Without Attention, we would cease to exist – like being lost in space

The giving and receiving of Attention is an essential nutrition for us – as we live our lives and strive to prosper.
without attention

Live so Attention Giving and Receiving needs are well met

The more you investigate and understand what role the giving and receiving of attention play, the more you respect it. Attention is the hidden guest at the banquet of our lives.

The giving and receiving of Attention is not on everyone’s list of essential emotional needs. We can understand the need to be safe, to have some control of our lives, to have meaningful relationships and a sense of meaning. But attention – what is that exactly?

To my mind, the best way to understand attention – both the giving and receiving of attention is to understand that it is about self referencing and learning in the most profound sense. It is about checking and learning about oneself in the easiest way possible – which is with reference to what is happening outside of us.

It is only by watching and observing others and what they say and do and by testing our own thoughts, emotions and actions by the reaction of others that we in fact learn in the most fundamental sense about what is appropriate and best for us.  It is absolutely essential for our survival.

And if we find that our attention exchanges are limited to a very narrow group, then this will mean that our capacity to live a life that works can be seriously compromised.

I got a magnificent example of this from my early days as a therapist when I saw a young depressed university student. Eventually I asked her about her friends at university and she said they were all like her – not working, staying in bed late and drug taking. I remember saying to her that she needed new friends – ones that could give her a much better model of living.  That she could observe them and they could, by their reaction to her, push her to live a life that worked better. And that was exactly what she needed.

Now imagine a life where there is no meaningful attention exchange at all. Where no one recognises or acknowledges you. Where you are viewed as either mad or useless and where nothing you say is heard at all. And so you respond by disappearing from view.

Can you imagine that? It would be as if you were losing all meaningful contact with the world. It would be like being lost in space with no sensory contact possible.

It would be as if you ceased to exist. Maybe that is madness?

Idries Shah speaks of attention at length. Here are some of his most noteworthy attention quotations:

  • We must realise that the attention factor is operating in virtually all transactions

  • That the apparent motivation of transactions may be other than it really is and that it is often generated by the desire for attention activity (giving, receiving, exchanging).

  • That attention activity, like any other demand for food, warmth etc, when placed under volitional control, must result in increased scope for the human being who would not then be at the mercy of random sources of attention.

  • Attention may be hostile or friendly and still fulfil the appetite for attention.

  • Beliefs have often been inculcated at the time and under circumstances connected with attention demand and not arrived at by the method commonly attributed to them.

  • People are almost always stimulated by an offer of attention since most people are frequently attention deprived. This is one reason why new friends or circumstances may be preferred to old ones.

  • The adult human being is often deprived of any method of handling his desire to attention and so continues to be confused by it – it usually remains primitive throughout life.

  • The interchange between two human beings always has an attention factor.

  • The object of attention may be a person, cults, an object, an idea or interest etc. Because the foci of attention can be so diverse, people in general have not yet identified the common factor – the desire for attention.

  • The inability to feel when attention is extended and also to encourage or to prevent its being called for, makes man almost uniquely vulnerable to being influenced, especially in having ideas implanted in his brain and being indoctrinated.