Changing Negative Attention

By susanpeabody 04/09/18

In 1987, I was having problems getting along with people at work–-especially my boss. One day my supervisor brought me a letter. It stipulated that I should go home and not go back until I had seen a therapist.

I had been in therapy since 1968, when I was arrested in San Francisco for being a runaway, so I thought to myself this is going to be easy. I will just convince this guy I am fine.

At the first therapy session, I thought we were going to talk. But the psychologist said he wanted to test me first. For three days he gave me all kinds of tests and then said I could go home and he would send me his report.

Two days later I got the report in the mail and it was very interesting. He began by saying that “Susan is very adept at getting negative attention.” I was confused. Was this a compliment?

I went to the computer to research this term. I had never heard it before. There wasn’t much information, but one article said that this was a child’s disorder. It said children who did not get positive reinforcement often opted for negative attention by acting out in ways that upset their parents and teachers, but got their attention.

So now I was confused. I was not a child anymore so how could I have this disorder. It took a moment, but I realized the therapist was trying to tell me that I had never really grown up and that I was doing today what I had done as a child to get attention. It is true that my parents neglected me.

Back to my work situation . . .. I was allowed to come back to work on probation about the same time I had a nervous breakdown and got into recovery for my alcoholism. After a year of sobriety, I discovered I was a love addict and when I got better started a career helping others. Despite my progress, I was not very successful with this personality disorder.

In 1988, I decided to change this situation. Today, I am a work in progress. Most of the time I am really sociable. But it took a lot of hard work.

If you think you might be like me and opting for negative attention even after you have grown up I have some suggestions.

• Admit that you have this problem.

• Get help.

• Make a list of things you do that annoy people.

• Stop playing the victim.

• Commit to change how you interact with people.

• Try some psychodynamic therapy and look into the origin of this personality train.

• Break down the changes you want to make into manageable pieces. You can make a list if you want.

• Identify and make a list of alternative behaviors.

• Substitute a good habit for a bad one.

• Give yourself encouragement. Use affirmations.

• Make a commitment to a friend or support group; verbalization can really help.

• Avoid companions who don’t support you.

• Find role models who exhibit the changes you want to make and observe them.

• Remember: Action leads to motivation leads to more action.

• Don’t forget that changing is a process; it takes time. Be patient.

• Avoid negative attitudes that inhibit change. The glass is half full not half empty.

• Visualize the results; become goal oriented.

• Work on building your self-esteem.

• If you are a spiritual or religious person and believe in grace, divine intervention, or the power of prayer, then by all means pray for the energy and willingness to take action.

Don’t give up, even is change is slow in coming. If you continue to incorporate these techniques into your life, they will help you change.

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