A baby cries for attention because he has a need that he can neither understand nor communicate.
Immediately, others come running with remedies: bottles, toys, bouncy seats, rocking chairs…
“There, there, Infant,” they tell him. “You are safe. You are loved.”
The baby will then gulp their milk, inspect their toys and delight in the attention that’s paid him… Until he feels satisfied, and again goes to sleep.
As humans, we are programmed to make a fuss when something is wrong. As we grow from infancy we become more verbal, however many times we remain unable to articulate our needs. For most of us, the cry-for-attention dance persists in an evolved form throughout life.
Sometimes the cries are indeed crying– shrieks of helplessness. Other times we cry out in the form of blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets, emails, arguments and angry words. Regardless of the terms we use, the message is the same: “I am upset! Something is wrong! Attend to me at once!”
As requested, attention is usually granted in the form of comments, likes, re-tweets, replies, etc. The verbiage takes many forms, but the message remains: “You are worthy of attention. You are safe. You are loved. Consider yourself validated.”
Lately, I’ve done a lot of crying for attention. I wrote blog posts and I published cryptic messages on Facebook. I’ve sent a few snippy emails and I’ve written some tear-stained letters. Honestly, it’s been rough and I’m having a hard time. But I do recognize the process and I think I’ve done a good job of controlling myself (thank you, Buddhist therapist), considering the circumstances.
We all perform this dance at one time or another. Do you recognize the pattern in your life (or at least your Facebook feed)? Do you see it in yourself? Your partner? Your children? Your ex? If so, how do you respond? If you are crying out, do you stop and instead look within? If someone else is crying, do you offer validation or silence in hopes s/he will stop and reflect?
So often, especially in the divorce/blended family realm, the dance is one of anger and frustration. When tempers flare and accusations fly in lieu of true communication, it’s important to recognize what’s happening. And have compassion for that infant, he resides in all of us.