Some people have a natural ability to feel for others, while some are somewhat indifferent to others’ struggles. However, having absolute human indifference to others’ pain isn’t normal and could indicate a deeper issue. So if someone is consistently indifferent and unresponsive to others, it is likely there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. In this article, I’ll explore the 5 unique reasons for human indifference.
Having empathy is quite normal and you can actually measure it. For example, just like IQ tests, there are also Emotional Intelligence (IE) tests. Specifically, these tests measure your ability to perceive, interpret, demonstrate, control, evaluate, and use emotions to communicate with and relate to others effectively and constructively. Also, it is said that 95% of us can be empathetic toward another person. On the other hand, that means 5% of us have a bad case of human indifference.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”Elie Wiesel
5 Major Reasons For Human Indifference
There are many reasons why some people succumb to human indifference more than others. Below are the 5 major reasons for human indifference.
1. Human Biases Causes Indifference.
To some degree we all have biases. Consequently, our bias can be a barrier to us being empathetic toward certain groups of people. This is because we may have preconceived notions about a person with certain characteristics or belonging to a certain group. Worst, we can take our bias to the extreme where we actually dehumanize a person or group of people. Thus, we succumb to human indifference. For more on bias, see my article, Bias With Examples – Everything You Need To Know.
“Indifference is the essence of inhumanity.”George Bernard Shaw
2. Tendency To Blame The Victim Results In Human Indifference.
Most of us have a viewpoint that “life is fair”. This is a good outlook to have, but can lead us to having a lack of empathy for others who are suffering through a calamity. To illustrate, when we see someone suffering we may have a tendency to think that it was their actions that led to their suffering. Hence, we succumb to human indifference, harshly judging that they are getting what they deserve. Indeed, we blame the victim for their unfortunate circumstances thinking that they could have done something different.
3. When We Are In A Fearful Environment, We Tend To Have Little Empathy For Others.
It is hard to be empathetic, if you are in fear physically or even psychologically. Indeed, if you are in a stressful environment, it is easy to succumb to human indifference. Unfortunately, in these situations it all comes down to self-preservation and an “every man for themselves” mentality. For example, in a high-stress workplace where job security is uncertain, employees may become more competitive and less supportive of their colleagues. The fear of losing their own position can overshadow their ability to empathize with others who may be struggling or in need of assistance. For more on the causes of stress, see my article, What Causes Stress? – 9 Big Reasons You Are Stressed.
“They say that death kills you, But death doesn’t kill you. Boredom and indifference kill you.”Iggy Pop
4. Mental Illness, Narcissism And Drug Abuse Can Result In Extreme Human Indifference.
It is abnormal to not have some level of empathy with others. In many cases, the cause is mental illness or a personality disorder. Specifically, this could be narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), or autism. Additionally, drug addiction can in part or whole also lead to human indifference. So, both mental illness and drug abuse can lead to a lack of empathy. Lastly, in some extreme cases there are legal consequences to succumbing to human indifference. This is called depraved indifference where a person’s actions demonstrate that they have complete disregard for the value of human life.
For more details on how mental illness and drug abuse can cause human indifference , see PsychCentral and Gratia Plena’s The Psychology of Indifference. Additionally, to explore what a narcissist is and how to deal with them, see my article, Dealing With A Narcissist.
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”Albert Einstein
5. Psychic Numbing: The More Suffering We See, The More We Are Indifferent.
Psychic numbing refers to the phenomenon where the more suffering we witness, the more indifferent we become. When confronted with overwhelming amounts of suffering, our emotional response can become dulled, leading to a decreased sense of empathy and compassion.
For example, in the face of humanitarian crises or natural disasters that are widely reported in the media, individuals may initially feel a strong emotional response and a desire to help. However, as the scale of suffering becomes larger and more frequent, people may start to feel overwhelmed and emotionally detached. This can result in a sense of helplessness and human indifference towards the suffering of others. Another example of this is “compassion fatigue” where a healthcare professional is physically, emotionally, and psychologically impacted by helping others.
For more information on the barriers to empathy and how empathy differs from other emotions, see MikeRobbins’ The Power of Empathy, InsightTimer’s Why Is Empathy Important?. Also, see VeryWellMind’s What Is Empathy? and What Is Emotional Intelligence?. Finally, if you want to find out where you stand in regard to empathy and indifference, take this empathy quiz.
“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.”John Steinbeck
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Writer and Supply Chain Tech Expert. Passionate about giving actionable insights on information technology, business, innovation, creativity, and life in general.