Do you have someone in your life who never gets excited about anything? Who is like a black hole of emotion, sucking all feelings around them into their into bottomless vortex of negativity and/or apathy? Whose basic response to everything you ever tell them is to be immediately bored—since, according to their instant analysis of it, whatever you told them is exactly like something that happened to them once, which means they already know everything about it?
Someone who’s primary response to everything that ever happens is to shrug and say (in one way or another), “Yeah, well, what can you do? That’s just the way it is.”
Someone who basically refuses to emotionally participate? Ever? About anything?
Doesn’t that person drive you freaking insane?
If, like me, you’ve had reason to wonder about such people—why they are as they are; how they got as they are; what about being as they are works for them; the effect of how they are on those whose lives are intertwined with theirs—then, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts on such people, whom I think of as People of the Shrug:
People of the Shrug are profoundly emotionally spoiled. They’re two-year-olds in adult bodies. They act the way they do because they’re insisting that life now be the way life was back when (for better or for worse) they were the center of their parents’ universe.
It’s been my experience that, as children, People of the Shrug were spoiled within dysfunctional families. An only child in a dysfunctional family is particularly prone to becoming a Shrugger.
It’s critical for People of the Shrug that nothing good ever happens to anyone, since that would destroy their pretext for never getting involved in anything, which is that nothing ever changes. Having good things happen—fresh things, new things, exciting things—overtly presents the question of why they never make fresh, new, and exciting things happen. And that’s not something they’re about to consider doing, since anything truly interesting happening out in the world would threaten to take the attention off of them.
If you’re a Shrugger, that works for you because:
1. You’re always right. By refusing to acknowledge that anything ever changes, you’re forever proven right in your assertion that nothing ever does.
2. You’re never disappointed. Being all-knowing means that you cannot ever be caught unaware, because you already know everything that’s going to happen. Sure, that nothing new is under the sun means you can’t ever be happy, surprised, or enthusiastic about anything. But it also means you can’t ever be disappointed. And, for you, that’s what’s most important.
3. You get to be lazy. Why work, if nothing ever really changes anyway?
4. You’re guilt-free. Since nothing ever changes, the way things are can’t possibly be your fault.
People of the Shrug are incapable of healthy relationships, since they cannot put anyone ahead of themselves. They simply cannot give emotionally. Hence the truth that spouses of Shruggers invariably suffer from low self-esteem. Who else would marry someone who can’t ever really get excited by them?
If someone near to you is a Shrugger, there is one way, and only one way, to deal with them: expect virtually nothing from them. Severe yourself from your every last expectation of them. It’s terrible; but there it is. They’re not going to give it up—not for you, not for anyone, not ever. They don’t hate you; for them, it’s not really about anger or hostility. It’s about needing to be the center of the universe. When dealing with a Shrugger, your only choice is to let them be the center of the universe. But do not ever expect to share that center with them. That can’t happen. You can fulfill their emotional needs; but they cannot, and will not, fulfill yours.
You can give. But that’s it.
I wrote this especially for anyone who has a parent who is Shrugger. Please forward it to anyone you know who does.