In apathy and boredom, I see a state that serves to mask fatigue and depression, certainly, but most of all, I see that apathy and boredom mask anger that can’t be dealt with openly for some reason.
And this isn’t a bad thing!
APATHY (or BOREDOM): The Protective Mask for Anger
GIFTS: Detachment ~ Boundary-setting ~ Separation ~ Taking a time-out
WHAT YOUR APATHY DOES: Apathy is a protective mask for anger, and it arises in situations where you cannot or should not (probably) express your anger openly. Apathy can give you an excellent time out, as long as you don’t let it take you completely out of commission.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: The questions for apathy will often unmask your legitimate anger (and other emotions), so be ready to work with those subsequent emotions.
THE INTERNAL QUESTIONS: What is being avoided? What can be made conscious?
From the Apathy chapter in The Language of Emotions
This information comes from my book and audio learning program, The Language of Emotions.
Your anger and your sense of boundaries are deeply important to your sense of self and your ability to take your place in the world.
However, there are many places where your needs are not important, where your voice is not welcome, and where your sense of self simply doesn’t matter (think of a tedious course in school, an unloving relationship, or a soulless job).
And because your anger and boundaries are so important, there’s actually another emotion that I call a “masking” state that arises when you cannot (or will not) set your boundaries or speak your truth.
It’s apathy (or boredom), and sadly, it’s valenced very negatively. It’s hard to find any welcoming messages about apathy, and it’s usually treated as a sign of laziness or a lack of imagination.
Sometimes, it’s true that apathy is a sign that a person has lost their energy, their imagination, or their ability to care, but I would always ask why?
Why is apathy necessary?
What is happening around people that makes apathy so necessary? Why can’t they set boundaries or speak honestly? Where is the vulnerability that could help them deepen their relationships and identify what they truly value?
Why is this protective mask for anger necessary?
When you don’t have the energy or permission to work with your anger properly – when you aren’t able to protect your boundary or the boundaries of others, when you feel unable to speak out against the troubles or injustices you see, and when you feel incapable of affecting your surroundings – you’ll often move into the masking state of apathy.
Apathy is protective
A masking state helps you cover up your inner truths with a protective attitude that can distance you from uncomfortable situations. It can give you a necessary break from the situation, and its “I don’t care; I can’t be bothered; none of this matters” attitude can give you a sense of control.
Apathy may also seek distractions such as TV, fun food (as opposed to nourishment), new loves, travel, money, shopping, instant fame, instant meaning, and a quick and easy way out.
Apathy can be a dissociated state that’s related to being stuck in the wrong environment for your needs. It can take you away from the situation and set a boundary in a quiet and indirect way, and it can help you distract yourself when you cannot or will not use your anger openly.
Apathy is valuable
Apathy is a valuable and necessary emotional state, but as you may have discovered, it may pull you into a form of powerlessness or voicelessness if you rely on it without awareness. If apathy becomes a go-to state for you, you may lose your ability to set effective boundaries and relate to others openly in the face of difficulties and conflicts.
Luckily, there’s an empathic way to support your apathy and maintain your equilibrium around your need to detach yourself and take a time-out.
The protective message in apathy
Apathy points to a loss of boundaries, and to a distinct and urgent need for change, but it does so in a sort of sideways fashion. Apathy may gripe about things, but it doesn’t often accomplish much.
Conscious Complaining is an excellent practice for apathy, because it takes that griping and turns it into an intentional empathic practice.
Apathy is protective, and it can serve important functions in many situations where you can’t take effective actions. It’s important, and bringing consciousness to it can help us work with our apathy, instead of being worked over by it.
We actually need the masking state of apathy in unhealthy or unproductive situations where we can’t use our emotions properly.
Apathy can give us the freedom our situation won’t
Apathy can help you go inward when your outward situation is meaningless, unsuitable, or even abusive. Thank you, apathy!
We don’t live full lives, but our apathy keeps us going and provides a certain shielding from our deep issues (and the deep issues in our culture).
Apathy can mask our true selves and help us make it through meaningless times
Apathy lets us live on the surface, and sometimes, that’s all we can manage. Sometimes, all we can do is mask our true feelings and stay afloat with shiny and meaningless activities.
Our emotionally confused culture makes us believe that deep empathic living is impossible – as if true feelings or brilliant visions would slow us down unnecessarily, or prevent us from paying the rent, raising the kids, or turning the thankless crank.
That’s a lie, of course, but the overriding message in our culture tells us that we can’t stop to feel or dream, because we have to keep moving. In response, we can become highly distractible, and apathy can become the boundary-setter in our lives.
In the post below, I’ll share a practice for apathy can help us find our values, our boundaries, and our true meaning once again.
Related post: A healing practice for apathy