I recently bumped into an advice column where a woman wrote in saying,
?What Is Wrong With Me? I Don?t Care Anymore? My Life SUX!? I Don?t enjoy anything.I Don?t look forward to anything? I?m starting to lose interest. I don?t care anymore.?
And even though it low-key reads as fake/fabricated to me, I get the gist of it ? and I think many people feel this way.
I once wrote about ?knowing what you want? ? the struggle most of us have to discern how we even feel or what we actually enjoy, and the importance of identifying and understanding true interests to pursue.
And the ugly side of this is not when we pursue things without interest, but rather when we pursue things without interest but don?t care.
What are you supposed to do with that? How alarmed should we be at the fact that we do tons of things in our daily lives that we feel moderately interested in but don?t care that we don?t care?
Question 1: SHOULD we care?
In the 1999 film Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts? character, serial monogamist Maggie Carpenter, has spent so much time focused on her various partners? breakfasts that she doesn?t know how she herself prefers eggs.
When I first watched this, I didn?t really understand how that could happen. How could you not know your favorite eggs? (Poached, obviously.)
And today I understand it? things like that slip through the cracks ? but now I?m left wondering instead:
Should it matter? What if Maggie truly doesn?t care about eggs that much?
Answer: it depends.
Question 2: How BIG of a problem is this?
And: how pervasive?
There?s a lot I don?t care about. I don?t care whether my partner texts every day, or whether I get flowers or Christmas gifts, whether they leave the toilet seat up, or the toothpaste cap off. I don?t care what car they drive, or whether we use ?boyfriend? and ?girlfriend.? Some people call me too laid-back.
But I do care about the big things: mutual kindness, consideration, friendship, conversation, etc.
You can measure someone based on the size of the things that bother them.
And you can equally tell a lot about a person based on where they draw the line between what matters, and what does not.
So? are these little things that you don?t care about, or big things?
Or we talking ?eggs? and ?toothbrushes?? Or are talking ?career,? ?marriage,? ?kids??
Because if it?s little things, it?s probably okay ? maybe even healthy. But if it?s big things, that?s something else.
What if it IS big ? and pervasive?
It does a huge disservice to both ourselves ? and others ? when we ?bite the bullet? and ?pretend? or ?force ourselves? or ?try harder? to care when we don?t. The emotional energy required of this upkeep is just obscene.
The most common solution you?ll hear is: ?JUST START CARING!?
But it only works like that if you can.
There?s a subreddit called ?r/wowthanksimcured,? where users post all kinds of examples of people doing this ? as though the solution to ?not caring? is ?caring.?
The sub has over 150,000 subscribers, many of whom are likely suffering from clinical depression (and, by the sounds of it, dealing with it alone, without therapy, medication, etc.)
And while I myself am guilty of saying some of the things these subscribers complain about ? ?just decide,? ?do something,? etc. ? I can agree with them when they say that they?re depressed.
And it was what the advice columnist wrote in response? to the quote I opened it?
?You appear to be depressed? you are probably thinking to yourself, ?I didn?t need you to tell me that??
But what people maybe don?t know is this:
?You seem to be coping with your depression by acting like you don?t care, when it is obvious that you really do care.?
And if you do care, then the step here seems clear.
Maybe it is at a point where a therapist (or medication, or something) makes sense. And if that?s true: then walk through that door.
When you ARE doing something ? but it?s not fixed
I have friends who have been seeing therapists for months or years, growing slowly but still working on ? and, some days, suffering from ? the same issues. That?s okay ? sometimes things take progress. And that?s something a therapist should be equipped to walk you through.
What if I don?t want to see a therapist?
Why? I?ve seen therapists three times in my life even though none of them helped ? at least I keep the option open, and given them another shot. I know tons of friends who speak very highly of their experiences, many of whom wish they?d gone sooner.
Can we talk about something other than therapy?
But know: we?re back to the answer of ?you.?
Question 3: Why don?t we care even when it matters?
I don?t know.
It might be anxiety, uncertainty, ?lack of motivation,? lack of knowledge, broken morale, sadness, etc? but many of these are just different words for: lowered self esteem. Which is tough, because it?s a little bit chicken and egg.
What do we need?
Again, I don?t know. If it?s serious or big or pervasive or ongoing, I?m the first to admit I?m not the right person to talk to.
Self esteem is part of the answer, but the other part of the answer is a better understanding of ourselves. We don?t need to be interested in everything, but we should have an idea of what we?re interested in ? or, in the least, an understanding of how to identify the feeling of ?interest.? That, and then an honest understanding of our own values, and what actually matters to each of us as individual human beings in a vacuum.
- What matters is what you value ? both long-term, and at that time. Hopefully these two are in alignment, otherwise you?re going to be doing some damage (like binging at the risk of our health), but for the most part, doing the work of understanding these upfront ? and being honest and healthy about them (and understanding cause and effect) ? will go a long way in discerning what matters and what doesn?t; where to care, or not.
- It?s fine to not care about what doesn?t matter ? as long as you do care about what does. Dude, maybe Maggie Carpenter could go her whole life not preferring any one egg and maybe that could be totally okay. Maybe it?s okay not to have an opinion on everything, if one does have an opinion where it counts.
- When you stop caring ? and it does matter ? don?t just force it; ask yourself why. If you don?t love your work, why? What do you need? If you are overweight, why? What?s the core problem? If you are lonely, why? The point is that these problems aren?t what they look like, so blindly throwing ourselves at them aren?t the solution. Very often, they?re bundled and burdened with tons of emotional reasons, and it?s our job ? our obligation to ourselves ? to do the dirty work of unpacking it.
Question: Do you want to fix it or nah?
Some people don?t ? at least not deep down. Or they say they do but do nothing by way of taking action, which means they?re lying to themselves in addition to lying to everyone else. So? do you? (There is no ?later.? ?Later? means ?no.? There?s only point-in-time right now, because what you feel is right now.)
Fix your own pain
Chances are, you have a broken spirit ? from silencing yourself, or disregarding, or suppressing. You?ve lost touch.
The good news is that a broken spirit can often be fixed by pursuing things that we love (just as a spirit can be hurt by dumping energy into things we don?t ? and hurt even more when we withhold our spirit from things we do.)
So what to do when you don?t care ? and you don?t care that you don?t care?Sometimes professional therapy is best. But short of that: find at least one (healthy) thing you do care about, dump energy into it, and build from there. The rest, for most of us, will work itself out.