We are taught to care about everything. Another way of saying this is we are taught to be codependent. Codependency is a behavioral disorder that bases your feelings on how everyone else is feeling. If everyone else is happy, you can be happy. When someone you love is unhappy, then you immediately have to find a solution to this problem because you can’t be happy until they are happy. The key to being confident and strong is to not allow what is going on around you affect your happiness or journey. In other words, you have to learn how not to be attached to what is happening around you. Indeed, if we can transcend the attachments and codependency that we form with others we will experience a new freedom and joy that will radiate out and affect all who we interact with.
Not caring and detachment does not mean lacking compassion. If someone is experiencing pain and suffering, we can have compassion for that person because we understand that is the human condition that we have transcended. We can give them comfort and support because that is our purpose in life, to help others. What we must stop doing is allowing other people to dictate how we feel about our life and ourselves. Have you ever had someone accuse you of “not caring”? “You don’t care about me” is the mantra of victim hood. When we “care” about someone, we tend to take responsibility for his or her happiness. That is not our job. Our job is to understand them and support them, and walk away if they persist in their victimhood and self-pity. Compassion has no attachments to their feelings or suffering, compassion understands everyone suffers and we can be kind.
True freedom requires that we detach in the sense that we are above the melodrama. Developing the ability to control and manage our compassion without attachment is the essence of integrity. We tend to get sucked into other people’s problems that will distract us from being our greatest version of ourselves. Not caring allows us to be comfortable within ourselves and free to help or detach from whatever problems others are experiencing. When we detach from our compassion, we do not suffer. We only observe. In order to be truly happy, we have to detach from everyone else’s problems. Again, this does not mean that we don’t open our hearts and send them healing and love, or even offer to help them. What it means is that we do not let other’s problems affect our happiness or equanimity. I know that I have enough to do to master my emotions and deal with my own issues. I do not let other people’s issues cause me suffering. That may sound selfish or cold, but it is being realistic.
One teacher shared with me that sentimentality causes more suffering than anything else. Sentimentality is being attached to everyone else’s pain. Sentimentality is wishing things were different, wishing things were like some half-remembered fantasy world that we build from the past. In order to be free, we have to have common sense and practicality in our lives. This requires detachment.
Now admittedly, many people find caring terribly exciting. They are the first to come to the door with casseroles and tissues and will stay for hours commiserating and gossiping. Is that helpful? Probably for the short term, but we need to empower each other, not enable victimhood. Unless we are enlightened gurus or psychotherapists, most people have no business trying to cheer each other up. How can you cheer someone up if you are miserable yourself? So stop it. A compassionate being will come and hold space for someone is suffering. Just be.
Ultimately, life is neutral, no adjectives required. It is our ego that wants to define, question, classify, control and manipulate. We have to allow life to happen, as it will, whether we care and try to control it, or not. When we stop caring, and detach, we can step back and enjoy life, rather than be controlled by it.