Safety in Indifference

“If no one touches me – no one can hurt me. All I have to do is never care.”
Vanyel Ashkevron, Magic’s Pawn

This is when characters decide that it is indeed better never to have loved than to have loved and lost. They realise that if they don’t feel or care, they can’t be hurt. This decision is often initiated by either themselves or someone close to them crossing the Despair Event Horizon, but they choose to take the final step and how to express their despair.

This frequently results in them feeling that Hope Is Scary, as it threatens their indifference and risks them starting to feel again, requiring them to either give up their defences or go through the harrowing experience of re-erecting them.

Ice and stone imagery are often included.

Characters who choose indifference most often end up as a Broken Bird, Emotionless Girl or Ice Queen; they will sometimes use a Jerkass Façade to hide their emotions from both themselves and others. Where they are a significant character, expect a Defrosting Ice Queen or Break the Haughty plot, teaching them the Power of Friendship or love.

Compare Heroic BSOD and Heroic Safe Mode which are more temporary, and Despair Event Horizon, where the character is not actively choosing and maintaining their state. Contrast The Stoic whose emotional suppression is only external rather than internal. Compare/contrast Straw Nihilist when their view goes beyond simply their own defence. When a character is worried about physical rather than emotional safety, may overlap with Bystander Syndrome.

See also Emotion Suppression where emotions are removed (often artificially) for a specific reason; either short term or permanently. See Never Be Hurt Again for when a character's driving motivation is to never lose the things they care about.


Anime and Manga
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, Lord Ezelcant claims that this is the way the entire nation of Vagan feels; it's too painful to love others and have relationships when there's a very good chance that either you or those you care about will die young due to an incurable disease.
  • Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion tries to have this attitude due to his mother's death and his father abandoning him, but he isn't very successful at not caring or not getting attached. Having no expectations doesn't protect him for disappointment and he sorely desires the human contact he tries to avoid.
    • Gendo is revealed to have chosen this route in End of Evangelion due to his inability to relate to other people. In particular he feared hurting Shinji after Yui's death and being hurt in turn, so he chose to avoid him for both their sakes. Ironically, it was his abandonment of Shinji that ended up giving the boy one of his deepest emotional scars. Although considering the outstanding job he did of raising Shinji's half-sister, in the very loosest sense of the word, you can't help but wonder if he did kind of have a point.
  • Word of God has it that this is why Near from Death Note shut himself off from the world.

  • Mary Jane Watson from the Spider-Man comics often acted as if she didn't have a care in the world beyond dancing and partying. We later learn that it was largely an act to hide the pain brought on by her abusive father. A large part of her character development was learning she didn't have to wear the facade and overcoming the Commitment Issues associated with it.
  • In a heartbreaking scene in The Walking Dead, Maggie announces to her boyfriend Glenn, "I don't think I'm going to love you any more" because everyone she cares about in the Zombie Apocalypse dies, with a perfectly blank face as though she were announcing that she'd rather not have chicken for dinner. Fortunately it doesn't last long before she reconsiders.

  • Peter Deveraux in The November Man.
  • Later in The Wheel of Time Rand Al’Thor is heading towards this in his efforts to become hard enough to meet his destiny.
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Magic's Pawn, Vanyel decides to cut himself off from all emotion as a way of dealing with his emotionally abusive father and his exile to a strange city. This starts to be reflected in Recurring Dreams in which he is slowly turning to ice, until he eventually opens up to Tylendel.
    • Her short story "Medic", based on her Filk Song of the same name, focuses on a combat medic who constantly transfers to new posts to avoid getting familiar enough with anyone to be hurt when they die.
  • The attraction of indifference on both personal and societal levels is an ongoing theme in many of Isobelle Carmody's books. The protagonists are usually characters who insist of facing the problems and trying to do something about them.
    • From The Legendsong Saga, Dark Ember is the most obvious, dealing with the knowledge of her dying by pre-emptively withdrawing from life.
    • The Stormlord in The Winter Door is an extreme example, creating a machine and a whole world that drains people of any form of wanting or desire.
  • Kaladin tries this in The Way of Kings to fight his Chronic Hero Syndrome, because everyone he tries to help ends up dead.
  • In the Mordant's Need books by Stephen Donaldson, Terisa Morgan's "fading" is a variation of this which she is able to invoke.
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard: The warlock in "The Hairy Heart" decides that love is a useless emotion that makes you stupid and weak, and so cut out his heart and kept it safe, completely immune to the local ladies' attempts to woo him. However, his self-image takes a nosedive after overhearing two servants think of him as lonely and miserable as opposed to wise and aloof.

Live-Action TV

  • I am a Rock by Simon & Garfunkel explains why the narrator chose indifference. Or tried to, anyway; something in the tone of voice implies they're Not So Stoic as they pretend to be...
    And a rock feels no pain;
    And an island never cries.
  • In Billy Joel's "An Innocent Man", the singer addresses someone like this in the hope of getting them to learn to love again.
  • In Pink Floyd's The Wall, after all the crap his life has thrown at him, which includes a dead father, an overprotective mother, cruel teachers, and a rather difficult divorce from his wife, Pink comes to this conclusion when completing his personal wall, and closing out the first half of the album. The first song of the second half makes it clear that he has already realized he made a big mistake.
  • The Oh Hellos' song "Hello My Old Heart" is about this trope.
    Hello my old heart, how have you been?
    How is it, being locked away?
    But don't you worry, in there you're safe
    And it's true, you'll never beat, but you'll never break.


  • Fiyero from Wicked uses a much more upbeat version of this trope, complete with a whole musical number ("Dancing Through Life") cultivating his image as a Brainless Beauty.
    Fiyero: "...Life is painless, for the brainless..."

Video Games
  • Shadow implies that this is his philosophy in Final Fantasy VI when he warns Terra that some people kill their own emotions. Probably because of his guilt over being unable to give his old friend and partner a Mercy Kill.
  • This is also Squall's viewpoint throughout most of Final Fantasy VIII. After growing up in an orphanage, and then watching everyone he cared about slowly go away one by one, he decided that if people were going to die or otherwise leave him alone, it was better to be alone in the first place to avoid he pain of losing them. He intentionally pushes everyone away to avoid developing bonds with them that would hurt to sever. It takes Rinoa to break him out of it.
  • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Demon Prince Laharl wakes up from a two-year sleep (more like coma) to find out that his father is dead and that he is now inheritor to the throne of Overlord. Angel Trainee Flonne tries to console him about his father's death, but he brushes it off like nothing, which horrifies her. Later, we learn that Laharl ignores his emotions—especially empathy and love—because of the pain of losing his mother when he was young.. Laharl actually cares a lot more than he lets on, but acts indifferent both because he hates the pain, and because he can't look weak as the Overlord.
  • In Star Trek Online, this is Slamek's attitude towards life. He's been a slave for so long, he betrays the Reman Resistance to Hakeev and the Tal Shiar so that he can continue to live that life rather than join the fight for freedom.
    Slamek: Why would you care about me? No one cares about me. I don't even care any more. Go away.
  • Xane, from Fire Emblem Akaneia, is a Stepford Smiler Manakete who professes to hate humans, at least to the few people he trusts enough to tell he's not human, and does his best to avoid forming any sort of connection with them. It's heavily implied in his conversations with Kris that he doesn't really hate humans, but is instead closing himself off from them to avoid the pain of having to outlive another friend.

Visual Novels
  • Kazuaki Nanaki in Hatoful Boyfriend lost someone years ago, and still felt strongly about them. But as the years went by love soured into a kind of resentment, and he resolved "I think it's better to love everyone around you just enough that you won't regret losing them."

Western Animation
  • This is one of the many things that the Care Bears are trying to prevent by encouraging others to share their feelings.
  • In Barbie in a Christmas Carol, this became Catherine'snote  attitude in "Eden Starling"'snote  Bad Future after she (Catherine) tried to save the orphanage after being fired in Christmas Day.
    Bad Future!Catherine: Caring hurt, so I stopped.