Are You Struggling with The Burden of Apathy?
Life can be an intricate dance and one thing is certain - we are all likely to make mistakes. We might end up making disastrous choices at times and at other times we are going to fail to act when everything inside ourselves says we should. None of us is perfect, we will fall short and fail in our personal behavior time and time again. When faced with a situation where we can make a good or bad choice, the final decision and our response to the challenge will illuminate how effectively we are managing our lives. Cultivating a healthy sense of self respect is directly linked to your ability to take ownership of every aspect of your own behavior –the defining and the catastrophic.
Making Healthy Choices
If you habitually avoid taking responsibility in your life it might have dramatic outcomes for your mind, heart, body and soul. Failure to be able to act or make right choices in your life will chip away at your ever-diminishing sense of self. If you routinely fail to stand up and accept your part in the events around you, that you had a hand in creating, people around you will slowly lose all respect for you. I once had a client with some very apparent narcissistic qualities to them. The need within them was very palatable in the transference. The more we met with one another, the more and more I could tell that what they wanted most from life was respect. Yet, any time we had to reschedule, they would inevitably misread the email not show up and the issue would become something else.
In our youth, we were probably oblivious to the potentially drastic consequences of our poor choices and inability to take responsibility. Or in the above case, the effect that we have on others. However, every day presents a new possibility to make different, healthy choices to shape our lives for the better. It’s an ongoing journey that never ends. It’s never too late. You will bring more value into your personal life when you start actively taking responsibility for your actions.
Self Blame and Spiritual Excuses
But it’s also important not to get into constant self blame that can become a destruction pattern in itself. There is no point in beating yourself up about past actions because self-punishment won’t bring us to self-understanding. Self-blame is not the same as taking responsibility.
Another route people take in avoiding taking responsibility is laying the ‘blame’ at the feet of a higher power. They indulge in ‘spiritual excuses’ that can result in extreme apathy. “It’s God’s Will”, can be the ultimate excuse for not taking responsibility for a situation you had a hand in creating. They resign themselves to accepting everything that happens to them as occurrences that they cannot control in any way.
“What is called “apathy” is, I believe, a feeling of helplessness on the part of the ordinary citizen, a feeling of impotence in the face of enormous power. It’s not that people are apathetic; they do care about what is going on, but don’t know what to do about it, so they do nothing, and appear to be indifferent.” Howard Zinn
This form of apathy can often lead to a helpless depression. My clients who are struggling with depression have described the state as feeling stuck and that nothing changes in their lives. They do the same thing every day - wake up, get dressed, eat, go to work and feel strangled by the sameness. Their paralyzing apathy linked depression makes them feel as though nothing will ever change. They don’t believe anything can provide them with satisfaction or fulfillment. They are afraid that they might come to the end of their lives without having done anything of importance or experienced any life-defining joy.
Sometimes clients have put in extraordinary effort into advancing in their lives but at some point gave up when they didn’t see the progress they desired. They stopped paying attention to the wonders life has to offer and became numb to everything. The spiritually passive person will resort to saying, “it’s God’s plan”, whereas the apathetic individual says, “what does it all matter anyway”. The latter is a severe thought form as it can lead to thoughts of committing suicide.
Taking Active Responsibility
I am deeply compassionate to these people who are in such fragile states of existence but as a therapist, I firmly believe the antidote is in taking active responsibility for creating our lives. I have even heard a client say that they aren’t suicidal but if they were suddenly in front of a fast moving vehicle they might not get out of the way.
I am should know what to say to these people in pain but if truth be told, it’s tricky, I feel both pity and frustration. When a person’s mind digs a grave for itself, it will take more than faith and a hopeful, transcendent feeling to overcome the life crisis. When people are in this hopeless state it is as if the soul has been ejected from the body and self-governing wisdom has flown the coup.
Misinterpreting Your Reality
Philosopher, Michael Tanner calls this “sentimentality”. A sentimentalist, as Tanner explains it is “someone who misinterprets reality, someone who is self-indulgent, and someone who avoids action.” It’s like being in a self imposed limbo, you’re clearly stuck but aren’t concerned about the situation or even motivated to change it. The individual is misinterpreting their reality and in the process are not able to take any action in their lives. They attempt to justify their inability to deal with situations by creating a kind of bubble of innocence around them which is of course a complete fiction.
When people spend a lot of time in their “bubbles” they are prone to becoming self-indulgent. If our overwhelming emotions are not dealt with maturely it can result in dangerous consequences. The self-indulgent individual might often like to stay swimming in negative emotions and continuing with actions that they know will only bring them pain. They are also often brilliant masters of blame shifting.
It’s vitally important to feel our emotions and reliving the pain of them is a great therapeutic tool to find healing. It is good to face the feelings in order to move on in our lives. A sentimentalist, however, might choose to stay in the dark ocean of negativity. They might not experience any improvement in their situation because they are knee deep in pessimism. If you are disconnected from the reality of your life it is almost impossible to take responsibility for what is happening to you and to take the right action.
“Peak performance begins with your taking complete responsibility for your life and everything that happens to you.”