Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Secret Is Not to Care

flames candles.jpg
I’m speculating here but I think that we freak out less about decisions–big and small–when we get to a point in our lives when we simply care less about things. That’s what Gretchen Rubin recently wrote in a wonderful post called “The Secret Is Not to Care.” She writes:


A friend told me this story, and I’ve never forgotten it, though the following anecdote about G. Gordon Liddy may not, in fact, be true; I’ve never verified it. According to my friend, Liddy once held his hand over a candle flame until his flesh burned. Someone asked, “What’s your secret?” and he replied, “The secret is not to care.”


I think about this phrase constantly: “The secret is not to care.” Because if I don’t want to let certain things make me unhappy, the secret is not to care.

I think this “secret” is important, because while we can’t exercise complete control over the things we care about, we can take notice, remember that some of our concerns are idiosyncratic, and try to master them where appropriate.

This rings true for me. Ironic as it is, one of the most peaceful moments I experienced was talking to my friend Mike Leach from my hospital room in Johns Hopkins psych ward. I remember him telling me to care less … about everything except loving Eric, my kids, and a friend or two. That’s it. He said. There’s my job. Nothing else matters.


I go back to that moment so often. When I wrap myself in a tizzy over the best career move or a decrease in blog traffic, or about a major social etiquette faux pas–have had millions of those lately. I tell myself to simply care less. (But not so much that I burn my flesh. Sorry, but that’s just stupid.)

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  • Positively Present

    Really great addition to Gretchen’s post. I think the idea of not caring is so interesting because I do find that I worry and stress about things that I really don’t care about. I feel like energy is much better spent on being positive and looking for the good in the things you do care about than it is being spent on worry about things that, when you REALLY think about it, aren’t that important.

  • Barbara Bowman

    This is an area that is hard for me. Saying to “care less,” is an intellectual decision. It is based in the reality of any situation that causes anxiety. The problem for me is not the reality of what I have to do, or have done. Many times I can see that, do that, get perspective. But my anxieties are most often not in the reality of the moment, but in the emotions dredged up. Those moments are the hardest for me from which to get some emotional distance. Even when the feared outcome doesn’t take place, or the “major screw-up,” really isn’t, I flounder anyway when a similar situation occurs again.
    It has taken years to make some improvements in that area, and I have, but it has been long in coming, and the improvements rather small.

  • melzoom

    I think the root of ‘caring less’ means understanding what is actually in our control to change. I can’t change that my friend is having a hard time with her boyfriend. I can’t change that my insurance plan was designed by a complete moron.
    My job (other than loving my husband, dogs, family and friends) is to practice compassion, mindfulness, and staying present. It sounds like caring more… but I think it actually falls in that category of ‘caring less’.

  • Larry Parker

    I echo Mel — I think “caring less” is a bit confusing.
    Rather, as I think I said in a BB combox earlier this week, it’s about PRIORITIZING what you should care more and what you should care less about.
    Because if you didn’t care about anything, I’m sure you would have little if any anxiety. But you wouldn’t be very humane — or, even, recognizably human.

  • Frank Hulse

    I think this is a terrific idea that I’ve used to great benefit when I’m thinking clearly. Some things, many things, really don’t matter in the larger picture or in the fullness of time. They are transitory and really no more than nuisances if we get our take on them right. So, being able to say, “I don’t care.” well, it’s a big way of taking the sting out of a bite. For myself, I used to freak out when I’d have a car problem or air conditioning or plumbing – because I’d feel helpless to ‘fix’ the problem, not having those skills. But there is always someone who can and will – for a fee. And I’m happy to pay the fee to restore the equipment to good running condition. So, when it happens and my wife, who responds much the same as I did, freaks out, I gently remind her that the repair bill is “the cost of doing business”. Somehow that calms both of us and the issue loses any power to disrupt an otherwise good day.
    Can’t say I apply it to every aspect of life but it’s nice to have a few places where reason prevails.

  • Will

    Good advice. I’m trying hard to do this as well. I find the “radio” in my head wants me to care about everything – especially what others think of me.

  • Your Name

    I find it more depressing to not care. I find it more frustrating if not to do something like at least care abut it. Care is an extentension of goodwill and love. This cannot be bad. Ask God to help if you feel like saying “I just don’t have the strentgh to care about this” All things are brought to your life to experience. I have been overwhelmed many times in my life and learned this is only the attack of my my ego to try to scare me into a coma state.(it has had success and failures). Gently, gently realize that energy is neither good nor bad. Negative energy can be handed over to a higher being like Jesus of Nazareth, Buddha,Mother Mary etc…they know what to do with it and why it is being given to you. My next suggestion is to quietly ask the higher being that you choose to give your problem “Please blessed one, can I send an intention of care to the one or situation that is overwhelming my sense of well being?” Wait for the answer and obey. Didn’t get an answer? You did and you were not in a place of receiving. So what? All is accomplished even if you are not aware. God is everywhere. Your senses are limited. Care about that. Love you all. Peace unto you

  • Christine

    I was so excited at seeing the title of this post! Not caring means being able to let go, not that we are less loving, and I use the technique of “not caring” pretty often. It relieves the pressure that negative thoughts and feelings put on you.
    For example, having had social anxiety disorder, I am sometimes overly sensitive to the feeling of being rejected by other people. But realizing that I don’t *have* to care about what other people think is so freeing!
    I’ve also found that not caring gives me confidence. It ceases all those anxious feelings that would otherwise make me hesitant to go forward with something.
    We are often so caught up in thinking that we HAVE to care, we HAVE to be emotional about certain events in life. We don’t! We can choose to be carefree! :)

  • Bella Simpson

    Rather interesting blog you’ve got here. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more soon.
    Bella Simpson
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