roots going back into childhood. The need for affirmation can be all about low self esteem and lack of confidence. My answer to this comes from parenting – which is to reinforce the behaviour you want to see. Validate someone when they aren’t doing drama and you can change everything. Give people space and opportunity to prove themselves in other ways and they may not need to do drama at all. It definitely works with small children.

There’s an emotional intensity to drama. If life seems dull, thin and narrow, then drama can be an antidote to banality. People can end up creating it because they crave interest and excitement. That same intensity and excitement can draw people in who claim not to even like drama – I’ve certainly been that person. The answer is to find real stimulation and value, because drama tends to be empty, hollow and unsatisfying.

Just because it looks like drama to me, from the outside, doesn’t mean I’m right. I may have a poor grasp of what’s going on. I may not understand the significance of events, someone else’s triggers, how much they had invested, how much is at stake and so forth. I should not be too quick to discount other people’s problems. It may be more honest to say that I’m sorry but I just don’t have the spare energy right now, rather than making my inability to help the responsibility of the other person.

It may be that the person I’m dealing with feels very small and very powerless, and whipping up drama they are in the centre of is how they cope with this. If I support the drama, I may reinforce the idea that only drama makes them important or powerful. I should look at how I am treating them outside of drama situations and see if I can improve things there.

It may be that the person doing drama has learned growing up that this is the best way to get attention, or get things done. They may have learned habits of thought and behaviour from family members, or soap operas. If I get cross or upset with them over the drama, I can only feed into the drama and keep it attractive. I may be able to protect myself by very quietly withdrawing my energy from the situation. If I’m dealing with learned behaviour, then I need to model the behaviour I want to see rather than enacting the drama and then wondering why it won’t go away.

The problem could be one of perspective. People who have spent their lives in relative ease, privilege and comfort can get upset about things the rest of us find it hard to make sense of. If you expect life to be hard sometimes, then you just knuckle down and deal with the tough bits. If you expect it to all go effortlessly your way, then you may have no ability to cope when it doesn’t. Fragile egos, first world problems, and no perspective can have people whipping up drama around minor incidents because they don’t know how small their shit is. People who say they are triggered when they are uncomfortable, and so forth. Sucking up time and energy because of privilege isn’t cool, but education can be a slow process, and often an unwelcome one.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Being attention hungry

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Excellent article. Being privileged in life doesn’t necessarily award someone with love, respect or healthy boundaries. Sometimes it can be quite the opposite experience.

  • Sass

    Reclaiming has some great techniques meeting our human need for attention in appropriate ways. Two that come to mind are check-ins where we go around the circle and allow everyone to speak without interruption about how they are doing right now, and the circle of witness where everyone who wants can take a turn to step into the centre and name something that is challenging them (or some similar framing chosen by the ritual creators). In the check-in, no verbal responses are allowed, to avoid hijacking – but if something resonates, we’re encouraged to “twinkle” (waggling fingers, like the gesture that replaces clapping in BSL). In the circle of witness, anyone who has had a similar experience can step into the centre with the speaker. The rest of the circle then says in unison “We witness you, and we honour you”, or some similar words (agreed on in advance). It’s extremely powerful.

  • TPWard

    The finger gesture many people assume replaces applause is actually supposed to be a way to signal agreement. I fear its silent nature made it easy to hijack.

  • ellenefenricea

    Nice post.
    I have an older relative that does this and I have to remind myself often to take this perspective, to stay calm and not feed the drama because in reality it’s evoking a melodramatic response in me that I don’t want or like and if I don’t keep my guard it will come out. Sometimes I just want to walk away and say it’s not my responsibility – but the sad reality is that it would only take a couple more people to do that before she would be utterly alone.
    Sometimes I wish I knew what started it, where that desperate need comes from but I don’t think it would change anything.

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