Mitzi Gayner in a scene reminiscent Busby Berkeley number, from the 1953 20th Century Fox “The I don’t care Girl”
Did you know that “I don’t care” and “It doesn’t matter” can be disguised cognitive distortions?
Sure, sometimes we really don’t care and some things really don’t matter. However, what we are discussing here are the times when we use these phrases as a kind of affirmation or verbal talisman in an effort to cope with unpleasant events or to banish unpleasant feelings. Contrary to what some people believe, REBT does not try to encourage people to respond to difficult events and feelings with a flat emotional affect. The goal of REBT is not to strive to become like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock; emotionally aloof and super-logical in our reaction to life. No matter how much we might love and admire the many fine qualities of the Spock character, he remains deeply flawed.
It is not whether something unpleasant matters or not. It is not whether we care or not. It is how much does it matter, how much do we care? Like all things, matter and caring exist on a spectrum with not caring ranging from zero on the left end, to some very deep, enduring sense of caring or significance on the far end. However, absolute zero probably doesn’t exist except for those things were are totally unaware of. In deep anesthesia, we don’t care that doctors are cracking open our chest, removing our heart and replacing it with a shiny new one! At least, we probably don’t care at the moment, but undoubtedly cared a great deal before surgery, and will care deeply when we emerge from the anesthesia and in the days and weeks following. So me thinks that to be conscious is to care and to see (some)things as more or less significant (mattering) as compared to some other things.
Burglars don’t care about the opinion of the people the steal from or about the opinion of the civil society in which they live. Perhaps they are desperate and have overridden their natural inhibitions in order to attend to some desperate circumstances. Or, perhaps, the are sociopaths and simply don’t give a damn. In any event, such detachment and aloofness is not something to strive for, is it?
The middle way is simple to acknowledge that we do care about what others think, and we do think what happens matters . . . but not to the extend of disturbing ourselves about it.
So, how do we do that? Well, studying REBT is a great way to accomplish it.
However, you can start today, right now. The next time some unpleasant emotion or event happens and you notice yourself trying to bat it away with the talisman “I con’t care!” or “It doesn’t matter,” replace that distorted thought something “cooler,” more rational and helpful such as
“This is a bummer . . . but it is not the end of the world! And even though I would strongly prefer that it not be happening, there is nothing that says it mustn’t be happening.”
As you practice, you will find that you can allow yourself to care . . . but not too much, not to the extent of upsetting and derailing yourself. And you won’t need to try to deny reality in order to get there!
What a deal!
© 2017, Rex Alexander. All rights reserved.
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