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How not to care what people think?
Dear fellow travelers,

It's been pointed out to me that I should stop giving a damn about what people think (or at least giving less of one -- is that an acceptable quantity? Can damns be fractioned off?). I can at times be a bit of an emotional sponge; besides being slow to shake off perceived insults, I get emotionally involved in things which have nothing to do with me: I feel queasy if I'm in a restaurant and two people a table over are obviously angry at each other. I care that people in my environment dole out appropriate amounts of respect. I'm not so good at steamrolling a party of self-indulgent lousy drunks into a sentimental collective...

And perhaps that's it: I do realize that my antennae are at times useless, because I don't necessarily know how to use my sensitivity to intervene in a positive way, but only to empathize in a way that (a priori) helps no one. For all I know others find yelling cathartic; and even if they don't, the world is full enough of ugliness that one can't internalize it all without becoming poisoned.

But enough about me. I'm not really sure if this is about me or not. If anyone here has managed a better set of boundaries between interior and exterior, would be delighted and amused to hear stories.
(Please try to channel Alice Walker rather than Ayn Rand. I'm also not convinced detachment is the answer.) 

How does one achieve that state of sublime indifference to (most) others which is, nonetheless, neither repression nor ignorance?
If anyone here has managed a better set of boundaries between interior and exterior, would be delighted and amused to hear stories. 
....How does one achieve that state of sublime indifference to (most) others which is, nonetheless, neither repression nor ignorance?--Mia


I don't know that I have any useful answers, Mia, but it's an interesting question. As a divorce mediator, I watched hundreds of angry couples glaring and sometimes shouting at one another in my office while we worked out the terms of their separation. 

I rarely took any of it home with me. I think my "detachment" was not indifference, however, but the recognition that we all have to struggle through loss, jealousy, fear, and anger and try to find our way to peace and self-awareness as best we can. In that struggle there is often pain, sometimes scorching pain, but if we persevere with honesty and honor we grow morally, spiritually. None can escape the anguish nor the challenge it presents. I've been there plenty of times myself. So witnessing others' suffering--whether through belligerence, grief, vindictiveness, or grace--is witnessing how we each in our different ways shape our souls, wrestle with our demons, and experience the challenge of life. It's a gift to be privy to such intimacy, to watch as a soul strains, sweats, and claws to find its way. This is not indifference, and it is not being sucked into the emotional vortex. It is empathetic awareness, wishing the other success in her inner battle.

In response to Paula James
That's a very helpful perspective. I can see how it is perhaps a positive good to simply witness rather than engage. I'll have to think about this... Thanks.
It was like 6:30 am and I was walking to the bus. It was hot and muggy and the streets were deserted and in no way do I feel I have to justify it, but I was wearing a super (super) loose fitting practice jersey revealing a rather prominent chest of hair. Whatever, it's New York, right? I was also wearing cut offs. And mismatched socks. Typical hipsterware. 

Anyway, I was comfortable.

Anyway, I was stopped at a redlight waiting to cross and a car of peoples my same age slowly turned the corner.

One of the peoples stared at me and as the car passed he gave me the finger. 


How do you respond to something like that?

Laugh.


A lot of people suck dude. A lot of people don't.

Laugh at those who suck and love the ones who don't.

Not much more to it than a great big joke. 
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