Overcoming Apathy: More Than A Question Of Will

Overcoming apathy: more than a matter of will

Overcoming our laziness and apathy doesn’t just depend on our own will. It often proves very difficult to find strength and motivation when what is usually behind these psychological dimensions is fear, distress, lack of emotional support, or even an underlying illness. Psychological disorders such as depression or a problem with the thyroid gland, among other things, can cause a disease with such symptoms.

When a person sinks into the pit of apathy, their reality changes completely. First of all, the person stops using enough resources to get out of this situation. She does not have the necessary energy to regain her vitality and to set herself new and motivating goals that restore desire, hope and energy.

“The opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.”

Leo Buscaglia

Often, and also from a clinical point of view, one should prefer to understand what exactly is in that pit that the person has sunk in, rather than showing the sufferer seemingly useful strategies to escape from it. It is necessary to know what is behind this apathetic attitude, behind this tiredness and displeasure. It is neither logical nor of much use to give tips to the patient without first clarifying what the cause (s) of the condition were.

It is so important that more and more studies and works have been carried out on this subject in recent years. We know, for example, that demotivation is not always a result of laziness, the passivity that one chooses simply by disinterest in the environment itself. The lack of motivation and apathy are related to very specific circuits in the brain that can point out certain pathologies at certain moments.

These are undoubtedly factors that we need to consider when choosing the most appropriate therapeutic approach.

Tired person standing with hands on knees trying to relax

The shadows that live in demotivation and fatigue

Overcoming apathy takes more than advice. If this condition does not remain selective but becomes chronic, the person concerned (and their environment) should become aware that a change is necessary. For this it is of the highest priority to first have an exact diagnosis made, which enables her to introduce small innovations in the daily routine and in the personal approach in order to be able to get out of the above-mentioned state again.

Something that should absolutely be left aside in situations like this is derogatory statements. Many apathy patients are not willingly “lazy”. We must therefore avoid categorizing this inaction and lack of interest as a character weakness because it is neither useful nor true. So let’s see what is really behind many of these conditions.

Factors that determine the occurrence of apathy

  • Lack of sense of self-efficacy. Very often, and due to different circumstances, the person concerned ceases to trust their own efficiency, to achieve their goals, to be successful, to feel useful in daily tasks. Such a thing can be devastating.
  • Lack of emotional support. If our environment is not emotionally available to us or if we are surrounded by pure coldness and disinterest, these states of apathy and demotivation can easily arise.
  • The fear, the fear of failure, the fear of trying again and making the same mistake as yesterday. The fear of leaving our comfort zone, fear of changing habits, restlessness due to new and unknown environmental influences. All of these factors undermine our lust and strength.
Sad man standing in front of the window

On the other hand, but no less importantly, we must also take into account possible organic and neurological factors. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism or Alzheimer’s disease convey this permanent feeling of lack of energy, apathy and demotivation. Likewise, we must not forget that it is common in depressive disorders for disinterest to manifest itself.

How to overcome apathy

To overcome apathy you need support. Professional help and also the support of the personal environment. It is also necessary that we receive an authentic sense of understanding and not censorship from the latter. Because listlessness, enthusiasm and motivation decrease more and more when all we receive is only criticism and contempt.

To better understand how to overcome this condition, we need to remember one detail. We often believe that in order to create an ambience that improves motivation, it is sufficient to “correct” our thoughts. Well, it has to be said that this famous rule “think better to live better” is not always 100% true. 

Not when we’re not doing well. Not when the brain lacks serotonin or when another disease is dominating the body. It was William James who first told us that thought doesn’t always precede action. And when we talk about motivation, action and feeling usually go hand in hand.

Woman looks towards the sun

The brain, the mind and our body must be in full harmony in order to find that impulse, that inner energy with which the mind can be nourished. Let us now consider the following dimensions that allow us to overcome apathy:

  • The first thing to do is rule out (patho-) physiological problems. 
  • Next we need to set a transition period. In this we concentrate on only one goal: to solve the problems. We have to think about ways of dealing with this dissatisfaction, this fear, this disappointment … We have to start the process of letting go and detaching ourselves from everything that is holding us back.
  • Gradual changes. We start by making small changes in our routine. For example, we can upgrade our diet or create new schedules. As we move forward, while we’re making these small changes, it’s time to make big changes. Those who are supposed to increase our well-being, those who meet our vital expectations.
  • Focus on specific goals, preferably on things that we can achieve every day and that satisfy us.
  • Challenge apathy. Once we have established new routines and achieved daily goals, we need to learn how to challenge this devaluing state. If we notice that this feeling reappears, we have to look for an alternative. For example, we can come up with something new and motivating that will make this feeling go away.

Overcoming apathy is not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. However, one must not forget that this condition very often tends to come back and visit us regularly. If it does, we have to be ready to deactivate it again, to keep filling our emotional spaces with fresh breezes and new projects.

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