There’s a hole in my bucket

What happens if our bucket has holes in it? Well it’s never full, and always empty. Anything that is put in our bucket just flows away.

Some people have holes in their buckets and some don’t!

You may be wondering what I am talking about (I am wondering a little bit myselfJ).

I am talking about ‘attention’ – or in Transactional Analysis, (TA) we call it Strokes (units of recognition). We all need attention. Human beings are social animals and we need contact with each other for survival, development and quality of life. Sometimes this attention can be positive, like a hug, a smile or someone telling us how much they value us. However, sometimes it can be negative, like being rejected, shouted at, or someone scowling at us.

When we are young we learn to get our attention needs met in different ways. Depending on the family and wider culture that you grew up in, you may have been given attention for being:

Helpful, friendly, clever, musical, argumentative, aggressive, passive, attractive, hardworking, funny, destructive, and/or a whole range of other things.

We are much more likely to continue doing things we get attention for – even if the attention is negative – at least it is attention. The worst thing for human beings is receiving little or no attention at all. This is why solitary confinement is such a severe punishment. So if you were often told off for being disorganised when you were young, you are much more likely to continue being disorganised.

Some people develop a hole in their bucket. This means that no matter how much attention they get, it is not enough. Anytime a stroke is given – it goes into their bucket but slips straight away again.

This can be quite debilitating and it is why we refer to some people as being ‘attention seekers’. Often these people are seeking attention because they need it. They are unable to hold on to what they have because of the hole in their bucket. In some people this could manifest in them constantly asking for positive attention, inviting negative attention – or in fact, a combination of both.

An example might be someone saying ‘I love you’. In the moment a person with a hole in their bucket, hears ‘I love you’, it goes into their bucket and is then lost. That sense of being loved has been lost. The warmth, the nourishment, the pleasure is all gone and there is nothing left. However, if a person has no hole in their bucket, they can hang on to the sense of being loved which is very pleasurable and nourishing for them.

‘So fix it dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry.’

It’s easier said than done.  It is important to understand why the hole developed in the first place. I believe that all of our behaviour served a purpose for us once. However, it may be no

longer useful. At the time we developed this strategy it was probably the best way we knew to deal with whatever was going on at the time – with the limited knowledge and experience that we had.

Within the safety of a good therapeutic relationship, people can explore these sorts of defence mechanisms and survival strategies. They can increase their understanding of themselves, including their blind spots, and make choices about how they want to be in the future

by Leilani Mitchell

These are my random ramblings today; tomorrow I might change my mind.

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