Bah, Humbug! These words probably come to many of our minds when we think of our favorite Christmas villain, Ebenezer Scrooge, who was first introduced to us by Charles Dickens in 1843 in his classic story called A Christmas Carol. We’ve all heard the story, seen the plays, and watched the movies; but, even if you haven’t, “Scrooge,” in our culture, has become synonymous with greed, selfishness, and monetary rigidity, especially during the holiday season. We all know or have met Scrooges; and if we are ever accused of being a Scrooge, we tend to shape up real quickly to make sure that that is not the lasting impression we leave behind of ourselves.
Scrooge is a different kind of villain. Some villains we hate; and others we love to hate. But Scrooge is the type that we usually feel sorry for. We pity him, and yet we have hope for him. I don’t know why we feel that way. Maybe it is because Dickens sets it up that way by making the villain the central character of the story. Maybe it is because we have heard the story so many times we know how it ends. Or, maybe, just maybe, we tend to see some of our own character and struggles in him. Regardless of the reasons we feel this way, there are a couple important lessons we can learn from Ebenezer Scrooge in terms of compulsive behavior. Are you ready? Here we go!
“A ghostly image in the curves of the knocker gives the old man a momentary shock: It is the peering face of Jacob Marley. When Scrooge takes a second re-focused look, he sees nothing but a doorknocker.”
“A miserable, bitter old miser, Scrooge hates irrational things like happiness, generosity, and Christmas, until a trio of ghosts show him the error of his ways.”
Scrooge was a compulsive loner. I can understand that one may think they are seeing things when it comes to the “doorknocker incident.” However, it should give any one of us cause for concern. But, on top of that, Scrooge sat through a scolding by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and then suffers through three terrifying (and heart-wrenching) experiences with THREE MORE GHOSTS! Not only did he resist the urge to run out of his home and find the nearest shrink or emergency room to deal with his psychosis, he allowed himself to go on adventures with these “spirits” in the dead of night in the freezing cold! That is borderline lunacy! Instead of reaching out to others for help, he decided the best decision was to handle this ghostly problem alone.
This holiday season, work hard to resist the urge to be alone. Many times when we feel down or lonely, our minds tricks us into thinking that the best course of action is to be alone. However, we then find ourselves continuing to suffer in the darkness of our homes, the darkness of our minds, and the emptiness of our hearts. You might say, “Scrooge did it! And everything seemed to work out for him!” This is true, but I don’t think Ebenezer Scrooge is the poster child for good decision-making. And although things did seem to work out in the end, he still decided to begin a new life surrounding himself around people he could love and that would love him in return. If you’re waiting for three spirits to show up in the middle of the night to show you the way, you could end up waiting a lifetime. But, also consider this: “spirits” may have been showing up in your life to help guide and direct you, just not in the obvious unorthodox way they did for Scrooge. You have to keep your eyes peeled.
“I wish to be left alone, sir! That is what I wish! I don’t make myself merry at Christmas and I cannot afford to make idle people merry.”
Scrooge was a workaholic. Ebenezer was basically known as a miserable miser that sacrificed love and relationships for money and a false sense of security. An ever-increasing craving to see more and more dollar signs drove him to a life of work and solitude. He escaped the burdens and hardships of this world by locking himself away in his own little box counting his money for comfort. The walls that Scrooge built, in his mind, kept him safe from the darkness of the world, but it also, ironically, kept out the light (speculating here).
Most of us can’t take the whole month of December off work and simply soak in the joy and excitement of the holiday season unperturbed by other responsibilities. I’m not suggesting that working during the holidays is bad; in fact, our work often helps us keep our sanity, especially during this time of year. The trap I want to warn you about is “compulsively working.” What do you mean, Josh? People who compulsively work aren’t just doing so to fulfill their obligations to their job, business, and family; but, they also do it to escape from their feelings. The holiday season often brings about an array of heightened emotions across the board. Our joy, love, and excitement intensifies. However, our fear, stress, and sadness can also intensify. The intensity of emotions, despite which end of the spectrum, can often be overwhelming. And many people, when feeling overwhelmed, throw themselves into work or work-like activities to escape that feeling instead of dealing with it in a healthier fashion. Unfortunately, when they escape from those feelings, they also tend to remove themselves form the people that love them and long for their physical, mental, and emotional presence. So, this holiday season, be mindful about how much you’re working or tasking. Be intentional with being present with your family and friends. Take planned retreats for yourself to help you cope and calm. Author Hal Runkel states, “the fewer intentional retreats we take for ourselves, the more we will find ourselves unintentionally finding ways to escape.”
The moral of this story is DON’T BE A SCROOGE this holiday season! Be intentional with your time despite how you are feeling. Get out of the darkness of your corner of the world and venture into the light. Look for the spirits of your life to help guide you. Allow yourself to be a nurturer for others, but also allow yourself to be nurtured. If not this holiday season, some day we all most likely will find ourselves suffering at the most inconvenient time of the year for suffering. Whether or not that is a present reality for you or a potential future reality, make the decision today that you will NOT do it alone.
I hope you will take these thoughts to heart; and I wish you the richest blessing this holiday season!
Licensed Marital & Family Therapist
Sidenote: If you are concerned about having compulsive issues with money and work, you may be interested to taking the MAWASI (Money & Work Adaptive Styles Index) assessment with Josh or another therapist. If this is of interest to you, feel free to contact Josh so he can help, or at minimum point you in the right direction.