People of the Shrug: Spoiled 2-Year Olds in Adult Bodies

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.

Print Friendly

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Candace

    THANK YOU.

    Both parents were shruggers, my dad worse than my mom.

    Probably why I drank from the time I was 12 or 13 until I was 50.

    Great post, John. 'Preciate it.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Yeah, kids of shruggers do tend to get high, because they're so desperate for any kind of validation—no matter how transitory or artificial—to fill the validation that never, ever comes in their parents. That's a big hole to fill.

  • FreetoBe

    This describes EXACTLY the man to whom I was married for 21 years! Thank goodness we live 9000 miles apart, otherwise he's still be wanting me to fulfill his emotional needs.

    Needless to say, he doesn't uphold his end of (small) financial contributions to our children, and I've really been praying that God shows me how to make it alone financially.

    Thanks, John, good post (again).

  • Candace

    Yup. But once God jumped in there … PRESTO … no hole any more :-) And no more drinking. Or gambling. Or Adderall. Or any of the other not-God stuff I used to try and heal myself with.

    Ain't He just GRAND that way???

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    FreetoBe: Yeah, Shruggers make the WORST mates; emotionally—and, as you know too painfully well—they ONLY take, and have zero interest in giving. Awful. It sounds great that you got out. So many women don't; they just sort of … settle for whatever small bones their men toss them.

    HEY! LET'S KEEP IT CLEAN IN HERE!

    I swear, I can't take you people anywhere.

    Candance: Yes, God is the BEST for recovering from the …. waste of shruggerness.

  • arlywn

    you know john I was all mad at you for assuming that I'm the reason that my realtionship fell apart, but this post makes up for it because thats exactly what he was and I never saw it until he broke up with me. And I just realised that it was because deep down I was making him feel like he needed to change to be everything that I wanted, needed whatever. He didnt feel like he was living up to what I fell in love with. So he broke up with me to figure things out… and all those over looked qualities are right infront of me and…. he's a shrugger. And I dont want him back. thanks!

  • Dan Harrell

    John,

    Is a shrugger happy only when he drives people out of the relationship? Is this like a black hole that sucks healthy emotions from everyone they come in contact with?

    Kids get older, go to school, marry and live on their own. Mates get fed up and leave.

    I imagine a shrugger parent is exactly like Matt Damon in The Good Shepherd.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    A shrugger is never happy—and is never surprised when he or she has driven someone from them. They always knew that person would leave, because that (to them, to their worldview) is just how people are.

    Shruggers can't allow themselves to ever be truly happy OR unhappy. They are "happy" when their needs are being met: when they eat something good, or have been flattered, and so on. And they get "unhappy" when someone else is getting attention, or when they're physically uncomfortable, etc. But that's it. These shallow waters do not run deep. I really meant the two-year-old thing. Emotionally, they're two. Five, tops.

  • Candace

    Yeesh. You are almost frighteningly accurate here. That is my dad, to a "T" (which stands for "Tyrant").

    My mom — I may have to re-evaluate. Either there's more to it with her, or being a mother tempers it (slightly) for some.

    Lots of food for thought here.

    Naturally, a long time ago, I had to follow your "Reject Your Parents" advice. Though I didn't at the time know that was what I was doing. And I had an undercurrent of pain and guilt about doing so, for a long time.

    I think I had a lot of the shrugger in ME, actually. But I'm getting better. With a lot of good help.

  • FreetoBe

    Candace, you are so right. Parent shruggers breed children shruggers and we don't even know it. I am so glad I found the One who makes us want to get better, with A LOT of nudging.

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    There's this disease called anorexia where the sufferer feels she can never be thin enough, or beautiful enough. I have a malady that's something like that, where I feel like I can never do my job well enough, or capably enough. What do you call that?

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    There's this disease called anorexia where the sufferer feels she can never be thin enough, or beautiful enough. I have a malady that's something like that, where I feel like I can never do my job well enough, or capably enough. What do you call that?

  • Candace

    angelbearoh -

    That's called perfectionsim. There's a GREAT book out there called "Healing for Damaged Emotions". Can't recall the author off the top of my head, but a search on Amazon should turn it up.

    I know it doesn't sound like a book about dealing with perfectionism. But trust me. It is.

  • Candace

    Free -

    Yeah, me too :-)

    It only took nudging for you?? I was dragged, kicking and screaming.

    Anyway, I am so happy for you, now free and growing in the Lord!

  • Candace

    Free -

    Yeah, me too :-)

    It only took nudging for you?? I was dragged, kicking and screaming.

    Anyway, I am so happy for you, now free and growing in the Lord!

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Candace, it's David A Seamands. I've never read it, but Cloud & Townsend did one called "Changes That Heal." Not sure how similar it is, but it's definitely in the vein of the whole healing-thing.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Candace, it's David A Seamands. I've never read it, but Cloud & Townsend did one called "Changes That Heal." Not sure how similar it is, but it's definitely in the vein of the whole healing-thing.

  • Paul

    David Seamands wrote that book, and it is a classic.

  • Candace

    Yes, that's it. I haven't read the Cloud and Townshend one, but have mucho respect for everything else of theirs I have read or heard.

    Going into my reading of the Seamands book (my Christians in Recovery group did it as a multi-week study) I was absolutely clueless that perfectionism and damaged emotions had anything at all to do with one another! So funny, in retrospect.

  • Candace

    Yes, that's it. I haven't read the Cloud and Townshend one, but have mucho respect for everything else of theirs I have read or heard.

    Going into my reading of the Seamands book (my Christians in Recovery group did it as a multi-week study) I was absolutely clueless that perfectionism and damaged emotions had anything at all to do with one another! So funny, in retrospect.

  • Candace

    In my response to Free (#13), I wrote this:

    "It only took nudging for you?? I was dragged, kicking and screaming."

    I meant to put a wink after it. But without the wink, it's a pretty good example of a "shrugger" response!

    How ironic! (Sorry, Free. Hope you know I didn't mean it that way … )

  • Candace

    In my response to Free (#13), I wrote this:

    "It only took nudging for you?? I was dragged, kicking and screaming."

    I meant to put a wink after it. But without the wink, it's a pretty good example of a "shrugger" response!

    How ironic! (Sorry, Free. Hope you know I didn't mean it that way … )

  • FreetoBe

    Candace (#13 & 17): Yes, I know you did not mean it as a "shrugger" (and what a good word THAT is!) I've been following what you post here and see your humor as well as your heart-felt responses. God has truly touched your life in an amazing way.

    And, yes, to answer #13, He nudged me—imagine HIS elbow in your ribs, you get the point (hahahaha) REAL quick.

  • FreetoBe

    Candace (#13 & 17): Yes, I know you did not mean it as a "shrugger" (and what a good word THAT is!) I've been following what you post here and see your humor as well as your heart-felt responses. God has truly touched your life in an amazing way.

    And, yes, to answer #13, He nudged me—imagine HIS elbow in your ribs, you get the point (hahahaha) REAL quick.

  • Taryn

    This describes my father. Growing up, if he didn't want to do something, we didn't do it. But if he did, we did. And he never wants change or anything new. And if someone insists, anyone near him doesn't hear the end of it until the problem is fixed or something else happens to complain about. And he would love to be a hermit for the rest of his life, never seeing anyone outside of the house. No wonder I was always the teacher's pet – I receive validation from them…and no punishment from my father for failing!

  • Taryn

    This describes my father. Growing up, if he didn't want to do something, we didn't do it. But if he did, we did. And he never wants change or anything new. And if someone insists, anyone near him doesn't hear the end of it until the problem is fixed or something else happens to complain about. And he would love to be a hermit for the rest of his life, never seeing anyone outside of the house. No wonder I was always the teacher's pet – I receive validation from them…and no punishment from my father for failing!

  • Ingrid

    John, you are so correct about this. I know a person who has actually said to a friend, when this friend purchased her first car that required credit, that she didn't feel the need to be excited for her. She wasn't doing anything of importance. It wasn't even a new car it was used. She went on to explain that things like that don't excite HER. It didn't matter that this was a major milestone is this person getting her credit and life together. Now, admittedly, I have never thought buying a car was a cartwheel event, but when your friend is so thrilled about it because its her FIRST why pee on her parade?

    There are actually two options when you are confronted with a person like this. You can do as you suggest and allow them to be the center of their own world with zero expectations OR you can employ your power to let go. Sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do for yourself because who really wants to be bothered with a "bottomless vortex of negativity and/or apathy"? Thats more tiring than just making new friends who actually have feelings about something other than themselves.

  • Ingrid

    John, you are so correct about this. I know a person who has actually said to a friend, when this friend purchased her first car that required credit, that she didn't feel the need to be excited for her. She wasn't doing anything of importance. It wasn't even a new car it was used. She went on to explain that things like that don't excite HER. It didn't matter that this was a major milestone is this person getting her credit and life together. Now, admittedly, I have never thought buying a car was a cartwheel event, but when your friend is so thrilled about it because its her FIRST why pee on her parade?

    There are actually two options when you are confronted with a person like this. You can do as you suggest and allow them to be the center of their own world with zero expectations OR you can employ your power to let go. Sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do for yourself because who really wants to be bothered with a "bottomless vortex of negativity and/or apathy"? Thats more tiring than just making new friends who actually have feelings about something other than themselves.

  • http://www.davidrochester.wordpress.com davidrochester

    Hmmm. I think what you're trying to describe here is a narcissist. However, you're a bit off-base in your inference that narcissism results primarily from being a spoiled child, or an only child. Severe emotional/physical child abuse is an equally common factor in the development of narcissism as a personality disorder, as the abused child decides that nobody will give him what he needs unless he gives it to himself, which makes him overly concerned with putting himself first. Children of narcissists run a risk of becoming narcissists, because they are never given what they need.

    Narcissists do make terrible parents, and often create children with dependency disorders who are likely to view this information with a high degree of defensiveness, often because those children have also married narcissists.

  • http://www.davidrochester.wordpress.com davidrochester

    Hmmm. I think what you're trying to describe here is a narcissist. However, you're a bit off-base in your inference that narcissism results primarily from being a spoiled child, or an only child. Severe emotional/physical child abuse is an equally common factor in the development of narcissism as a personality disorder, as the abused child decides that nobody will give him what he needs unless he gives it to himself, which makes him overly concerned with putting himself first. Children of narcissists run a risk of becoming narcissists, because they are never given what they need.

    Narcissists do make terrible parents, and often create children with dependency disorders who are likely to view this information with a high degree of defensiveness, often because those children have also married narcissists.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Nah, I'm not here talking about narcissists—though they're close.

  • Midlife Slices

    What if my one parent is a half shrugger? He's always right and he carries on guilt but he's never lazy and always disappointed. Would that make me a fourth shrugger since I slightly resemble a few of these myself?

  • Midlife Slices

    What if my one parent is a half shrugger? He's always right and he carries on guilt but he's never lazy and always disappointed. Would that make me a fourth shrugger since I slightly resemble a few of these myself?

  • http://cbgrace.wordpress.com cbgrace

    Worse yet, we are raising generations of these type of people. Do you ever speak to 16 year olds? They know everything, they don't know what work is, they are bored (only boring people are bored)…

  • http://cbgrace.wordpress.com cbgrace

    Worse yet, we are raising generations of these type of people. Do you ever speak to 16 year olds? They know everything, they don't know what work is, they are bored (only boring people are bored)…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Perfectly said, Ingrid, as always.

    Taryn: thanks so much for writing what you did. Your father sounds … well, awful.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Midlife: I'm afraid I'm a little lost on the concept of a "half shrugger." Everyone's a HALF-shrugger, you know?

    Cbgrace: I do know what you're saying, for sure. On the other hand, you know: 16 is THE time in life to adapt the Shrugger Tude.

  • Midlife Slices

    Well Mr. Shore, my comment was meant to be said jokingly but I realize it's hard to tell in this platform.
    http://www.midlifeslices.com

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Well, plus I have no sense of humor. So that didn't help you. (In truth, I DID wonder if you were joking. But how insulting if I had ACTED like you were, when in fact you weren't. That totally happens. No good. Better safe than … accidentally totally insulting people by basically saying they're too stupid to take seriously.)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Well, plus I have no sense of humor. So that didn't help you. (In truth, I DID wonder if you were joking. But how insulting if I had ACTED like you were, when in fact you weren't. That totally happens. No good. Better safe than … accidentally totally insulting people by basically saying they're too stupid to take seriously.)

  • Midlife Slices

    I understand completely.

  • Midlife Slices

    I understand completely.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Ha-ha!! Another good one! You're KILLING me!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Ha-ha!! Another good one! You're KILLING me!!

  • Bryan

    You are absolutely 100% correct. I can appreciate every single word.

  • Bryan

    You are absolutely 100% correct. I can appreciate every single word.

  • http://johnshore.com Susan

    Wow, we know a Shrugger and he has a little Shrugger. Life revolves around them. Big Shrugger brags and brags and when we try to say something good or something we are proud of,he has nothing to say. He seems to have no empathy either. If you need to talk about something serious he just cracks a joke and goes on to whats important to him. Little Shrugger pouts if he is not having fun, can't function if things are not going his way. He just seems to shut down to life around him, you can see his bottom lip just get bigger as he stares, as you say into his Vortex of negativity. In there mind nothing compares to how good they are at whatever they THINK they are good at. No one can compare to how perfect they are…..in there minds. People like that are very exhausting if you let them be. It's a wakeup call for these Shrugger to just not responding to their braggish behavior.

  • http://johnshore.com Susan

    Correction….its a wakeup call for these Shruggers when Friends or Family do not respond to their braggish/selfish behavior.

  • http://johnshore.com Susan

    Correction….its a wakeup call for these Shruggers when Friends or Family do not respond to their braggish/selfish behavior.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Susan: Thanks for writing/sharing this. All perfectly said. And they ARE exhausting, aren't they? It's weird how ennervating it is dealing with someone who, basically, won't deal with anything.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Susan: Thanks for writing/sharing this. All perfectly said. And they ARE exhausting, aren't they? It's weird how ennervating it is dealing with someone who, basically, won't deal with anything.

  • http://johnshore.com Susan

    You are very welcome.Thanks for you article on Shruggers :)

  • LaDiva

    Uh-oh. I think I was about to marry a shrugger. Phew!

  • LaDiva

    Uh-oh. I think I was about to marry a shrugger. Phew!

  • fidigum

    HEY!! what do I do if I AM a shrugger and dont want to be anymore?!! sheesh. what one earth can I do to feel something AGAIN?!!

  • sunny

    fidigum: I know..why do I feel a little guilty, gulp..hmmm..something about turning 54…yup, me thinks I just might have some shrugger in there now..blah, blah, blah, and then I told her, blah, blah and she said something boring about the new guy in her life and I told her to not get so emotional over such insignificance..like anyone should care, get real…oh god, here she comes again with that Pollyanna look and more news on her pitiful little life..gawd.. People who get happy over the dumbest thing really annoys me!*smiles* Naw, I aint no stinkin shrugger..

  • Mason

    You know, I found this blog trying to figure someone else out. Looks like it sounds more like me. Crud!

  • Mike

    Or People of the Shrug could be clinically depressed or otherwise mentally ill and can't handle anything new as it would overwhelm them. That's not to say some aren't emotionally immature brats stuck in jr.high narcissistic cranial gymnastics. But I see too many clinically depressed people who can't handle simple tasks w/o having a meltdown. That can wear one's soul right out.

    But I like the phrase People of the Shrug. Can we have one for lazy co-workers like People of the Shuck?

  • Mike

    Or People of the Shrug could be clinically depressed or otherwise mentally ill and can't handle anything new as it would overwhelm them. That's not to say some aren't emotionally immature brats stuck in jr.high narcissistic cranial gymnastics. But I see too many clinically depressed people who can't handle simple tasks w/o having a meltdown. That can wear one's soul right out.

    But I like the phrase People of the Shrug. Can we have one for lazy co-workers like People of the Shuck?

  • http://www.wix.com/zacheus/Timothy-Fowler/ Timothy Fowler

    Ouch! I woke up before it was too late. When I was in high school a classmate wrote in my yearbook, "You're pervasive air of disgust was a constant source of amusement to me throughout the year." I've always laughed at thatt. Somehow, it doesn't seem so funny anymore.

    Thanks a lot John for ruining my childhood! (Har har)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow! That's a pretty serious yearbook inscription! Who WAS that kid? He or she is surely a best-selling author by now. Anyway, great comment, Timothy. Poignant.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Wow! That's a pretty serious yearbook inscription! Who WAS that kid? He or she is surely a best-selling author by now. Anyway, great comment, Timothy. Poignant.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Mike: funny! "People of the Shuck," I mean—not, of course, the truth about those who are seriously depressed or otherwise psychologically dysfunctional. That IS a different degree of problem than that about which I wrote here.

  • Al

    just a question, if you hang around a bunch of shrugers say like three or four. and I've lived with some of them. can that affect your home life. and can it affect your personal life with non-shruggers.

    And one more thing. How come these people even though may have children, still act like they are the center of the world.

    I swear to god these people suck the life out of every thing. when they are totaly capable of taking care of themselves. I happen to be an only child my self, but I love going out and taking controll of my life. the people I'm refering to happen to be a whole family of shrugers and it makes me f'n angry. sometimes I wish I could be their parents even though all of them are older than me. wtf how do you kick these people in the butt!?

  • Al

    just a question, if you hang around a bunch of shrugers say like three or four. and I've lived with some of them. can that affect your home life. and can it affect your personal life with non-shruggers.

    And one more thing. How come these people even though may have children, still act like they are the center of the world.

    I swear to god these people suck the life out of every thing. when they are totaly capable of taking care of themselves. I happen to be an only child my self, but I love going out and taking controll of my life. the people I'm refering to happen to be a whole family of shrugers and it makes me f'n angry. sometimes I wish I could be their parents even though all of them are older than me. wtf how do you kick these people in the butt!?

  • Aimee

    Honestly I’m not so sure about all of this. You missed the point that they probably have some parent or someone paying for them. They sulk if you try to get them to do anything uncomfortable or needed. If you ask for certain things in a relationship they say they just can’t fulfill them and always knew it and it’s some how your fault for having high expectations. They live in complete apathy and only give you attention when they feel like it. If they give you something they expect you to give them something in return. They skim over life as if it doesn’t matter. They only want the fun out of life. My soon to be ex boyfriend is like this and it drives me crazy. Even more so that he lays around reading the news all day in our bedroom but can’t lift a finger to look for a job.

  • Aimee

    Honestly I’m not so sure about all of this. You missed the point that they probably have some parent or someone paying for them. They sulk if you try to get them to do anything uncomfortable or needed. If you ask for certain things in a relationship they say they just can’t fulfill them and always knew it and it’s some how your fault for having high expectations. They live in complete apathy and only give you attention when they feel like it. If they give you something they expect you to give them something in return. They skim over life as if it doesn’t matter. They only want the fun out of life. My soon to be ex boyfriend is like this and it drives me crazy. Even more so that he lays around reading the news all day in our bedroom but can’t lift a finger to look for a job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-W-Lukens-Goodson/100000194585042 Mary W. Lukens Goodson

    My hubby’s a 1/2 shrugger. He grew up in an alcoholic family (as did I), but where I became quite emotionally expressive, he shut down (guess which one of us got lots of counseling?!) We’ve been married almost 20 years and he’s doing some better, but still struggles with “hiding” from the world when he’s stressed.

    Today was a highlight though: He, of his own volition, stopped by our daughter’s house to snuggle his grand daughter, without me suggesting it to him. This is HUGE, as he tends to just “go home” at the end of his day. I’m so proud of him learning to think of others more often.

  • Jem64

    The description of a shrugger pretty much sounds like my ex husband. He did feel one emotion – rage. If he felt anything else he drowned it in Jack Daniels immediately.

  • Jem64

    The description of a shrugger pretty much sounds like my ex husband. He did feel one emotion – rage. If he felt anything else he drowned it in Jack Daniels immediately.

  • Daughertymw

    Oh, I know a few Shruggers for sure. My problem is the more they belittle or completely ignore anything that I care about, the more I want to MAKE them care. I wind up getting upset and the very thing I was happy about then seems not so great anymore. Or, I feel ashamed at having been so excited about it in the first place.

    • Anonymous

      Daugherty: That’s it; you’ve put your finger on exactly the power that Shrug People possess: it’s so easy to get hooked into wanting to make them care. This dynamic you’ve so touchingly and openly expressed IS the problem with having, for instance, a Shrug Person for a parent: they rob you of your natural enthusiasm for life. How terrible is it, to be made to feel ashamed at something about which you were just excited?

  • Stephanie

    Tell you what, I grew up in a divorced family. My father left when I was 7. I have hardly heard a word from him. He remarried quickly and raised another woman’s children. I wondered what i did to make him leave. My mom went to school and worked full time. I felt very alone and responsible for siblings who were only one or 2 years younger than me. I learned about stoicism in H>S. I liked that word “whatever” as a response to a lot of situations. For me if was a way of protecting myself against disappointment, anxiety and a world out of my control. I was kind of a shrugger growing up. I was not nasty. I did not alienate people. But I kept to myself. I protected myself from a world that was scary. Where things happened that were out of my control.

    Once I left home and got control of my own life… ahhhh. I felt free of the situation I grew up in. Now it was up to me to make my way and not the world against me. I am still anxious but medication does wonders. I know how to shrug things off and not worry as much. But that has to do with a husband who I partner with and I God I have faith in. I am never alone and therefore the protective shrug has been replaced with trust and faith.

    I understand the shrugger but I know there is another way. I can imagine the fear of the shrugger. I empathize.

  • Stephanie

    Tell you what, I grew up in a divorced family. My father left when I was 7. I have hardly heard a word from him. He remarried quickly and raised another woman’s children. I wondered what i did to make him leave. My mom went to school and worked full time. I felt very alone and responsible for siblings who were only one or 2 years younger than me. I learned about stoicism in H>S. I liked that word “whatever” as a response to a lot of situations. For me if was a way of protecting myself against disappointment, anxiety and a world out of my control. I was kind of a shrugger growing up. I was not nasty. I did not alienate people. But I kept to myself. I protected myself from a world that was scary. Where things happened that were out of my control.

    Once I left home and got control of my own life… ahhhh. I felt free of the situation I grew up in. Now it was up to me to make my way and not the world against me. I am still anxious but medication does wonders. I know how to shrug things off and not worry as much. But that has to do with a husband who I partner with and I God I have faith in. I am never alone and therefore the protective shrug has been replaced with trust and faith.

    I understand the shrugger but I know there is another way. I can imagine the fear of the shrugger. I empathize.

  • Allie

    My husband’s mother divorced his father for being a Shrugger. We never had a word for it before now. He wasn’t a bad person in any ordinary, measurable way, he just never got emotionally involved in anything. Stayed in a job far beneath his abilities, if you asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “whatever,” if you asked him if he wanted to go see a movie he said, “whatever.” And he thought that this meant he was very easy to get along with. Plus the cynical attitude that he didn’t even vote because all candidates were the same.

    My husband tends towards the same issues but I have always been able to shake him out of it by saying, “You’re doing that thing you say your dad used to drive you nuts with.”

  • Noa

    Honestly… I’m feeling a lot of hostility from this article. Hostility and moral superiority, and that bothers me. Just because someone is emotionally detached doesn’t mean that they are less of a person than anyone here. It doesn’t make you better because you can respond emotionally to certain situations and it doesn’t make a “shrugger” worse. Both are different ways of dealing with things and neither are wrong.

    There’s a whole lot of judgment going on in this article and this conversation that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. Instead of actually trying to understand why someone reacts the way they do, you instead write them off as a hopeless case. Do you actually know why someone would react in such a fashion? Because it could be anything. It could be a bad childhood or perhaps they’re somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Or perhaps they’re like me, a Daoist who believe you really ought to go with the flow.

    You’re not accepting a person for who they are, really, which is what you should be doing as kind and compassionate people ought. You’re singling out people who are “other” and ostracizing them, which is right up there with the kind of intolerance normally seen only in fundamentalist zealots.

    Frankly, I think the best way to cope with indifference is with kindness and respect. Even if you don’t get any back in return.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      There is a huge difference in what was actually written vs.the experience of being”emotionally detached”. Those are two very, very different experiences. One can still be emotionally detached and put others’ needs in front of their own. You seem to be substituting what you took away from this piece instead of what was actually written – which is someone who is emotionally *spoiled* within a dysfunctional family.

      You also inserted “hopeless case” – would you please point out where that was said? Please be specific, thank you.

      John this for me, was so significant to read this evening. Thank you, I’m going to read this a few times. I’m glad this comment brought it up. :)

      • Noa

        Once again, you’re operating on the assumption that you know what someone else feels and that’s not cool. I’ve known people that don’t give back and while it’s a bit irritating, I accept the fact that is who they are. Specifically, I have a friend with Autism that can be a bit inconsiderate. There have been times when I’ve been annoyed by it, but I don’t automatically make a snap judgment that he’s a bad person. It’s just who he is and while I don’t particularly like that aspect, there are other qualities he has that make the friendship worth it. I just don’t feel it’s right to write people off.

        But that’s just me. I have always felt that kindness and compassion are a better way to live one’s life.

        • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

          Again, you’re twisting this post to be something that it is absolutely not. Autism is a disorder – it’s not a willful choice to remain limited and selfish emotionally when one has the capacity to do so which is what John is obviously referring to here, you’ve inserted that meaning into the post and reacting to that. I wonder why you’d do that? That’s not a terribly kind nor compassionate decision.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      And Noa, there’s absolutely no Scriptural support at all for continuing to accept and be in relationship with others who are limited emotionally to experiencing life on their own, very specific and exclusive terms – who continue to maintain their limited state despite having the opportunity to change and grow. The capacity for these people to change, to learn how to actually sacrifice for others is certainly present. But a lot of times, being miserable is just easier – it means they have to give absolutely nothing. That’s not being emotionally detached – that’s being emotionally self-absorbed.

      And people like this are very careful to choose only those people who demand nothing from them or can be manipulated into believing that they don’t deserve it or that the “misery” is just too overwhelming. They are often very charming and fun to be around because they need the attention and people to make them feel a little less miserable, but as soon as that individual asks them to step out of their comfort zone? They’ll say “I’m just ill-equipped to care for anyone”. Which is an excuse to stay focused entirely on their own needs. They are emotional vampires and John is absolutely right – it’s good to expect nothing from them because you end up pretty disappointed.

      But kind and gentle hearts like yours get fooled pretty easily with men and women like this. I got suckered in as well! It took me a very long time to learn.

      • Noa

        I’m not a gentle heart. I prefer to call myself compassionate. As I’ve said in a comment above, you are, once again, operating on an assumption that you know how someone feels and unless you’re a mind reader, you really don’t. Because when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

        • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

          Noa, I define my relationships by peoples’ behavior. Not their feelings.

        • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

          And you’re right, I certainly did misread you, your subsequent comments reflect the writer to be someone who’s stubbornly fixated on just being angry and reading something that’s not there. So I stand corrected.

  • Noa

    Honestly… I’m feeling a lot of hostility from this article. Hostility and moral superiority, and that bothers me. Just because someone is emotionally detached doesn’t mean that they are less of a person than anyone here. It doesn’t make you better because you can respond emotionally to certain situations and it doesn’t make a “shrugger” worse. Both are different ways of dealing with things and neither are wrong.

    There’s a whole lot of judgment going on in this article and this conversation that I think is unhelpful and unhealthy. Instead of actually trying to understand why someone reacts the way they do, you instead write them off as a hopeless case. Do you actually know why someone would react in such a fashion? Because it could be anything. It could be a bad childhood or perhaps they’re somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Or perhaps they’re like me, a Daoist who believe you really ought to go with the flow.

    You’re not accepting a person for who they are, really, which is what you should be doing as kind and compassionate people ought. You’re singling out people who are “other” and ostracizing them, which is right up there with the kind of intolerance normally seen only in fundamentalist zealots.

    Frankly, I think the best way to cope with indifference is with kindness and respect. Even if you don’t get any back in return.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      And Noa, there’s absolutely no Scriptural support at all for continuing to accept and be in relationship with others who are limited emotionally to experiencing life on their own, very specific and exclusive terms – who continue to maintain their limited state despite having the opportunity to change and grow. The capacity for these people to change, to learn how to actually sacrifice for others is certainly present. But a lot of times, being miserable is just easier – it means they have to give absolutely nothing. That’s not being emotionally detached – that’s being emotionally self-absorbed.

      And people like this are very careful to choose only those people who demand nothing from them or can be manipulated into believing that they don’t deserve it or that the “misery” is just too overwhelming. They are often very charming and fun to be around because they need the attention and people to make them feel a little less miserable, but as soon as that individual asks them to step out of their comfort zone? They’ll say “I’m just ill-equipped to care for anyone”. Which is an excuse to stay focused entirely on their own needs. They are emotional vampires and John is absolutely right – it’s good to expect nothing from them because you end up pretty disappointed.

      But kind and gentle hearts like yours get fooled pretty easily with men and women like this. I got suckered in as well! It took me a very long time to learn.

      • Noa

        I’m not a gentle heart. I prefer to call myself compassionate. As I’ve said in a comment above, you are, once again, operating on an assumption that you know how someone feels and unless you’re a mind reader, you really don’t. Because when you assume you make an ass out of you and me.

        • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

          And you’re right, I certainly did misread you, your subsequent comments reflect the writer to be someone who’s stubbornly fixated on just being angry and reading something that’s not there. So I stand corrected.

  • Josarah

    I agree with Noa that this article had a tone of judgement and moral superiority to it. The idea that there is one way and one way only to deal with certain types of people assumes a great deal. While it doesn’t specifically state that they are hopeless cases, that seemed to be implied by the conclusions. It seemed to overlook the possibility of growth or change on these people’s part. It did however make me look at my own emotional detachment, and look at what motivates me ( or doesn’t) , and what it is I am trying to protect when I refuse to connect with people on a real level.

    • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

      To me, it seems like both of you are projecting so many thoughts and ideas into this post. It amazes me when people do that and then claim it’s the original author’s intent and meaning.

  • Josarah

    I agree with Noa that this article had a tone of judgement and moral superiority to it. The idea that there is one way and one way only to deal with certain types of people assumes a great deal. While it doesn’t specifically state that they are hopeless cases, that seemed to be implied by the conclusions. It seemed to overlook the possibility of growth or change on these people’s part. It did however make me look at my own emotional detachment, and look at what motivates me ( or doesn’t) , and what it is I am trying to protect when I refuse to connect with people on a real level.

  • CACollins

    You could be self centered and disfunctional. Or you could be clinically depressed, or sub-clinically depressed and just not have the energy to want to cope.

    Happens.

  • CACollins

    You could be self centered and disfunctional. Or you could be clinically depressed, or sub-clinically depressed and just not have the energy to want to cope.

    Happens.

  • Anonymous

    Daugherty: That’s it; you’ve put your finger on exactly the power that Shrug People possess: it’s so easy to get hooked into wanting to make them care. This dynamic you’ve so touchingly and openly expressed IS the problem with having, for instance, a Shrug Person for a parent: they rob you of your natural enthusiasm for life. How terrible is it, to be made to feel ashamed at something about which you were just excited?

  • Noa

    Once again, you’re operating on the assumption that you know what someone else feels and that’s not cool. I’ve known people that don’t give back and while it’s a bit irritating, I accept the fact that is who they are. Specifically, I have a friend with Autism that can be a bit inconsiderate. There have been times when I’ve been annoyed by it, but I don’t automatically make a snap judgment that he’s a bad person. It’s just who he is and while I don’t particularly like that aspect, there are other qualities he has that make the friendship worth it. I just don’t feel it’s right to write people off.

    But that’s just me. I have always felt that kindness and compassion are a better way to live one’s life.

  • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

    Again, you’re twisting this post to be something that it is absolutely not. Autism is a disorder – it’s not a willful choice to remain limited and selfish emotionally when one has the capacity to do so which is what John is obviously referring to here, you’ve inserted that meaning into the post and reacting to that. I wonder why you’d do that? That’s not a terribly kind nor compassionate decision.