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Ask a Therapist

3 months 3 weeks ago
Author: Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I don’t really know how to describe it, but I sort of crave negative attention. Not as in “prefers negative over no attention”, but that I receive some strange gratification over receiving negative attention, even over positive. To clarify it’s nothing sexual, I don’t engage in that sort of behavior, and I still feel unhappy over negative attention- but I enjoy that feeling of unhappiness. I sort of indulge in the feeling that comes during an emotional fallout with someone. In short, I “enjoy unhappiness”. I know that’s unhealthy, but I don’t seem to be fufilled from positive attention only. Why? (From the USA)

I am very glad you sense that this is unhealthy. While I don’t think this description is strong enough to be a general type of masochism (not SMD Sexual Masochism Disorder as you clarified) it does sound like you have a habit of finding or creating situations that generate negativity. You’ve written to us here because it doesn’t feel okay with you. There is a part of yourself watching this behavior and wants to change it. Wanting to change a counterproductive habit is a good thing and this desire is what you’ll want to work with. Tolerating good things in the service of breaking an old habit will require intentional activities. My first recommendation is to pick one day a week and engage in five acts of kindness throughout the day. Keep a journal and write down what you’ve done and how it felt.

On the other days of the week notice acts of kindness around you. Jot these down and your reaction to them. Noticing the good around us is the first step in transforming our inner emotional landscape. At the end of sixty days write us back and let us know your progress!

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral