How to Push Back Against Indifference

Yesterday’s post explored 5 facts about indifference. Sometimes we can be indifferent in our relationship, sometimes we can lean into it when it comes to a specific situation such as our health – in any case, the first step is to recognize the indifference and how it might be affecting us in both  the short and long term. It is often easy to overlook the little things we used to do to take care of our loved ones, or ourselves, but this will create a cumulative effect, and before we know it, the issue has become larger than we anticipated.

  1. Examine and recognize. Take some time to self-reflect as to where indifference might be playing a role in your life.
  2. Write out some goals as to how to begin the process of caring again. Do a little online research, figure out attainable goals that you can begin to incorporate into the area that best needs some care.
  3. Action. We will never get there if we don’t put our goals into motion. Not only does this help with combatting the indifference, we tend to automatically feel better when we are focused on movement.

When we can address the areas in our life to which we have become complacent, we can also begin to recognize how that might be affecting others in our lives as well. Pushing back against indifference is an important step in creating a healthy emotional life.

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5 Facts About Indifference

Indifference is defined as lack of interest, concern or sympathy. It can be what feels like a global trait, or it can be quite specific to a person or situation. Here are 5 facts about indifference:

  1. Indifference can develop as a way to protect ourselves. If we grew up in a home in which we were emotionally neglected, we can often appear ‘cold’ to those around us; we can even surprise ourselves at times with lack of what would be considered appropriate feelings.
  2. Overexposure can lead to indifference. This is most often recognized as a feeling of helplessness to the problems of our world. We get inundated with so many images in social media, that we become overexposed to tragedy and this can lead to a feeling of indifference – especially towards being able to fix it.
  3. Indifference is a silent relationship killer. When we stop caring about the little things, the contributions we make to keeping a relationship healthy, to forethought – we run the risk of allowing indifference to change the way our loved one feels about us.
  4. Indifference can be a byproduct of depression or addiction. When we are depressed, we tend to not care. This will send out a ripple effect towards those around us. When addiction is present, its fight for primacy will create a lack of concern for how those around you are being affected.
  5. Indifference can be the price of selfishness. The value that Western society has placed on achievement and success can often lead to greed; we begin to not care about what feeds our soul and instead focus on material happiness. This can lead to feelings of indifference as our focus is misaligned.

The first step in conquering indifference is to recognize the role it might be playing in your life. Tomorrow’s post will explore how we can begin to push back when indifference is present and taking up too much space.

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Take the Time

What a lovely reminder by Christy Ann Martine that we can take the time to reset our systems through the ever graceful calm of nature:

When your world moves too fast

and you lose yourself to the chaos,

introduce yourself

to each color of the sunset.

 Reacquaint yourself with the earth

beneath your feet.

Thank the air that surrounds you

with every breath you take.

Find yourself in the appreciation of life.

– Christy Ann Martine

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Anger 101

Anger is a universal emotion; when we see an angry face, we are able to instantly recognize the emotion. It is also our safest emotion; we know not to ‘poke an angry bear.’

Anger is a useful emotion in that it produces an action; it also provides relief. Anger however, is only productive when it is in our control; as soon as it moves to aggression (raised voice, yelling, hitting, name calling, etc.) it is no longer in our control and then works against us. When that “angry bear” shows up, it is either going to keep others from engaging with us or increase the conflict (anger will automatically make you feel defensive; it’s a survival strategy.)

We are in a much better place when we can recognize our anger and then work to keep our cool. Anger is always precipitated by another emotion. Sometimes this is sheer frustration, but other times we skip over our vulnerable feelings such as sadness, guilt, fear and go right to anger to keep us safe from those tougher emotions. When we feel anger rising, we need to take a deep breath and ask ourselves “What am I feeling first?” Just focusing on this initial feeling can often help keep the anger away from a place that begins to feel out of control.

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A Way to Accept

Sometimes we have a hard time accepting something and as a result we lean into eternal hope. That place where anything is possible; where miracles can happen and what we wish for will come true. Perhaps we hope that a relationship will improve, or an outcome will come out in our favour – perhaps we realize that the boundaries we put in place are respected, or our expectations that someone will change will come to pass. Although eternal hope is usually linked to our emotion brain, we can also use our logical brain to help us accept that what we wish for may not be possible.

My friend Gurlie (and fellow therapist) remarked something to me that she had learned from a client that indeed could help us to accept what will come to pass –  “While it’s possible, it’s not probable.” 

We may know it’s possible, yet the facts also allow us to recognize that it may not be probable. What a soft and gentle way to help us accept what we perhaps are struggling with.

Thanks Gurlie!

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The Benefits of Volunteering

If there are two things that have been confirmed to me as a therapist, it is that we like plan and purpose. We feel better when moving forward (no matter the pace), and when the essence of our being aligns with purpose. We feel comforted by meaning – in our work, play, family life, community. One of the ways to achieve this is through volunteering with an organization or cause that is dear to us. Being service oriented allows us to focus on other; to make a difference:

  • Volunteering decreases the likelihood of developing depression. When we volunteer, it most likely includes social interaction which helps to fend off loneliness and depression. It also helps to keep us engaged – an important element to keeping the blues away.
  • Volunteering improves our physical health. An article from Harvard Medical school notes that “A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.”
  • Volunteering builds empathy. When we are service oriented, our focus is the other – we are more likely to experience what it feels like to be in another life position. We will begin to understand and relate to people in a more empathic way.
  • Volunteering can help your career. Never underestimate how volunteering can add to your overall work life – my first job right out of university was with an organization I had volunteered with the previous summer.
  • Volunteering allows joy into our lives. In our busy lives, we often forget to actively seek joy. If we volunteer on a regular basis, we are allowing moments of happiness and fulfillment into our life experience.

We are always comforted by plan and purpose. As Mahatma Gandhi once said The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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Fairy Godmother

I love the thought behind this quote: “What if your fairy godmother is the wisest, smartest version of your self – whispering from the future? -Blissimo”

One thing that I know for sure is that I am certainly a wiser version of myself at 52. The knowledge and experiences that we gather along the way help to inform our decisions, allow us to be more aware of our surroundings and can definitely help us to not feel quite so defenseless when faced with adversity. Perhaps what adds to this wiser, smarter version of ourselves is also a conscious decision on our part to always be moving forward, for it is in growth that we find the ability to be reflective. It is about being curious, not only about what interests us, but also about the things that hold us back; to give ourselves permission to expand or change what may not be working for us anymore; to attend to our instincts. Perhaps it is in this evolutionary time and space of growth that we can experience the unfolding of our selves into our own fairy godmother.

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A Body in Motion Stays in Motion

Who would have thought that Newton’s First Law of Physics was going to be useful in helping to understand the cycle of depression? But his Law of Inertia is often a good way to comprehend how depression can take hold of us.

Depression uses two ways to keep us in it’s grip. One is through isolation; it likes to isolate us from the activities we like to enjoy and the people we like to spend time with. The second way is that depression kills effort; we often feel a change in our levels of motivation when feeling blue. Take isolation and no effort and we have the perfect recipe for disengagement.

What is interesting about this, is that disengagement itself can lead to feeling blue. If we purposefully stayed in bed for days (when we weren’t in a depressed state), we would soon begin to experience the symptoms of depression! And so we can turn to Newton for some advice when it comes to beating the blues – get moving! Get up, get showered, make plans, get outside (even if you don’t feel like it); for a body in motion stays in motion and you will feel better for it at the end of your day.

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Instead of Saying “Calm Down…”

When our kids are having a meltdown, tough go, or panic attack we can inadvertently compound the situation by telling them to ‘Calm down’ or ‘Relax.’ Most of the time, this is also said with a tone that is less than calm.

Taking a deep breath ourselves before using these alternatives will help to deliver a supportive message:

“You look upset. Do you need a hug? 

“I can see that you are struggling with something. Do you need my help?”

“Hold my hand and let’s take a few deep breaths together.”

“Let’s fix this problem together.”

“Let’s start by counting to 10 together.”

“I can see that you are upset. Tell me about what is bothering you.”

“I’m listening.”

As parents, we have the ability to teach our children that the emotions they are feeling are valid. We can give them the gift of normalization by acknowledging their emotional struggle. By focusing in on how to calm when anger or upset takes over, we are teaching them that they have the ability to contain, process and choose an alternative behaviour. It may take a bit of practice on our part, but the outcome will be worth the effort. 🙂

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A Poem about New Beginnings

To compliment yesterday’s post on beginnings and endings, this lovely prose by Lang Leav is entitled “New Beginnings.”

New Beginnings

If I have learned anything this year, it is that I won’t ever be ready for what life throws at me. I won’t have the right words when it counts; I won’t know what to choose when fate itself is staring me down. But now I know I don’t always need to have the right answer.

I’ve learned I can go on waiting for something, sustained by hope and nothing more – or I can put it aside and shrug my shoulders. Bravely accept the fact that I can’t keep my heart safe any more than I can stop love from taking everything from me.

I have learned to stop saying yes when I don’t mean it – to live as authentically as I know how. To allow the tips of my fingers to skirt the darkness, as long as I remember to keep my eyes fixed on the light. And as one door opens and another closes, I will move forward with the knowledge that unlike so many others, I have another year ahead of me – another shot at making it all the way around the sun, and a chance to get it right this time. 

Lang Leav

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