In increasingly frequent operation of the CBTN Twitter handle (and life in general, when I find myself interacting with others) I’ve come across a troubling prevalence of the retaliatory statement “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!

The thing to which this FUCK! is not being given is an insulting statement or stigma, often unintentional or passively ignorant – mental illness isn’t real, or eating disorders are stupid, et. al. ad infinitum/naseum/triggered-episodium.  I think you get the idea (and more than likely have both used this standard retaliation or at least borne witness to its implementation).

I here (with a metaphorical nod to the importance of primacy in being candid) admit without a shred of shame that I am myself a recovering addict of this type of categorical ‘self-empowering’ outburst, all-too-often for the reasons mentioned above: Fuck me? No, FUCK YOU!

The problem I came to understand was that this didn’t get me anywhere, nor did it have any sort of meaningful effect on the scum-of-the-earth piece-of-shit asshole-loser at whom I directed this then-perceived equal and opposite reaction.

Newton’s third law of motion doesn’t serve us well in the sphere of societal ‘physics.’

What instead happened and happens is an implicit reduction – preexisting on the attacker’s part, propagated by my counter-attack – of the equation to some sort of zero-sum game (there can only be one Highlander!) If you don’t know, a zero-sum game is a term used in Game Theory, Economics and now Psychology to describe a scenario in which there can be only one winner, and to make gains is to necessarily lessen the value of the opposition’s position/resources/argument.

The fallacy herein is that unlike physics – a closed system, as we understand it through concepts like Conservation of Mass and Conservation of Energy – interpersonal action doesn’t work this way.  And I’ll emphasize still further not that it doesn’t have to work this way, but that it straight up does not work this way, by an as-yet undefined fundamental principle of our noetic, anthropic domain.

Put more simply, and again in contrast to the physical nature of the universe, we hold the advantage over passive entities like photons and positrons in our ability to exercise choice.  An electron doesn’t choose to jump orbitals, it just does so when the conditions are appropriate; in this way we forfeit our free will when we allow insults, passively accidental or deliberately malicious, to affect us to the point where we feel it either appropriate or useful to scream, “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!

For, you see, in so doing you are revealing you very much do give a FUCK! – you need only consult your swollen emotions for verification. Discourse is not a physics equation; its participants are not restricted to a single x-y axis, are not locked into a causal relationship, and are certainly not necessary victims of Newton’s laws. We as human beings, with or without a mental health diagnosis, are at liberty to simply decide to not care.

This is hardly a novel idea, nor if it were would I make a fool of myself by requesting credit or recognition. It is in fact – not caring, that is – a technique evidenced as far back as recorded history allows us to explore, and is both found in and endlessly (and rightfully) preached in the texts and teachings of philosophies and religions ranging from Buddhism to Christianity.

In the former (Buddhism) this idea is pervasive in its most fundamental precepts – the Four Noble Truths:

  1. The World is suffering.
  2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
  3. Attachment can be overcome.
  4. The path to overcoming attachment.

In the latter (Christianity) it is captured in parabolic statements –  Turn the other cheek, for example.

In tandem these two quite differently expounded understandings can be used to appreciate the difference between “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!” and “I don’t care.”  While the former is downright hypocritical, unintentionally ironic, and the most insidious exemplar of false self-empowerment, the latter is in all its unsexy glory a true symptom of liberation from attachment to what other people think about you (or whatever arbitrary category they have shoved you into).

Want peace?  Want a true escape from being affected by this kind of nonsense? Kick the I don’t give a fuck habit and try plain old I don’t care on for size.

But that’s not the end of the story – and here’s where I’ll toss out some information I feel tends to be left out of said religious and philosophical texts:


Easier said than done, obviously. Let’s get weird and paradoxical – and I’ll limit this to how it happened to me, from which perhaps you will derive some mutual efficacy:

It was precisely by caring so much for so long about so many little things – precisely by shouting I DON’T GIVE A FUCK! so many times – that I, in what I perceive retrospectively as no accomplishment of my consciousness, just sort of tipped the scales and crossed the threshold.  I can offer the metaphor of kicking a drug habit by taking so many drugs to the face that you never want to see them again (which of course fails more often than not, or leads to death); I just sort of reached a point where I DON’T GIVE A FUCK! was too much work. And I did die, in the sense of an ego death and rebirth.  And fresh-faced baby John just didn’t care anymore.

So I thought about this – and I think, for what it’s worth, you ought to too – though crossing this bridge was something of an accident, I did very much consciously proceed to exercise the choice to wonder as to how it had happened and how it could be replicated.

I get the impression that many people eschew not caring in favor of not giving a fuck because they never come across any kind of logical reason to gravitate to the former; that despite their awareness of it probably being the ‘right thing to do,’ it is wholly too uncool or too abstract, too baseless, to give it some time in the sun.  My experience also leads me to believe that others preaching not caring have through their actions done more to prove it useless than useful because they too often fail in doing it, and end up providing support to the opposition. Likewise exceptional not caring skills are for whatever reason more often attributed to the agent‘s nature than consciousness – ‘that’s just how they’re wired,’ or ‘that’s just the kind of person they are.’ Which may be so – but if true this hardly provides support for those of differing natures to try it out, just as I would be wasting my time trying out for an NFL team; just not gonna happen because I’m not nine feet seven hundred pounds 4.4 forty material.

In a zero-sum game, this might be true – but remember, this is not how the realm of our consciousness works.  Not caring is a choice, not a disposition, not an NFL body type – and even in that elite league, plenty of adequate bodies fail miserably because the minds therein can’t handle the pressure, responsibility, or criticism.  I don’t know many NFL superstars, but from the few I’ve come across I can fairly say they can handle a degree of criticism and expectations in whose shadow many Buddhists would wilt.

So there ought to be a simple, layperson logic for why not caring ought to supersede not giving a fuck – and this is it:


Yes, I fully intended to include even that piece-of-shit ignorant asshole-loser – the longer their bait goes unconsumed, the less frequently they decide to go fishing.  The more frequently they wonder about their own habits.  The more obvious it becomes to them that the origin of these habits is their own internal insecurities.

And best of all, there you stand, basking in unsexy glory, words rolling off you and laser beams of confidence shooting from your eyes* – because you no longer don’t give a fuck

You just don’t care.

*Results may vary.

Please understand this conclusion not as grounds to ignore problems of a scope wider than your own individual hedonistic pursuits – not caring does not mean not caring about anything at all, ever, no matter what.  Its utility is relative to the disagreeable stimuli you will with unfortunate certainty encounter throughout life. As with anything truly meaningful, when taken to the extreme you’ll find yourself becoming that very asshole-loser you once hated, wrapped up once more in not giving a fuck.

But ditch this caveat for the time being, particularly if you find yourself a slave of sorts to insults, a victim of comments made from lips other than your own.  Just take a few minutes to wonder as to how not caring might make yours – and therefore everyone’s – life a little bit better.


One thought on “The Difference Between “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!” and “I don’t care.”

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