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Donīt Feed Him, Heīs Just Hungry

The Little Girl With Her Feet On the Table

Attention or Love?



When people say someone is doing something to "get attention" they imply that there is nothing really wrong and therefore we should just ignore the person. But we all need attention. It is one of our most basic human emotional and psychological needs.

If we are ignored or feel invisible we feel of no worth or value to the group. We feel uncared about and unimportant. In a survival sense, if we feel invisible, unvalued, unimportant and uneeded we instinctively fear being left behind by the group. This is a clear threat to our basic survival.

Here are a few more of my thoughts on "attention".

S. Hein

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Donīt Feed him, Heīs Just Hungry

It is natural for us to seek attention. This is especially true when we are in need. For example, if you were drowning, would you want attention? If your house were on fire, would you want attention?

It is natural for us to want attention when we believe we have something important to say, for instance if we wanted to warn someone of an immediate danger. For example, if you knew that a building were on fire with people inside, wouldn't you want others' attention even if you yourself were not in danger?

Some parents say things like "Ignore him. He just wants attention." This is similar to saying, "Don't feed him. He is just hungry."

S. Hein


The Little Girl With Her Feet on the Table

Here is one way a child with high innate emotional intelligence could be emotionally damaged.

Let's say he grows up in a family where whenever he needs attention his mother ignores him because she believes this is a way to make him strong or self-reliant. Or maybe she just wants to teach him not to bother her with his needs. Sadly, based on my experience and observation, the second reason may rule rather than the exception, at least in dysfunctional families.

Let's compare this idea of ignoring someone who wants/needs attention with an actual situation which I experienced in Australia, in the home of a very dysfunctional family. (I have written more about this family on my page about Shevaun, a girl who left her home in England at age 12 to meet an older man she met online.)

So here is the true story of the little girl.

A six year old girl was sitting at the table. She put her feet up on the table. Her mother sharply reprimanded her for this, but the girl defied her mother's orders. I then said something like, "That looks pretty comfortable." Her mother then said, "Ignore her, she is just trying to get attention."

I then got up from my chair and tickled the girl till she laughed. I said to the mother, "Well, my theory is that if a child needs attention, you give it to them!" The little girl quickly removed her feet and returned to eating with a smile on her face, having received the attention she sought and needed.

This is a much different way of managing emotions and emotional needs than the mother's approach. I believe it is safe to say that the two differing approaches will result in significantly different scores on a test like the MSCEIT by the time the child is an adult.

Copied from ei_ed2.htm


October 2013 Note

My partner, Priscilla, said that her mother also said the same thing -- "Ignore her, she's just trying to get attention" -- when she was growing up. "P" said that she believes it is even more damaging for a mother to say that in the presence of her child than it is to say nothing at all, even if the mother does ignore the child.

P adds that when someone as important to your survival as your own mother says something like "ignore them", it helps give you the message that when you want attention you are an "attention whore."

We revisited this page today, by the way, because we are working on the page about "Al", a sixteen year old who recently called himself an "attention whore."

P says when she was a teenager she also called herself the same thing. Now she realizes she simply needed attention, or more speciically she needed to feel valued, important, acknowledged, "visible" etc.

We hope that any young person reading this will also realize they have similar natural emotional needs, and they won't think of themselves as having any kind of "character flaw" for simply needing what, by nature, they need but they are not getting from their environment.


Attention or Love?

Is it attention someone wants (and needs), or love?

In May 2006 I wrote something like this in my journal..

I think now about the Z. family - the one where I saw the 6 year old with her feet up on the table. (story) She needed love. Attention was a substitute for love. An insufficient substitute.

We can never get enough of a substitute. (see note)

I was thinking about attention vs. love the this week after I chatted with
Crystal. I once told someone that Crystal needs a lot of attention, but this week I realized that it is love she needs.

from may26_06.htm

October 2013 Update - Now I would say that it is too simplistic to just talk about love. We have to be more specific. We have to talk about all of the emotional needs, such as to feel accepted, cared about, listened to, important, valued, understood. Here is the EQI list of our basic emotional needs.


Note About Substitutes

If our natural, healthy need is for one thing, and we try to substitute something else, that something else will never fully satisfy us. For example, if we need love and we try to substitute love with sex, we could have sex everyday but that alone would never meet our need to feel loved.

I am not sure where I first heard the expression "you can never get enough of a substitute", so I did the search shown below. Based on the results not many people are saying this, but I totally believe it is true.

S. Hein







May 26, 2006 Page creation