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The Epidemic of Apathy and Its Impact on Us

I think we can all agree that in recent years our world has changed a great deal in part because of the pandemic and also because of the many confusing, crazy and scary things happening in our world on a daily basis. In my opinion this has created a kind of collective apathy for many of us. I invite you to notice the degrees to which you relate to the information I’m about to share.

According to the website apathy is: “ the state of feeling completely indifferent about what’s going on around you.” It is the opposite of being interested, engaged, involved, enthusiastic. It is often accompanied by feelings of resignation and even depression.

According to Leon Seltzer, Ph.d in a blog from Psychology Today, “What’s lost is the fundamental hope that personal happiness or fulfillment is possible….Paradoxically, what makes the feeling of apathy unique is that it’s essentially the feeling of not feeling.”

Individuals can experience apathy as well as communities, groups and even society.

According to the website TorpidSloth, “In today’s world, we’re apathetic because the world we live in no longer inspires us to be better people and, as a result, we’re no longer interested in striving for our best selves. Most people are so busy, stressed and overworked they have little time for anything except what they have to do.

You don’t have to look very hard to see why we’re so apathetic. Perhaps it’s because we’ve become desensitized to our world being torn apart by terrorism and civil unrest, the number of natural disasters hitting record levels, the rise of cyber bullying and violence among teens, and the fact that we may soon face the greatest threat to humanity in the history of mankind. There is so much information that we just take it all in and we don’t even know we are doing it.”

Underneath apathy is the fact that we often feel overwhelmed and have a need to protect ourselves from the powerful, scary feelings we are experiencing. We also can feel powerless to change our world. We may place the blame on others, not feeling that the state of the world is our responsibility. Having to deal with all this reduces our motivation to even try.

I remember being impressed by the images in the story of the boiling frog. According to Wikipedia ”the boiling frog is an apologue describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly.” (Some have pointed out that if you drop a frog in boiling water it will immediately die.)

So much of what is going on in the world has gradually gone from the first shocking event (think of how you reacted first mass shooting that took place in the Columbine High School in 1999. It was considered to be the worst mass shooting in our country’s history. According to the website The Conversation “Now, it ranks fourth. The three school shootings to surpass its death toll of 13 – 12 students, one teacher – have all taken place within the last decade: 2012’s Sandy Hook Elementary attack, in which a gunman killed 26 children and school staff; the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 people; and now the Robb Elementary School assault in Uvalde, Texas, where on May 24, 2022, at least 19 children and two adults were murdered.” I think many of us when hearing of yet another school shooting are saddened but not shocked. We have a “Here we go again” attitude.

There are many articles and information online about apathy and what can be done about it. I suggest we each start with some personal reflecting on whether some of our underlying feelings are those of being powerless, overwhelmed, emotionally fatigued, numbed. You can try to shift some of these to consider where you do have power (you can go to the local school district board meeting to directly hear what’s going on in your community), how you can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed (spend less time on social media or watching the news,) how you can do things that are fun for you and or make you feel healthy (walking, going to the gym, connecting with friends to do something fun and anything else that gives you feelings of having some power), consider some ways to influence others, some ways to feel more engaged in the world around you (create your own blog and share your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives in the hope you can influence change).

The first step is recognizing your apathy. Next is deciding that you want to change that apathy and while you may not be able to suddenly become highly enthusiastic about life and our world, you could make those changes that gradually reduce apathy and allow you to lean into positivity. And remember we do these things one day at a time and sometimes one minute at a time.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. To what extent do you think you have experienced apathy in the last week? What are some of the thoughts you have had, signs and symptoms of that apathy?
  2. Consider how much you would like to reduce your levels of apathy so you can be more enthusiastic about life and can claim your power to make a difference, even in small ways. Plan to take even one or two small steps to reduce your apathy.
  3. Consider ways you can engage in conversations with others to join together in promoting more happiness and enthusiasm in all of your lives.