Relational Apathy

apathy_angel“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  ~  Alexander Pope

I’m sorry Alexander, but that is a load of…crap. I mean it’s true. But it’s horrible. It’s no way to do life and thrive and feel alive. And since I know that Alexander Pope was one of the best satirical poets of the eighteenth century, I’ve got to surmise that this is more satire.

Seriously. No one should live with zero expectation.

And yet I did.

In fact the modern-day twist would look something like this:   “Just say ‘fine’ or ‘whatever’ – pretend it doesn’t matter and before long it won’t.”

Blank Stares
…profound apathy.

Call it what you will but at some point in everyone’s life we respond to certain circumstances with these reactions. Usually because we are beat down and just tired of caring. That “caring” starts eating away at us like a battery acid. Slowly corroding away. Leaving us raw. Vulnerable.

Stopping the battery acid…that’s where apathy comes in. Apathy is soothing.

And trust me, there is a time and place for apathy. Sometimes we need it in a moment of persecution. It’s a way to endure trauma, hardship. It’s used by bullied kids—they might attempt to act like the horrific treatment, the meanness and rudeness and outright cruelty doesn’t bother them.

But… there is a problem. One circumstance of apathy is like a brick. Placed at the base of a heart. Your heart. And that’s okay. Mostly. But when issues aren’t dealt with they are like adding another brick. Then another, and another, until the brick wall around your heart is a fortress. Nothing can get in.

And here’s the issue, you might have built that wall surrounding one issue, but that wall prevents a lot of stuff from getting in. In fact in the worst of cases, NOTHING gets in.


I see this in teens. Angsty apathy breaks my heart. Because I know there is something that started the Wall of China. And taking the bricks down is hard work—especially when the mortar is hard and set. And even harder to take down when a wall inside a wall inside a wall is erected.

And it’s not just teens, its adults too.

My smart friend said apathy is like a comfy old sweatshirt. I agree, but with this added twist. What I know is that those comfy old sweatshirts that we slum around the house in are not the type of clothes we wear in public (at least we usually don’t). And truth, in the house, where we wear that tattered smelly stained comfy sweatshirt, is also where we tend display our apathy in full force.

Conversations are short. Shallow. Families, kids, parents, spouses stop trying. We treat strangers with more heart than those in the home of the comfy sweatshirt. We show kindnesses to friends, but those whom we live with get sloppy seconds—or none at all.

And here’s more truth, re-engaging—finding your way out of apathy is a risk. An absolute risk. Because it makes you vulnerable. It means taking down the bricks and exposing a tender and fragile heart.


Why? Because I also took down a Wall of China myself. I built it to protect me from years of hardship and heartache. And the taking down is not easy. But know this,

Every exposed nerve and fiber and bit of tender flesh is worth it. Because feeling alive in every part of your life leaves you whole. Integrated. Full.

Wholehearted (not half-hearted).

So how? Well for everyone it’s a little different but it starts with your action. Your action of taking down the first brick. And then the next. It is a forced action. And usually it’s painful because there is little motivation or inspiration to do so. You simply have to trust that, that wall, coming down, is the right thing to do.

And in the process if you need to create boundaries while the wall is coming down. DO IT!

Boundaries are like chain link fences in which you hold the gate key. Things can still get in out and of a chain-link fence. There are holes. You can get air. But for someone to truly touch the tenderness of your heart—that requires you letting them through the gate. So make good boundaries when taking down bricks. Oh and that wall, the Wall of China, there is NO air coming or going, no deciding what comes in and out. It’s stagnant. It’s apathy at it’s worse.

So take down bricks by sheer force and put up one of those caution-construction-zone-fences as a protective boundary.

So friend. If you think you might have one of these walls, or a portion of a wall built of apathy bricks, then ponder these thoughts:

  1. What was the reoccurring circumstance that built the wall, or portion thereof?
  2. When did the first brick go up, how long has it been like this?
  3. Are you still adding bricks, aka: is it still happening?
  4. Is the wall negatively effecting other parts of your life? (think before you answer—if you’re honest, chances are the answer is yes)?
  5. Are you ready to do something about it, to become whole and wholehearted again?
  6. Do you need help, perspective? Who can you trust to help?

Beautiful soul, be whole, be wholehearted. If I can do it, so can you.


Those soiled wings, yours, they can still be used for flight you know.

Coaching For A Creative WholeHearted Life™

Life Coach: MS, CLC, PCC ~~~ Creativity Coach: KMCC, CCA, Art4Healing®

© 2008-2013 Sherry Meneley All Rights Reserved soiled wings createheart create heart art journal journaling process art therapy

9 thoughts on “Relational Apathy

  1. Oh, dear; I don’t know if I like this one.
    I mean, it’s really good.
    Good stuff

    I dunno’
    You’re not talking about MY comfy sweatshirt, are you?
    I was just reading this because you always write good stuff, not because I needed one more thing to do. Certainly not one more hard thing – like dismantling a brick wall!
    Good grief!

    I really hope you’re not talking to me this time.
    But oh, dear…
    Maybe you are.

    THANKS A LOT, Sherry!
    You just had to do it, didn’t you?

    • Oh Kaye – we’ve ALL got the comfy stinky sweatshirts. The brick walls. I know. I know. I know. Hang on chickadee, seriously if I can do this, you can too. Or at a minimum you at least have the idea in the back of your mind and might stop building the wall, and wearing that sweatshirt. HECK you might even dab on some perfume… Ooo-la-la! 😉

      • Okay; I think I can take off the sweatshirt, but the wall? Sounds like really hard work. Really, really hard. But then I guess I can tackle only one brick at a time, huh?

        But first that old shirt…
        Whatever THAT means!

      • Just for the record. I like my bricks just FINE. I’m not sure I want to take down the ones I’ve stacked to protect my heart from getting hurt again from another man. I’m not sure I want to give my heart away to have the smallest chance it might get stomped on or beat up or ripped out. I’m not sure I could survive it a second time, since I barely survived the first. Yet I keep wanting to have hope that I just might one day have what I so long for… yet I know for this to happen, the bricks need to come down. OH the vicious cycle.
        LOVE you, you ALWAYS challenge me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr

      • Just a couple bricks. Trust yourself again. You’re smarter, wiser. And don’t forget that construction zone fence. Kimberly you are strong. So strong. I’m so sorry for the rough road… But it made you stronger.

      • …and then there are the times when you just don’t know whether this relationship is one to work on or whether to let it go. I mean, we can’t (shouldn’t try to) be intimate with huge numbers of people. We all pick & choose relationships – and then later have to choose whether to work hard on them or to let them die a natural death because we don’t have much in common – or any number of reasons. I tend to get stuck sometimes on knowing which is the right thing in the various situations. Usually I have a sense in my gut, but not always…

  2. Was just talking to a friend about this yesterday. My wall has definitely gotten taller as time goes on and different experiences tend to add more mortar. But then again, there are parts of my wall that have come down. Parts that no one but me can touch.The other part, well, I hesitate to admit this but I will…I think those bricks – the ones on THAT part of the wall – are really, really heavy and I need help removing them. Help from my soulmate. I haven’t met him yet, though. Until I do, I think they’ll remain there.

    Thanks for writing about this, Sherry.

    • I hear you Joyce. And I get that. Sometimes it just takes courage to remove a brick that’s bigger than you think you are, and allow Spirit/God/Call it what you will, to help you. Because some stuff is bigger and heavier that any other human can help us through. Although, lets be real, it’s wonderful to have a safe supportive soul to help along the way when you need that tactile help. Peace for your journey friend. Brick-by-brick.

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