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The New Scrooge

So, how do you feel about emotional stinginess? Lately, I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what to call this passive–aggressive form of abuse that is so hard to identify, but is nonetheless crazy making. I hear it in my office. I experience it in my personal life, and have been trying to put my finger on exactly what it is that is so troublesome about people with this character flaw.

This new kind of emotional Scrooge communicates with a smiling, Who me, demeanor and hides behind a shroud of innocence, good intention and catchy new age phrases. They will say they love you and then treat you like you are invisible. They will talk about how important you are to them, but never show up to offer real support. When confronted with bad behavior, they will respond with,  “Oh let’s not go back to the past, I like being in the now.” This kind of person is often ambiguous, indirect and deals with issues without taking a modicum of personal responsibility. Easily they seem to  sweep everything under the rug and just push on with renounced rage. You can be bleeding out on the floor in gushes of emotional pain and ole’ stingy shows no empathy and refuses to do what would reasonably be expected from any caring human being. With a superior tinge of veiled hostility he or she implies that it’s all your issue or insecurity.

This kind of Scrooge trivializes your concerns or feelings and makes them insignificant which leaves you trying to explain yourself over again and again thinking there must be something you didn’t explain well, after all it is inconceivable to you that this person cannot see the pain you are in, much less be unwilling to do anything about it. Didn’t they just say the loved you?

This of course leaves you appearing to be the one who neurotically just can’t let things go. This withhold of honest emotional support makes you start to question yourself about everything you feel. You know in a tangible way that something is undeniably wrong, but our Scrooge is so sincere and convincing that you cannot help but begin to question what you know to be true.

Emotional Scrooges forget a lot. They forget meetings with you, important promises they made to you and they forget the important issues you have been trying to confront and resolve with them. This consistent lack of caring is a covert manipulation that results in you appearing to be the “nagging or needy” one.  They say things like, “I can never please you, I am sorry I continue to disappoint you, I can never do enough for you” or “I can never do it right.” This denial and avoidance of the issues leaves you feeling some how tricked while scrooge continues to withhold any action or sincere demonstration of real empathy. In fact he or she deliberately withholds exactly what you want and need in order to maintain the illusion of having the power and control.  You can go back a million or more times in genuine attempts at resolution, and still you’ll hear the same self-serving response; “There is nothing wrong with me. Why can’t you let it go?”  But, there is distance. But, there is withhold and coldness. But, there is disconnect and a lack of any genuine caring. And, Scrooge simply doesn’t care.

Of course you can’t let it go because the anger keeps coming at you and the aggression keeps being acted out in passive-aggressive ways that are debilitating to you and the relationship. This elusive, pervasive hidden aggression leaves you feeling violated and frustrated and often with the only out being that you ultimately separate yourself physically and emotionally feeling exhausted.  This kind of denial kills your relationship and drains your spirit. It is the most insidious, unfair and dangerous. It can make you feel crazy.   Overt abuse is easier. You can name it.  You can see it.  Others can validate it.

People who behave in this way very often have fragile egos that cannot admit to any fault. They protect themselves with this behavior so that they do not have to look at the truths that would make them feel sad about themselves and ashamed. This behavior can also come from a false sense of pride and arrogance covering over a lack of self-esteem and an inordinate need to stay in control. Regardless of where it comes from, unless the person is will to heal it, you can’t create a meaningful relationship. Stop trying to.  Focus on yourself and do what you need to do to feel healthy. Get your strength and clarity back and if Scrooge is not willing to grow and change…well you’ll know what to do.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013

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