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Day 25: Wanting Attention

Posted by intrepidshe , in Healing Work 04 January 2014 · 543 views

Jan. 4, 2014 (Countdown: 26 days to gynecologic consult)
Again today I do not have an assigned exercise. I spent a good deal of the day reading and learning from others. I have been deeply touched by the messages of support and comfort as well as the courageous sharing that occurs on this site. I didn't have any expectations when I started an account here that my heart would feel so alive.
I have struggled with feelings of self-loathing centered around the idea of 'needing attention.'
The worst crime a person could commit in my family of origin was to do something 'for attention.' I cannot count how many times I heard the phrase (uttered with contempt), "[he or she] just wants attention." For example, if a child fell and skinned her knee, she, 'just wanted attention.' If you felt sick, you 'just wanted attention.' If you were upset after being beat up at school, if you were hurt because someone called you ugly . . . whatever it was, you 'just wanted attention.' The meaning of the phrase was that you were weak, you needed to be ignored so you would learn to be strong and not make a fool of yourself.
In the more recent years of my life I have taken to calling my mom out when she uses this phrase. For example, one of my sibs attempted suicide. And, when my sib reached out with a warning about it my mom's reaction was that I should not respond because she just wants attention.
I was livid! Posted Image
(((I have never felt angry when she said it about me.)))
I was angry because I realized she would rather see her child dead than give attention because she needed attention. What the FXXX is wrong with her?! My reaction was to say, "Well, yes, mom. Of course she needs attention! All human beings need attention." I said I would rather respond and learn that she's OK than not respond and learn that she was gone. I would rather respond and deal with whatever issue she was having than not respond and never know if I could have helped. My mom doesn't want to feel the fool. She doesn't want to be drawn into someone's drama, someone's unsolvable problems.
I think a quote from the blog Framed and Unashamed is salient here, "'Life is bad, nothing about it is good or fair.  If you are trying to create a perfect world, it won't happen.'" This quote from someone else in the author's life minimizing her story is the same as my mom's attitude.
That would be my mom through and through. Bad things happen to everyone. There's no sense in making a big issue about it and trying to get everyone to feel sorry for you. I think the greatest discomfort she could experience would be to feel bad for one of her kids. However, if it was one of her friends, she has all kinds of room for their sorrow, their fears, their struggles, their NEED FOR ATTENTION. And, of course, her husband (one of my main abusers) could command all of the attention, could be despondent or fussy and be worthy of attention.
Wow! I can't believe how angry I feel right now as I'm writing this. Posted Image  
Something else from Framed and Unashamed really struck me too: "The shame of parental inadequacy must be a weight far too heavy for any one person to carry alone. The vast ocean of shame must appear never ending." (http://frametheshame...-equalizer.html)
It reminds me of the times we have confronted our mother. She expresses utter exasperation with us when we bring up 'yet again' how badly we were treated. (I shouldn't say 'we' it's never me who brings it up, it's my sibling.) It's been more than 20 years ago and addressing it over and over again seems like being in a hamster wheel to me. But, our mom always gives this sense of, 'aren't we past this by now?' One time she said to me, "I feel terrible. How much worse do you need me to feel?" Posted Image
She has used this tactic more than once. I have always thought about that phrase. It was meant to elicit guilt. In other words, 'you are making me feel terrible.' Also, it's meant to be an out. 'I feel guilty, therefore, I have done what I should do for you in response to your abuse.' This is a great way to avoid the making-amends aspect of apology. It's sufficient to feel bad, no further action required. That is my mom's message and intent. Furthermore, she is able to diminish what happened by claiming I exaggerate; things didn't happen as I have said, that I make it out to be worse than it was. In truth, she has not begun to hear the extent of it. I have given only the barest of details in the few conversations we've had on the subject. In fact, I remember only the barest of details. It's my siblings who remember and its their memories she is confronted with when she makes such declinations.
I have no doubt, and I have some compassion, that my mother carries a heavy burden of guilt. She neglected her children. She abused them sometimes herself (though that was quite rare). She allowed her husband to sexually abuse, physically brutalize, and emotionally destroy her children. She's still married to him, knowing what he did. I think the reality of her wrongdoing is so great that she can only cope with it through minimization and denial. Otherwise, how could she go on living her 'Christian' life? How could she show her face in public? 
Whew. I didn't have an assigned exercise today, but whew. That was intense. Posted Image
The other item I wanted to express today is about trust. I read some postings in which people were describing a feeling the other day. When I was driving home from work yesterday this thought came to me:
My trust is like crystal: clear, beautiful, and delicate.
I just need to find someone who knows how to care for this crystal and who values it.

I don't even think your mother is using the right word... what people are wanting (in each example that you gave) is just a normal amount of compassion - she seems to use the word "attention" to replace the word compassion to hide her own inability to be compassionate and replace it with a more judgemental and arbitrary word. I believe that some human beings have so little compassion for themselves and their own wounds that they are literally unable to give it to others - others pain just triggers a need to control. I am sorry that this is your mother and hope that your and your siblings do learn that it's not about you, and that this may never change. Luckily there are many other places to find compassion - which is so needed in this difficult world.

Intrepid, Very powerful. I would be angry as well. For some of the smaller things about my past that my mother knows was swept under the rug so to say. She would not dare to speak of it...ever. In her mind, out of sight, out of mind I guess. I was abused by a friend of mine when I was 20. I told my mother (which is the incident I was talking about), I remember her reaction. "I'm sorry that happened". Then silence. Ok, mom, I'm going to the police. I went, alone, they took my statement, arrested him a couple of hours later. Court date was set, my mom actually went with me. Worst part was I chickened out and told the judge I was dropping the charges. My mother never spoke of it since. So, like you said....I'm pretty sure she thinks like your mother....aren't we past this? Dammit mom, if it were only that f***ing easy! I feel your anger....and your pain.
BTW, what you said about trust was so very true :)
Jan 04 2014 10:57 PM



I'm am just shaking my head in sorrow at your mom's reaction.


If it were only that f***ing easy indeed!


I am struck right now by the notion that your mom (and my mom) are very weak.


Which means, I see now, that we are very strong. We can go through this. We can face it and get down in the muck and mire of it . . . and come through the better for it.

Jan 04 2014 11:06 PM



You are exactly right!

children's song: drop a pebble in the water, watch the circles grow.


That's what this blog, and the responses to it, make me think of.


Next line:


That's the way when we love each other everyone will know.


I am not "attention seeking", mother. I am searching for compassion. That thing you gave up on long ago.


Speaking of christian. When I was a kid I read about Manasseh, a king who acted so evilly he even sacrificed his own son to a certain god to gain power. He repented. I remember thinking, I feel bad enough waking up to a small thing I've done wrong. Imagine the pain of waking up to that.


If mercy is available for such people, it is only at the cost of a ruthless self-honesty, as for the rest of us.


Later in life I realised there was a "prayer of Manasseh" in the catholic bible. I felt vindicated that I'd been on to something.


Of course I didn't know at the time of these musings that my father, a professed believer, had sacrificed my innocence to his own pleasures.


I still don't know if he's capable of making a comeback from that

Apr 08 2014 10:36 PM



I have often thought about this issue. I hadn't heard of the prayer of Manasseh. I'm going to check it out. Thanks for telling me about it!

About Intrepid She

This is a moderated PUBLIC blog. This blog is a therapeutic tool I am using to help me get over my fear of doctors, which is made difficult by a history of abuse by them, to learn to grieve, and ultimately to integrate my dis-integrated heart.


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The content of this blog is not appropriate for children or for anyone who might be triggered by reading about sexual abuse.


To the many others walking your own version of this path, I wish you well on your journey. -Intrepid


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