The effects of indifference

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Robert Maurer
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The effects of indifference

It is common to think that indifference means not feeling anything in front of a situation or a person, that we don't care about anything. But is it really possible to isolate our emotions in this way?

Last update: 30 November 2022

Indifference is a neutral affective state. We tend to define an indifferent person as someone who "does not feel emotions or suffer". It is a feeling that keeps the person in question aside. However, the effects of indifference inflict deep wounds.



When we think of an indifferent person, we attribute to him a series of adjectives that have little or nothing to do with the ideal of virtue. Indifference is associated with numbness, detachment or coldness.

It is these characteristics that are presumed to be contrary to the social condition of human beings and which allow us to relate to each other.

"Sometimes indifference and coldness hurt more than total aversion."

-JK Rowling-

Being indifferent implies that “nothing matters to us “; that we feel nothing in the face of a situation or a person, that we are not interested in anything. But is it really possible to isolate our emotions in this way?

In reality, when we are indifferent to something or someone, we approach or distance ourselves from that person or circumstance.

Indifference hurts

Life is full of times and circumstances when choosing to be indifferent isn't always the best option. We can care more or less, but we can never stop feeling emotions.

We perceive any stimulus and as a result we decide whether to approach it or move away. Absolute indifference, therefore, is never possible.


Popular wisdom says that appearing indifferent is the hardest answer, even when we expect little from a situation or person. It is proved that this attitude is one of the most aggressive and painful we can project.


Being indifferent to someone involves withdrawing all our feelings, as if they don't exist for us. Is there anything more cruel?

“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but the indifference between life and death. "

-Elie Wiesel-

This is why it is said that the opposite of love is not hatred, but indifference. Because there is nothing worse than being imperturbable; this hurts close people such as partners, family, friends, etc.

This indifference falls short of expectations, since there is no support from the indifferent individual. Sometimes we even prefer to receive some unpleasant words because we interpret it as a sign that we are still important to the other person.

When we are victims of indifference, the discomfort experienced translates into:

  • Bewilderment and discomfort. Even if we have low expectations, we always expect something from others. It follows that when they are indifferent to us, we feel unstructured.
  • Low self-esteem and personal insecurity. Because indifference makes us understand that we are too small to generate a response in others.
  • Anxiety, having to understand what the other feels or thinks.
  • Feeling of solitude.

The effects of indifference

Indifference translates into suffering for those who receive it, generating unbearable tension and confusion. That is why we must face it.


The first step is to try a gradual approach towards the other person to let her know how her attitude affects us.

There may not be an immediate answer, but it's good to be patientrather than closing the bridges. Sometimes a period of reflection leads to that long-awaited step or perhaps you can find someone to act as a mediator.


However, sometimes we may not achieve the approach we seek. In that case it is better to accept what is happening. The obsession with the indifference of others can lead us to experience very unpleasant moments.

"The worst sin towards our fellow man is not to hate them, but to treat them with indifference: this is the essence of inhumanity".

-George Bernard Shaw-

Impermanence to counter the effects of indifference

When we accept indifference, we have to look to the horizon with the idea that we will not always be as important to others as we would like. Although it is a painful process, it will help us understand that our happiness cannot depend on one person alone.


If others decide they are indifferent to us, forcing them to listen to us is not the best option. Better to learn to let go.

When we come to the conclusion that the other person has no intention of changing their behavior, it is best to distance themselves. We can always find other people who appreciate and support us.

In this way we will have understood the Buddhist concept of impermanence, that is, that everything changes: whoever is our friend today could stop being so tomorrow.

If we integrate this concept into our daily practice, it will be easier for us to accept the effects of other people's indifference.

A means of protection

But indifference is not always negative. It is also a defense mechanism, and we keep it tight so as not to suffer continuous disappointments in the face of the vicissitudes of life. "Don't get involved" or "never expect anything" is a way to protect yourself.


In this case, more than a passive act, indifference would consist in the active act of accepting everything that can happen. Be open to a world of possibilities and accept that any event could happen.

If we did not have the ability to resort to neutrality, if we were to give a negative or positive response to every stimulus we receive, we would end up exhausting ourselves.

The secret, therefore, is not to expect anything, in this way, opening up to all possibilities, everything is welcome. If it is positive, perfect; if it is negative, we can turn it into a life lesson.

“Aggressive words don't hurt that much. Long silences hurt more. "

-Anonymous-

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