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Sensitivity to Recognition

 

In the Stoic view, recognition is to be preferred, but it is not a good; it does not truly benefit. Recognition, of course, depends on others and is, therefore, an external thing and 'not in our power'. For Stoics, only those things 'in our power', within the purview of our moral character, things which are our own doing, only those things can possibly benefit us, can be good. Recognition is not in our power. It is not good.

Sensitivity to recognition results from the false value-judgment that recognition is good. That false judgment is, or causes, our desire for recognition and the distress we experience when we are denied recognition or lose it.

Christensen and Jacobson (pp. 84-85) address sensitivity to recognition in adult relationships:

 

"I am Somebody"

I want to be somebody to somebody.

"As children we seek recognition from our parents. We look expectantly for the "Good girl!" and the "That-a-boy!" for our accomplishments. We want attention for the pictures we draw, applause for the balls we hit, laughter for the jokes we tell, and compliments for the grades we get. Although most parents naturally provide this kind of recognition to their children, some may be so preoccupied with their own lives that their child gets little notice. These parents may experience their children's bids for attention as irritating annoyances. As a result, the children get little concrete evidence that their achievements really matter to anyone. It is not clear that they are special in anyone's eyes.

"The presence of more than one child in the family complicates the recognition of children. Parents' attention, compliments, and applause must be shared. Children inevitably compete for this parental recognition. But often the playing field is not level. One child may be more verbal or more athletic or more humorous or more social or more physically attractive than the other and therefore may have a built-in advantage for recognition. Parents may favor a particular child because he or she looks or acts like them or otherwise has some attractive feature they value. As a result, parents will never mete out exactly equal doses of recognition to their children. In some families the inequities may be obvious and dramatic.

"Little overall parental recognition in childhood, or little recognition relative to a sibling, may sensitize you to issues of recognition in adult relationships. If your experience throughout childhood was that others in the family were getting an unfair surplus of attention, you might be on guard to see that the same doesn't happen in your marriage. The opposite is true too: an overdose of attention and recognition in childhood may lead you to expect a heavy diet of attention and recognition in adulthood.

"Sensitivity to recognition may spring from adult relationships as well as childhood ones. If you have been with unresponsive partners, who have been stingy with their praise, you might well be on the lookout for personal slights. If your partner seemed to hog the attention, you might have felt hurt and jealous. If your partner seemed to value his or her own accomplishments and to slight yours, you may have felt competitive.

"Whatever its origins, some of us will be sensitive to recognition in our relationships. We may feel hurt if our partners are not enthusiastic about our successes or make too much of our failures. We may need our partners to serve as cheerleaders for whatever we attain. We may want to be looked up to and honored for our accomplishments. We may want our partners to listen to our stories of what we have done and the clever way we did it. We seek admiration as much as love from our partners. When we don't get it, we seek change in our partners, a request that may feel like a significant imposition to them."


Values of the Inventive Type

Origin of the Desire for Social Recognition



Andrew Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson (2002). Reconcilable Differences . New York: Guilford.





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Key to the Stoic Philosophy of Epictetus