Indifference is a neutral affective state. We tend to define an indifferent person as someone who ‘neither feels nor suffers’. It’s a feeling that keeps them on the sidelines. However, when someone exhibits indifference toward you, you feel quite badly wounded.
When you think of an indifferent person, you think of insensitivity, detachment, and coldness. They’re qualities that are contrary to the usual human condition and our abilities to relate to each other.
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
Being indifferent implies that ‘nothing matters.’ It means you don’t really feel anything. Furthermore, you’re pushing yourself away from the person or circumstance you’re indifferent to.
Life is full of moments when choosing to be indifferent isn’t particularly helpful. However, although you may not care much, you can never completely stop feeling. Indifference is a resource that allows you to choose which stimuli you react to. However, absolute indifference is never possible.
Conventional wisdom says that appearing indifferent is the harshest kind of behavior. It’s proven that when you display it, this attitude is one of the most aggressive and painful that you can exhibit. In fact, being indifferent to someone implies that you’re withdrawing all your feelings, that they don’t exist for you. Could there be anything crueler?
“The opposite of love is not hatred, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
For this reason they say that the opposite of love isn’t hatred, but indifference. Because there’s nothing worse than being indifferent to someone. It hurts even more if it involves someone close, like a partner or a family member.
When someone shows indifference toward you, it destroys your expectations of them as you thought they’d always be there for you. However, instead of finding support, you find nothing. As a matter of fact, you might sometimes even prefer them to say something unpleasant to you because you think at least it’d mean that you mean something to them. However, when they say nothing, you feel like you no longer matter.
The consequences of indifference
When you’re a victim of indifference, the discomfort you experience translates into:
- Bewilderment and uneasiness. Even if you only have low expectations, you always expect something from others. Therefore, when they’re indifferent to you, you feel confused.
- Low self-esteem and personal insecurity. This is because indifference makes you feel like you’re too insignificant to generate a response in others.
- Anxiety. You have to try and figure out what the other feels or thinks
- Feelings of loneliness.
As we’ve already said, indifference entails suffering and generates unbearable tensions and confusion. That’s why you have to face it. You should try and gradually approach the other person and let them know how their attitude is affecting you.
They may not respond immediately. Therefore you should be patient. As a matter of fact, sometimes, a period of reflection leads the other person to take action. Or, perhaps you can find someone to act as a mediator. However, there’ll probably be times when nothing works. If that’s the case, it’s best just to accept what’s happening. Indeed, being obsessed with another’s indifference can lead you to experience some extremely unpleasant moments.
“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”
-George Bernard Shaw-
When you accept indifference, you start to look to the future with the idea that you won’t always matter to others in the way that you’d like. Although this is a painful process, thinking about it will help you to recognize that your happiness doesn’t depend on one person. In fact, if they decide to be indifferent to you, forcing them to listen to you isn’t the best option. It’s better to learn to let them go.
When you come to the conclusion that they’ve intention of changing their behavior, it’s best to distance yourself. You can always find other people who do value and support you. When you do this, you come to understand the Buddhist concept of impermanence. In other words, everything changes. For example, that person who’s your friend today may not be tomorrow. If you can integrate this thinking into your daily life, it’ll be easier for you to put up with the indifference of another person.
A means of protection
However, indifference isn’t always negative. It also acts as a defense mechanism. In fact, you hold on to it so as not to suffer continuous disappointments in the face of life’s vicissitudes. Indeed, keeping your distance or not expecting anything from anyone is a way of protecting yourself. In this case, indifference is more than just a passive act. It’s the active behavior of accepting everything that may happen. It means being open to a world of possibilities and accepting that other events along the same lines may happen.
If you didn’t possess the ability to resort to neutrality, and you had to give a negative or positive response to every stimulus you receive, you’d be exhausted. Therefore, the answer is not to expect anything. In this way, by opening yourself to all possibilities, everything becomes welcome. If it’s positive, perfect; if it’s negative, the best you can do is turn it into a learning curve.
“Harsh words hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart.”