Article on Detachment

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by recoveringenabler, May 1, 2013.

  1. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    For some reason this article has disappeared off of my posts so I've posted it in it's entirety here.

    What is detachment?

    Detachment is the:
    * Ability to allow people, places or things the freedom to be themselves.
    * Holding back from the need to rescue, save or fix another person from being sick, dysfunctional or irrational.
    * Giving another person "the space" to be herself.
    * Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with people.
    * Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place or thing.
    * Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life.
    * Establishing of emotional boundaries between you and those people you have become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order that all of you might be able to develop your own sense of autonomy and independence.
    * Process by which you are free to feel your own feelings when you see another person falter and fail and not be led by guilt to feel responsible for their failure or faltering.
    * Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern and caring without the negative results of rescuing, enabling, fixing or controlling.
    * Placing of all things in life into a healthy, rational perspective and recognizing that there is a need to back away from the uncontrollable and unchangeable realities of life.
    * Ability to exercise emotional self-protection and prevention so as not to experience greater emotional devastation from having hung on beyond a reasonable and rational point.
    * Ability to let people you love and care for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love and not give in when they come to you to bail them out when their actions lead to failure or trouble for them.
    * Ability to allow people to be who they "really are" rather than who you "want them to be."
    * Ability to avoid being hurt, abused, taken advantage of by people who in the past have been overly dependent or enmeshed with you.

    What are the negative effects not detaching?
    If you are unable to detach from people, places or things, then you:
    * Will have people, places or things which become over-dependent on you.
    * Run the risk of being manipulated to do things for people, at places or with things which you do not really want to do.
    * Can become an obsessive "fix it" who needs to fix everything you perceive to be imperfect.
    * Run the risk of performing tasks because of the intimidation you experience from people, places or things.
    * Will most probably become powerless in the face of the demands of the people, places or things whom you have given the power to control you.
    * Will be blind to the reality that the people, places or things which control you are the uncontrollables and unchangeables you need to let go of if you are to become a fully healthy, coping individual.
    * Will be easily influenced by the perception of helplessness which these people, places or things project.
    * Might become caught up with your idealistic need to make everything perfect for people, places or things important to you even if it means your own life becomes unhealthy.
    * Run the risk of becoming out of control of yourself and experience greater low self-esteem as a result.
    * Will most probably put off making a decision and following through on it, if you rationally recognize your relationship with a person, place or thing is unhealthy and the only recourse left is to get out of the relationship.
    * Will be so driven by guilt and emotional dependence that the sickness in the relationship will worsen.
    * Run the risk of losing your autonomy and independence and derive your value or worth solely from the unhealthy relationship you continue in with the unhealthy person, place or thing.

    How is detachment a control issue?
    Detachment is a control issue because:
    * It is a way of de-powering the external "locus of control" issues in your life and a way to strengthen your internal "locus of control."
    * If you are not able to detach emotionally or physically from a person, place or thing, then you are either profoundly under its control or it is under your control.
    * The ability to "keep distance" emotionally or physically requires self-control and the inability to do so is a sign that you are "out of control."
    * If you are not able to detach from another person, place or thing, you might be powerless over this behavior which is beyond your personal control.
    * You might be mesmerized, brainwashed or psychically in a trance when you are in the presence of someone from whom you cannot detach.
    * You might feel intimidated or coerced to stay deeply attached with someone for fear of great harm to yourself or that person if you don't remain so deeply involved.
    * You might be an addicted caretaker, fixer or rescuer who cannot let go of a person, place or thing you believe cannot care for itself.
    * You might be so manipulated by another's con, "helplessness," overdependency or "hooks" that you cannot leave them to solve their own problems.
    * If you do not detach from people, places or things, you could be so busy trying to "control" them that you completely divert your attention from yourself and your own needs.
    * By being "selfless" and "centered" on other people, you are really a controller trying to fix them to meet the image of your ideal for them.
    * Although you will still have feelings for those persons, places and things from which you have become detached, you will have given them the freedom to become what they will be on their own merit, power, control and responsibility.
    * It allows every person, place or thing with which you become involved to feel the sense of personal responsibility to become a unique, independent and autonomous being with no fear of retribution or rebuke if they don't please you by what they become.

    What irrational thinking leads to an inability to detach?
    * If you should stop being involved, what will they do without you?
    * They need you and that is enough to justify your continued involvement.
    * What if they commit suicide because of your detachment? You must stay involved to avoid this.
    * You would feel so guilty if anything bad should happen to them after you reduced your involvement with them.
    * They are absolutely dependent on you at this point and to back off now would be a crime.
    * You need them as much as they need you.
    * You can't control yourself because everyday you promise yourself "today is the day" you will detach your feelings but you feel driven to them and their needs.
    * They have so many problems, they need you.
    * Being detached seems so cold and aloof. You can't be that way when you love and care for a person. It's either 100 percent all the way or no way at all.
    * If you should let go of this relationship too soon, the other might change to be like the fantasy or dream you want them to be.
    * How can being detached from them help them? It seems like you should do more to help them.
    * Detachment sounds so final. It sounds so distant and non-reachable. You could never allow yourself to have a relationship where there is so much emotional distance between you and others. It seems so unnatural.
    * You never want anybody in a relationship to be emotionally detached from you so why would you think it a good thing to do for others?
    * The family that plays together stays together. It's all for one and one for all. Never do anything without including the significant others in your life.
    * If one hurts in the system, we all hurt. You do not have a good relationship with others unless you share in their pain, hurt, suffering, problems and troubles.
    * When they are in "trouble," how can you ignore their "pleas" for help? It seems cruel and inhuman.
    * When you see people in trouble, confused and hurting, you must always get involved and try to help them solve the problems.
    * When you meet people who are "helpless," you must step in to give them assistance, advice, support and direction.
    * You should never question the costs, be they material, emotional or physical, when another is in dire need of help.
    * You would rather forgo all the pleasures of this world in order to assist others to be happy and successful.
    * You can never "give too much" when it comes to providing emotional support, comforting and care of those whom you love and cherish.
    * No matter how badly your loved ones hurt and abuse you, you must always be forgiving and continue to extend your hand in help and support.
    * Tough love is a cruel, inhuman and anti-loving philosophy of dealing with the troubled people in our lives and you should instead love them more when they are in trouble since "love" is the answer to all problems.
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  2. Rabbit

    Rabbit Member

  3. That is a great article.

    Wondering if that can be put in the Parent Emeritus Archives for future reference?
  4. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    WTW, I put the article in the Self Help and Resources forum. The link to that article in the Self Help forum is also at the bottom of my posts. It is such a good article, I read it now and again, it helps.
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  5. scent of cedar

    scent of cedar New Member

    Thank you, Recovering. Funny, but when it was at the bottom of your posts? I never took the time to read it.

    Very good piece.

  6. outtahere

    outtahere New Member

    Wow, this is great and I love the way it is laid out. I will use this as a guide and will have to re-read it often.
  7. tryagain

    tryagain Active Member

    Yep- I'm reading it again. Recoveringenabler, I cannot thank you enough for posting this. I just have one question -in this phrase,"* If you should let go of this relationship too soon, the other might change to be like the fantasy or dream you want them to be", do you think that the writer meant to say "other might NOT EVER change to be like the fantasy or dream you want them to be"? In other words, if you let go, then they might never have a chance of changing to the desirable fantasy you have for them? I know that is a false hope and expectation that I have fallen prey to so many times -that I can save my difficult child if I will just not let go. (((HUGS))) and Carpe Diem.
  8. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I'm glad you're finding value in the article on detachment. I see what you mean and it seems to make more sense the way you are stating it. However it is stated though, the irrational thinking is that somehow we end up being responsible, that something we do or don't do will determine the fate of another human being. That illusion of control is what keeps us stuck and what keeps us from recognizing our true powerlessness over the choices of another. I understand the thinking that the sheer force of our will can save them that were the case, and believe me I have often wished it were, there would be no need for this forum because every one of us would have pulled our difficult child's straight out of wherever they are...................but..........we are here...........hang in there.........hugs......

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    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  9. Gatheredtogether

    Gatheredtogether New Member

    This is an amazing article. I have the same question as you tryagain in reference to the above quote in bold.Nonetheless, this is worth printing out and reading on a regular going to a support group daily.
  10. I am new here, and I am happy to find others in similar situations. I read thru this saying to myself, that's me, yes, yep, and goodness that is spot on. I am learning to take better care of myself, and finding peace of mind is a huge part of it. Thank you so much for posting this.
  11. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I needed this today! Glad it popped up...
  12. Bri

    Bri New Member

  13. Bri

    Bri New Member

    What if your child is so mentally ill that they can never function on their own. My son is heavily medicated, in jail and still hallucinates. I have to bring him back home once he gets out of jail or he will die on the streets or spend his life in prison. I am still kind of in denial as to just how sick he is. It is all so new to me. He looks and acts normal, it is only after you start talking to him for a long time before he tells you that Courtney Loves is talking to him and stalking him or that he talks and sees God all the time. Am I enabling? I am desperate.
    Thanks, Bri
  14. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Bri, welcome. You will get more people to see your post if you start your own thread, you've responded to a an older can cut and paste what you wrote, or just start a completely new thread.

    How old is your son?

    One resource you might try is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have wonderful courses for parents, all kinds of support. You can access them online, they have chapters everywhere. You need support to help you figure out what your next steps are. NAMI can help you with tools, understanding, resources and support. It may also be very helpful for you to find a therapist to help you negotiate how much you can help and how much you need to let go. Each of us handles detachment differently as it pertains to our kids..........but most of us need lots of support.

    You need help to determine what the healthiest and most appropriate steps are for you to take for both your son and yourself. This is a process. I'm sorry you find yourself in this situation with your son, I know how painful it is and how much you are hurting. Keep posting, it helps to be heard by others who are in similar places. I'm glad you found us............hang in there..........
  15. Bri

    Bri New Member

    Thank you so much. My son just turned 21 years old in jail in June. He tried to shoplift in California and the guard grabbed him and he broke away and ran. This breaking away changed a Petty Theft into an unarmed Robbery, which is a very serious crime in CA. I guess it is a strike/ He was off medications, living on the streets believing he was going to be discovered as a rock star any minute now. He believes he is Bob Dylan sometimes. He is my only child and my whole entire world. If anything I have probably been to overprotective, too easy and too enabling. that is for sure. he is my only child and my whole world and there is absolutely nothing I can do to help him in the situation he is in right now except put money on his commisarry and mail him books and write letters. i am utterly helpless and cannot eat, sleep. I am a nervous wreck.

    Thanks for reading my babbling.

    Thanks again, Bri
  16. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Bri, your son is for the moment, safe. However, you being a "nervous wreck" and not able to eat and sleep is not healthy. That is the reason to seek professional support, so you can learn how to cope with the situation you find yourself in, in appropriate, healthy, thoughtful ways. It is how you respond to the situation that is the crux of the problem. You can't control what he has done, is going, or will do, but you can get yourself into a healthy place to make good choices which take care of you as well as him. Being helpless is an enablers worst experience.....lack of control...........find a support system to help you navigate this new territory so you can make the changes necessary to be able to deal with what is in front of you.........Wishing you peace.
  17. ForeverSpring

    ForeverSpring Well-Known Member

    This IS an amazing article. I go back to it whenever I have to. And I have to.

    To Bri: My heart hurts for your mommy heart. It must be very hard to have a child so mentally ill that he can't take care of himself. Yet...even the severely mentally ill do need to depend on caregivers other than us. Simply put, we can not live forever.

    There are group homes for the mentally ill where staff is equipped to handle a big, strong man who needs to take medications and may refuse in your care, either because he doesn't understand he is ill or because he just doesn't want to take them.

    I have a twenty year old son with autism and he wants to move out and will move out next year. He is going to apartments where a caseworker will check on him a few times a week. Your son probably would need more care than just that, but there are places out there for him too. You may never ever have any life at all if he lives with you...and, of course, what will he do when you are gone if nobody else has ever taken care of him?

    I wish you peace in some difficult decisions you will have to make.
  18. Hopeful30

    Hopeful30 New Member

  19. Hopeful30

    Hopeful30 New Member

    (Trying to get the hang of this site, probably not a good idea to ask my

    As I read this article I can relate to what it says and every now and then I think, but what about when he...this or that. He doesn't seem to function well. Cannot hold a job and believes because he worked in a kitchen, he is a master chef. He has briefly bartended and can make or create any fabulous drink with 'flair'. He worked for a few months in construction and believes he can build a house. He is upset I had someone else replace my bathroom tile. Gets mad at me, thinks I don't believe in him. The other night, he asked for a mallet to break up penne pasta because he wanted chili mac pasta and I forgot to buy it. His chili was ruined because I did not have the correct hot sauce, cholulu instead of tabasco. He kept saying his life sucked. How do I deal with things like this. How, when he is in this phrase,do I stop him from banging on the counter top to break the pasta?

    I understand the detachment, I don't yet know how to deal with his I let him be and try to ignore.
  20. aud

    aud Member


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