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Loving without Caring

Sounds like an oxymoron, no?

In Martha Beck’s O Magazine article this month (“I Don’t Care”), she talks about the need for “detached attachment,” which counteracts the fact that “caring—with its shades of sadness, fear, and insistence on specific outcomes—is not love.”

To care for someone can mean to adore them, feed them, tend their wounds.  But care can also signify sorrow, as in “bowed down by cares.”  Or anxiety, as in “Careful!”  Or investment in an outcome, as in “Who cares?”  The word love has no such range of meaning: It’s pure acceptance.

Her eye-opening exercise?

1. Choose a subject. Think of a person you love, but about whom you feel some level of anxiety, anger, or sadness.

2. Identify what this person must change to make you happy. Think about how your loved one must alter herself or her behavior before you can be content.  Complete the sentence below by filling in the name of your loved one, the thing(s) you want this person to change, and the way you’d feel if the change occurred:  If ______________would only _______________, then I could feel________________.

3. Accept a radical reality. Now scratch out the first clause of the sentence you wrote, so all that remains is: I could feel ________________.

Think about it.  Your loved one’s change would be icing on the cake, but you shouldn’t need it to experience any emotional state.  Mind-boggling, isn’t it—that you are in charge of how you feel?  Even if people around you continue their insanity, you should be able to navigate and control your own happiness.

So.  There’s a 4th step, and that is to “shift your focus from controlling your loved one’s behavior to creating your own happiness.”

As Beck so nicely puts it, “Sanity begins the moment you admit you’re powerless over other people.”

Hmmm…so now you can tell family members and loved ones, “I love you unconditionally—I don’t care what happens to you.”  Meaning your treatment or feeling toward them doesn’t fluctuate with their toxic or difficult behavior.

You are the king or queen of your own domain only.  Isn’t that a load off?  How does it feel?

[Post image:  Rose, Orange by johnnyberg on stock.xchng]

2 Comments


  1. Heather
    Jun 21, 2011

    I agree with this, it’s something that I had to learn years ago while struggling with very difficult personalities in my life. Heck, it’s something that I think will be a life long lesson for me, as there will always be difficult personalities – even in the ones we love most. Learning to conduct our own personality, character, belief, love – will always be most difficult, don’t you think?

    This was a great post to share.


  2. Elissa
    Jun 21, 2011

    Yes, it was hard for me to learn, too. I think I SO wanted to control others, to get THEM to behave better, not realizing the only person I had to worry about was myself. Even harder was training myself not to get all riled up when someone else was trying to punch my buttons. I’m still working on that one…letting the other person be…protecting both of us in a loving space…you know? 🙂

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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