befriending apathy


Barren desert
Apathy is like walking through a barren desert except you don't recognize that's where you are

Where empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, apathy is the lack of feeling, emotion, interest or concern...a state of indifference.


I had been wearing my armor of overfunctioning so long that I had lost touch with my emotions. I had also been working in social work for awhile and exposed to the constant sadness of the individuals and situations that I found myself assisting with. My personal life had experienced some gut punches too. All of it was a perfect path to a state of apathy.


Basset Hound
Hampton, the most-loved Basset Hound

It wasn't until the unexpected loss of my fur-baby that forced me to be present in my own life. That's when I realized that, other than feeling fragile and grief for my loss, I was in a complete state of apathy for anything or anyone else.


While working through my grief, I recognized my internal cue to move toward vulnerability showed up as apathy. I could hear in my head, "Why bother." It was never a question, but rather a definitive statement not to be disputed. That's when I knew I had to befriend apathy. I had to learn to live alongside apathy, welcome it and ask what it wanted to teach me.


If I didn't befriend apathy, I was destined for a life of loneliness and overfunctioning. As I grow in understanding and honoring my empath ways, there's less room for apathy.


According to Dr. Leon Seltzer, apathy is an attitude and its' primary job is to keep up the roadblocks of engaging in life. Once the conscious decision is made to remove apathy from it's pedestal, you can begin to take part in life once again by:

  • figuring out where the apathy is coming from and reframing your beliefs. Fill your heart and mind with compassion, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness for yourself as you learn where the apathy originated. Give yourself permission to move beyond the negative messages of the past.

  • making the leap from passive observer to active participant. Start by making a list of what isn't working for you and what could make your situation better. If a specific situation isn't ready for change, decide if you can accept it for what it is, get over it and move on.

  • shaking up your routine. Choose Living Bravely and challenge yourself to do something new and different. Pick things that represent Living Bravely by your definition! Turn that "wish" or "want" into action, i.e. I wish I took more time to pleasure read. Turn that into, "I am scheduling 20 minutes one day a week (or more) to read (or listen to) my book." Make an appointment on your calendar, with a reminder, to help you keep your promise to yourself. Be mindful every time you sit down to watch TV or pick up your phone to scroll social media. What could you do instead that would make you feel alive? Consider anything that will feel like a breath of fresh air from the routine.

  • think back to happier times when you felt alive. What hobbies did you enjoy that you are no longer doing? Are there friends you used to do things with? What about these things or people made you feel alive? Close your eyes and experience these again through your memories.

  • focus on a goal to pursue right now. Pick a goal that helps you creatively re-engage with life. Select a goal that best captures your attention and interest and can be easily completed. Don't choose anything complex or overwhelming. Celebrate a quick WIN for you!

I helped myself move from apathy to empathy by adopting the phrase, "Say'YES' to life!"


I still use this phrase to ward off apathy when it starts creeping back in. I keep a list, on a visible whiteboard in my office, of the things I do as a result of saying YES to life. At the end of a year I transfer the list to my bucket list journal and start with a fresh whiteboard. I can revisit events that made me feel alive by reading my journal. And the whiteboard is my constant reminder to be present and engage in life!




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