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Selective Apathy Frees You to Care More

Selective Apathy Frees You to Care More

Apathy by Libby.

    Photo courtesy of Libby

    What do you think of this phrase: “The Joy of Apathy”? It sounds like such a clashing contradiction: how can joy, which is associated with happiness and passion, be found in the opposite stoicism of apathy? While joy and apathy certainly aren’t the same, they often work together and are complementary, as we’ll see.

    Every one of us has a capacity to care and be happy. That’s good, and is a fundamental part of what enables us, as humans, to build sustaining communities and civilizations. At the same time, caring too much is hurtful, or even harmful — unhealthy obsession, caring’s dark side, can creep out and make one focused on trying to win at all costs, even if the end result is failure. Take a gambler, who’s undeniably passionate about pulling the one-armed bandit or takes a chance on innumerable other games, but whose high-rollin’ elation soon descends into depressing depths when they can’t beat the house. Or witness the hype-laden rush of the dot-com-bomb era, from which Pets.com ex-CEO Julie Wainwright candidly wrote about what she learned.

    Passion and joy focused in the wrong directions don’t do you good; as part of your emotional faculties, tempering them with apathy — even if that may sound completely counterintuitive and wrong at first — is key to living a better life.

    Care, but not that much

    Herb Cohen is one of the world’s finest negotiators. From bargains at electronics stores to convincing terrorists to let their hostages go, his wealth of experience has a central theme which comes up often: care, but not that much.

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    Showing you’re interested in, say, a store item will pique a clerk to sell it to you. But go overboard and, in effect, communicate (via body language and obvious desperation) that you must have it at any price, and you will give the upper hand to the other party.

    My Dad was a pretty darn good negotiator too, and whenever someone enthusiastically offered him what they considered to be a massive deal, my Pa would scoff,

    “Huh! Is that so?”

    and stare at them. So intensely that their retinas might’ve been seared out before dunking dollars off the price tag. It was one of his best tricks, which helped me get my first Macintosh computer at a fine price, among many other goodies in my youth.

    Be cool. Let apathy be the frosting on your “caring cake”. In the blackjack-centric movie 21, Kevin Spacey plays a professor with a secret life of teaching card counters. He repeatedly reminds his students to not let their feelings get in the way to win — so in the absence of those feelings, even though it’s unsaid (as it often is), there’s apathy.

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    The same principles apply in relationships: coming on too strongly to someone you have affection for is smothering. Pretending you’re not interested (it’s hard, I know!) may have the opposite effect. I’m not just talking about romantic partnerships, but contacting someone you admire and want the attention of (Tim Ferriss describes this as a Mentor-type process) — we’re all people.

    What’s really worth caring about?

    You have a finite amount of time and energy, just like you do with other resources, such as money. Even if you’re super-generous, you don’t donate to every charity, just a select few you especially care about and can relate with. It gives you a good feeling to give. And the rest? Frankly, you don’t care. They effectively don’t exist unless you give not just $$$, but your attention.

    While that may be viewed as bad for those other charities, don’t worry, because human diversity is infinite, and chances are someone else cares about them. (Or if not, perhaps the charities should do a better job marketing themselves.)

    You aren’t interested in everything. You don’t visit every website — you bookmark favorites (and I hope one of them is Lifehack ;) ).

    Think of your ability to care and be joyful about the stuff in your life as measured as slices of a total pie. You may find this uncomfortably mechanical, but with a big picture — or pie-cture — you can look at criteria such as:

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    • How much time you spend on something
    • How much you talk to friends & family about it
    • Your commitment to active, communal participation (Joss Whedon fans and cosplay zealots are fantastic examples)
    • And perhaps most importantly: what are you getting out of it?

    Throw away your “old clothes”

    Out of everything you care about, what definitely isn’t worth caring about, as passionate (in a bad way) as it makes you feel? If you find that tough, take a hard look at what long-term benefits you’re getting from it — the followup, the results, the takeaways.

    You may like to indulge in food and consider yourself a confectionary guru. But gorging yourself on le chocolat, despite momentary feelings of pleasure, will bloat you in the long run. Care less about sweets, care more about a healthy lifestyle.

    Some people get a rise off of social drama on Internet forums and like to “munch the popcorn” while watching the trolling ensue or even making trouble themselves — instead of doing something that contributes more effectively and visibly to their well-being. For instance, using a forum to conduct research about job opportunities.

    Others passively watch TV news waiting for stories of interest, when they’d be better and quicker served by a sleek aggregator like popurls.

    You’ve probably observed that you don’t have enough time, but for the time you’ve been spending on various activities, should you really care about all of them? Or can you look closer and go “meh” to some, empowering yourself through the joy of apathy?

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    I understand it’s a mental challenge to drop the slop, like trying to get rid of old clothes and hesitating, “I might need them someday!”. But apathy is about not wasting energy, saving resources, and having more of a “reserve” to spend in the future. Just like emptying your closet of unworn antiques gives you space to store new ones, caring less about some things — or not giving a damn at all! — makes you able to care more about others.

    Be bored of badness

    When I was younger, I used to get angry. A lot. Sounds like the Incredible Hulk, but there was nothing smashing about it. You know what intriguingly ended up happening? I experienced a lot of incarnations of anger, depression, and other baggage, like variations on a theme by Beethoven, and eventually found myself bored… numb… not caring. It created a void wherein I thought to myself, during some of my more sullen moments,

    “OK… if this is my life… what do I care about, and why?”

    Words like “purpose”, “meaning”, and “reason” often get trotted out here. The simple truth that connects those three words is a sense of focus, of direction, of finding your way.

    And focus certainly doesn’t mean “everything”; like using apathy skillfully, even artfully, it means picking something specific to target. Remember, apathy is easier than it seems, because not caring doesn’t require energy. (Pardon the double negative.)

    Don’t count on theory. Often in life, you just won’t know without the experience. Having lived through something. You cared about it, know what that’s like, and now you can lose interest and move on. The concept of losing interest in unhealthy emotions may sound bizarre, but it makes perfect sense. Emotions are often connected to external experiences, and just like the 100th rerun of a comedy sitcom episode isn’t going to be as funny or surprising as the first time around, going through phases of emotions and exploring them, even if they’re unpleasant ones, will teach you a lot about who you are, what’s worth caring about, and why.

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    Last Updated on November 17, 2019

    20 Creative Ways To Say Thank You

    20 Creative Ways To Say Thank You

    Saying, “Thank you,” can be difficult to do. Some things just demand a little something extra because of the magnitude of the favor or the depth of appreciation involved. But what can you do to say thank you in a meaningful way? Sometimes you have to get a little more creative than just firing off an email. Here are 20 creative ways to say thank you that your friends and family will remember and cherish!

    1. Make a gift bag.

    A unique, homemade gift bag with a custom label or a note is a simple but heartfelt way to show your appreciation for the wonderful things your friends or family have done for you.

    2. Give a toast.

    Many people fear public speaking more than death, giving this particular thank-you a little extra meaning. Composing a sincere, eloquent toast and delivering it is a nice way to show appreciation that truly comes from the heart.

    3. Write a poem.

    “Roses are red, violets are blue…” Uh, you could write that...but why not put a little extra zing in it? Find out what their favorite kind of poetry is: haiku, free verse, iambic pentameter, and so on. (Google them if you don’t know what they are.) Then write one that expresses why they deserve your thanks…and why you’re glad to give it!

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    4. Create your own labels.

    There are a number of websites that offer custom gift labels. Find one that fits your personality and that of your friends and create a personalized thank-you label!

    5. Give a gift card.

    Sometimes choosing what to give a friend can be tough. A gift card is a good way to get around this problem. As always, be sure to include a personalized note or card thanking the recipient for their friendship and help.

    6. Send a letter.

    Snail-mail is a largely lost art form. Don’t worry about how long the letter is, though. What really matters here is that you took the time to put pen to paper and express your feelings sincerely and honestly!

    7. Use social media to send a special message.

    If someone’s done something you think the whole world should know about, why not put out a social media blast? Use your blog, your Facebook, your Google+ account, and your Twitter to spread the word about why this person’s someone your friends will want to know too!

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    8. Make your own digital greeting card.

    While an email isn’t always the best way to go when saying thank you, a digital greeting card that you put time and effort into creating can really brighten someone’s day! Make the card reflect the recipient’s personality and compose a short message of thanks for their generosity.

    9. Make a YouTube video.

    Sometimes, actually hearing someone say, “Thank you,” can make all the difference. Why not take it a step further and create a special video of thanks for your friends, family, and those special people who helped make your day so important…or who helped you through that rough time?

    10. Deliver cookies or candies.

    Making something yourself is a fun and delightful way to say thank you to someone. Create a sampling of baked goods or homemade candies and decorate them with a simple message, or make them so they form letters! (Think Valentine’s candies, only situationally appropriate.) Attach a thank-you note or label and surprise those special people with the gift of your time and creativity.

    11. Make surprise gifts for guests.

    There’s no need to wait until “later” to send a thank-you message. Why not do it at the time? Create little gift packets or bags for your guests with surprises inside. This is a great way to say thanks to the people who attended your event, and make sure they won’t want to miss the next one!

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    12. Put together a flower basket.

    Whether you prefer fresh or artificial flowers, assembling a flower basket with a thank-you note is an excellent way to brighten someone’s day and show you appreciate them.

    13. Take a picture.

    Sometimes capturing the moment is the best way to put a smile on someone’s face. Have someone take a picture of you receiving that special gift or opening that surprise package and send the giver a copy with a quick but sincere note to say thanks!

    14. Repay their generosity by paying it forward.

    The best gifts come from the heart, and the best way to repay a gift is to pay it forward. If your friend has a special cause they care about or something they believe in passionately, why not make a donation in their name or volunteer some of your time to the cause? This will mean more than any number of cookies, candies, or thank-you notes because you’re taking your friend’s love and spreading it around to others.

    15. Do something special for them.

    Take them out to dinner. (See “make a toast.”) Give them that movie they’ve been wanting forever. Cook them dinner and give them a present when they arrive. Any of these are good options for showing someone you really appreciate them and how grateful you are to have them in your life.

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    16. Reciprocate their help.

    Everyone needs help sometime. Whether it’s holding their hand through a particularly traumatic incident or helping them replace the alternator in their car, being there when they need it shows you remember what they did for you and how much it meant. It also shows that you’re willing to be just as good a friend to them as they were to you!

    17. Be there for them.

    Not every thank-you gesture has to be a grand public spectacle. Sometimes just giving them a place to come hang out when they’re lonely or showing up to offer them a sympathetic shoulder means the world to a person.

    18. Listen to them.

    Listening is almost as lost an art as the handwritten letter. When your friend or family member needs to talk, listen to them. Ask questions when appropriate, but just letting them know you’re there and paying attention to them to the exclusion of all else for a little while is a great way to say thank you for the times they listened to you.

    19. Say it in another language…or two…

    A simple thank you is great…but why not spice it up a little? Instead of just saying, “Thank you,” write or make a video of you telling them thank you in different languages. Some examples might be, “Gracias! Merci! Danke schoen! Spasibo! Mahalo!” and any other ways or languages you can think of. (The ones listed above are Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Hawaiian, in case you were wondering.) If you want to really get tricky about it, say a short phrase in each language that conveys why you’re thanking them!

    20. Show them some love.

    A simple touch, a hug, or helping out when they need it without being asked may be the most powerful gratitude message you can send. Offer to take the dogs for a walk, sit for the kids for a few hours, or run to the grocery store so they don’t have to. The little things are often the most important and meaningful. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still send a note, but sometimes your simple presence and willingness to help is all that really matters.

    Featured photo credit: Hanny Naibaho via unsplash.com

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