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Part 2 of the mental spring clean – click here to subscribe and get every instalment delivered fresh to your inbox
We all have a deep-seated craving for attention.
Research shows that children who are not given regular attention are much more likely to suffer disease and depression.
Psychiatrist Eric Berne, author of Games People Play, looked at how we interact with the people around us. He concluded that humans need “stroking” through regular attention to avoid emotional deprivation.
We need validation from others to bolster our sense of self.
Every time we interact with other people, we undertake a transaction. The simple act of saying “good morning” or “how are you” to a colleague or neighbour gives both participants a nice stroke. We feel noticed, validated, part of a bigger whole.
We all become experts at getting strokes from others. One way to do this is to learn games. Games are a set pattern of behaviour that we use to get attention from the world around us. When we play games, we get noticed.
Games often serve a dual purpose, helping to confirm our story about the world. The games we play reinforce our beliefs about our place in the bigger picture.
There are two main types of game – negative and positive.
Many games we play seek negative attention (hey some attention is better than none). Here is a common game called “Kick Me” to demonstrate:
How it is played: The player adopts a social manner that is extremely defensive and paranoid. This is the equivalent of putting up a sign saying “Please don’t kick me”
What happens: The temptation to kick this person is too great and the world queues up to take turns.
The pay-off: The player gets stroked – however this is through plenty of negative attention.
The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is out to get me is reinforced. Every time they are kicked, the story gets stronger.
Our need for attention is so strong that we’d rather be kicked by the world than be ignored. We can play some crazy games with really negative outcomes. Often these negative games can feel like a doom loop. These negative games reduce our confidence and enjoyment of life.
As part of my mental spring-cleaning, I’m looking for games I play that seek negative attention. Looking back on the past, I think I may have played “Kick me” on occasion, particularly in work interactions with people more senior than me. That game is well and truly consigned to the dustbin of history!
Another side to the mental spring-cleaning is to look for games that seek positive attention and reinforce positive stories about the world.
These games tend to have an amazing pay-off for all players – yet sometimes we forget to play them.
Here is the game “Happy to Help” to demonstrate:
How it is played: The player is constantly helpful and positive to the world around them.
What happens: People are grateful for the player’s help and admire their attitude.
The pay-off: People respond with positive attention and praise for the player’s actions.
The side-effect: The player’s story that the world is full of positive wonderful people is reinforced.
I love this game and play it as much as possible. It can be played with everyone you meet and costs nothing. This game feeds the need for attention in a hugely positive way. It brings us the stroking we need and makes the world a better place.
Other positive games include “Gratitude”, “People are amazing”, “We can do it” and “You’re the best”.
Choosing to play positive games and kicking out negative ones increases self-confidence, happiness and success in life….
Over to you
As you continue your mental spring clean, ask yourself:
- What do you do to seek attention from others?
- What happens as a result?
- What kind of attention do you get?
- What are the side effects?
Figure out the games you are playing and the positive and negative consequences. Try to stop playing the games that you don’t enjoy and play more of the ones that feel good.
Photo by Miss Turner