One of the heaviest truths that weighs on my heart is that we as a society have learned–and go as far as teaching our young–how to not care. As if it were a switch in the mind, people seem to be capable of turning off the act of caring.
When we decide not to care we are left with systems built to abuse, bullies running rampant, foods that leave us ill, jobs that leave us sleepless with anxiety. This weighs on me. It presses on my chest making it difficult to breathe.
There are tempting reasons to shut off caring: self-protection, feeling of hopelessness, feeling the problem is too big and that you’re too small, weariness of vulnerability, fear of losing a job and your livelihood. All of these reasons are valid; they are steeped in fear, unspoken threats, and avoidance.
Deciding to care means you, first, must understand what shuts you down so that you can override the impulse to shut down. Let’s take a look at what prompts us to shut down:
Emotional Triggers are deeply rooted in your brain. We have our personal understanding of who we are and what makes us special; when our brain perceives that someone plans to or has taken something important to us, we experience immediate anger or fear that can leave us blind with rage. When you’re experiencing that rage, that is a sign that one of your emotional triggers has been triggered.
Emotional Triggers are placed into our internal landscape during childhood and as we grow, we acquire more. The experience of an emotional trigger going off is not pleasant, and to avoid this experience, we may choose to shut down. We may distance ourselves from whatever or whomever triggered that experience. Distancing yourself from unhealthy people can be the healthiest decision for you, but how can you distance yourself while still caring?
Where caring comes in: Once you are aware of your Emotional Triggers, the next options you have are 1) to ignore them or 2) take action. Caring means you decided to acknowledge the trigger and the result of being triggered and you want more for your life and the happiness of those around you. Seeking out coaching or counseling to help de-power your triggers will reveal your choice to care and your choice to heal.
Feelings of Helplessness are instilled within us from early ages as well. We are taught to believe that we are small and the world is big. We are told that we are individuals and the systems are numerous. We start to believe that we don’t have the power to make a difference or leave an impact. Individual changes start with individual choices and this is…
Where caring comes in: Deciding what you want topics you want to have a voice about is important to activating the choices you make in your life. If you are passionate about saving our earth, choosing not to purchase plastic water bottles is a decision you make and a behavior you alter which results in less plastic ending up in the ocean, at least on your watch. Individual choices when viewed with collective glasses add up to noticeable change, if individuals choose to care.
Fear of losing something is a powerful silencer. When I was a child I witnessed bullying of a kid smaller than me and I verbally – almost physically–went after the bully. I was stopped by teachers, however, and I was not told my personal stand up against the bully was a positive quality. Instead, I was told I need to learn to control my emotions and words; I was told to suppress my feelings and “stay out of it.” I learned from this experience that I should stay quiet, watch other people get hurt, just let them deal with it. I also learned that I would receive punishment for standing up against someone, even if the purpose of my standing up was driven by my personal values. Similar circumstances unfold later in life with adult variables in play; “stay out of it,” “it’s none of your business” allow for a lot to occur.
Where caring comes in: Making decisions with fear as your foundation tends to shrink you. Stand up . Standing up is caring. Figure out what your values are so that you’re prepared to stand by them. Then, stand by your values and find a way to make the situation a little better for yourself or someone else.
Self-protection tends to come into play when we are lacking trust in someone or something. This can also look like emotional or physical distancing.
Where caring comes in: Noticing your behavior and taking steps to adjust that behavior will reveal why you felt the need to shut down in the first place. When you feel yourself hunkering down or shutting out someone or something, ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” The answer to that question may reveal a lot.
When we decide to care we are making a declaration that we are not okay with whatever is occurring. Making that declaration is the first step to self healing or social activism; it is the first step to changing your personal habits or the harmful systems around you. Making the world a better place starts with you caring.
- What shuts you down?
- What do you care about?
- What values do you stand by?
- In what area would you like to see something different happening?