The attention bridge. chapter 19.
Or, on emotional vampirism from “the strength of non-action”
The aloof are individuals who believe (wrongly or rightly) that their parents or guardians ignored or mistreated them. And like provers, they decided to wear a mask to demonstrate the opposite of what this mistreatment truly made them feel.
The emotions which children who feel neglected or mistreated develop are mainly the following:
- Feelings of being imperfect to the point of being unworthy of the love and acceptance of those around them.
- Feelings of needing the attention of others to such a point that there exists extreme emotional dependency.
- Feelings of mistrust; people are not good or trustworthy, so expecting anything good of them is a mistake which can only lead to more pain and disappointment.
The masks that are adopted to hide these emotions are the following:
- Behaving as if whatever they do is perfect and worthy of people`s love and attention.
- Behaving as if they were totally self-sufficient thus demonstrating that they do not need anybody.
- Behaving as if they were invulnerable to other people’s behaviour, appearing to be indifferent or insensitive to their actions.
The aloof behave as if nothing and no-one could touch or affect them. They build insurmountable emotional and attentional barriers around themselves which get stronger with every wound they suffer. They appear to be undaunted by external events.
It is not difficult to identify them. They are individuals who give the impression of being detached from what people say to them. They respond in monosyllables or very briefly when a longer response would be more appropriate. They leave questions or comments unanswered. Their faces remain expressionless when a smile or a gesture of warmth or recognition would be welcome. And they rarely apologise or give explanations to anybody even when it is evident they ought to.
Unlike bores, wizards, showmen and provers, the aloof powerfully attract attention because of what they do not offer, do or say when in everyday emotional or attentional interaction one would expect much more of them.
What’s the matter with this person? Why haven’t they answered me? Don’t they care what I think or feel? Why are they ignoring me? Why aren’t they giving me what I asked for? Am I demanding too much? Why are they so serious? Why the cold look? Are they angry with me? Have I done something wrong? Don’t they like me? Are they fed up with me? Why don’t they apologise or make it up to me when they clearly messed up? Could it be they don’t feel guilty and simply don’t care about my feelings?
These are some of the many and distressing questions that victims of the aloof ask themselves when faced with their emotionally and attentionally distant behaviour.
And what do these situations reveal?
Firstly that the aloof capture attention and absorb the vital energy of their victims without having to lift a finger.
Secondly, we can observe the wide variety of emotions such as rejection, insecurity and lovelessness that the aloof bring about in others. This makes it difficult for the victims to be aware that their vital energy is being absorbed their sense of alienation gives rise to far more pressing worries.
The aloof come to feel very safe and protected when they receive so much emotional and vital energy from those around them. They also feel they have everything under control. It helps that they remove all thoughts of feelings that might remind them of their failings or defects. Therein lies their downfall. They isolate themselves in their selfish self-sufficiency which stops them loving themselves (by accepting and overcoming their limitations) and others, denying them their attention and affection.
Having intimate relationships (especially emotional and sexual ones) with such aloof individuals can be very hurtful emotionally since one gives so much more than one receives both emotionally and attentionally. This is the main reason why one needs to understand that they remain aloof, from even the people closest to them, not because these individuals do not deserve their attention or affection but because they were let down and hurt by people in the past. They are now unable to trust and open themselves to others who cross their paths.
The aloof, for their part, need to understand that not everybody is going to hurt or mistreat them. And that clearly, it is they, who in an attempt to protect themselves by withholding their attention and affection, hurt and mistreat others in much the same way they believe they were.
The behavioural strategies and methods of demanding attention of the aloof lead others not only to behave like bores (as we saw in the chapter on them) but also like provers or dependants depending on whether or they resist feeling unworthy of their attention.
If the aloof make themselves indifferent or insensitive to others, it is hardly surprising that the latter try to prove themselves worthy of their attention. Nor is it surprising that when they fail in this endeavour they develop a high level of dependency on them. So that instead of blaming others for expecting so much of them and making them feel harassed or smothered, provers should examine themselves and consider what they are doing (or not doing) that induces this degree of emotional neediness. Because, by inspiring feelings of rejection, unworthiness and lovelessness, they lead their victims to transfer the opposite feelings to them. And, inevitably, the more their victims transfer feelings of acceptance and worthiness the more they also transfer the feeling that their emotional well-being depends on the attention the aloof individual pays them. This makes it difficult for them to break off such unhealthy relationships.
Depending on the type and degree of aloofness or insensitivity, these individuals adopt some or many of the following roles or archetypes:
 See the chapter on dependants.
 In the same way that the people who tend to become bores when they develop high levels of dependency should not label their victim as aloof when they distance themselves – this being a natural and justifiable response. They do this simply in order to defend their vital energy and feelings of independence when faced with those who demand their attention with excessive insistence.
 Paradoxically, the worse the aloof treat their victims the more difficult they find it to bread away since the transfer of self-worth is also correspondingly greater. In fact, many people, despite the abuse they suffer from their partners, are incapable of leaving them.