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Practice detachment

As our consciousness rises, our perspective becomes more and more impersonal. What does this mean?

It means we are increasingly able to view our lives and the rest of the world with detachment. This does not mean we are cold and uncaring. Rather, we are self-contained. We have well-defined boundaries and we are able to think and act objectively, clearly, and responsibly.

When we have learned detachment, we do not get hooked into the thoughts and feelings of others. We are not easily upset or manipulated. We may feel compassion for others but this does not cloud our ability to choose how we think, feel, and behave. We also do not need others to behave in any particular way.

Until we take how we see ourselves (and how we see others) into account, we will be unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world. Unaware, we will project our intentions on their behavior and call ourselves objective.
-Stephen Covey

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Detachment is about knowing you are not the cause of, nor the cure for, another person's addictions.  Detachment is about knowing that you can care about someone without taking care of them in inappropriate ways that prevent that person from also becoming a responsible person.  Detachment is about knowing that we have the power to change and what we do not have the power to change.  Detachment is having the courage to change the things we can and seeking the wisdom to know the difference.  Detachment is about not knowing what the future holds and having the comfort of knowing who holds the future.

The family and friends affected by someone else's addictions are, and have always been, some of the most remarkably loving and lovable human beings among us.  Common is a deeply developed sense of commitment, selflessness, empathy, compassion, tenacity, determination, a wisdom of the heart, courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, an immeasurably universal strength of goodness and the ability to see the capacity for goodness in others.

They retain these, the highest quality of human characteristics, despite a disease that, often times, renders them helpless and full of despair.  Which is stunning if you consider the eroding devastation that addictions bring into lives affected by this disease.

At first, detachment can sound like an odd concept and in direct conflict with these qualities of humanness.  It is not.  Detachment is what will loosen the grip and render powerless a disease that acts like an opportunistic spiritual predator that takes goodness and twists it to serve its own corrupted purposes.

Detachment is about being able to go and stay, at the same time.  It is having the wisdom not to jump in the water with a drowning man to keep him from drowning but throwing him a line to grab onto so that he can pull himself to the safety of the shoreline.

I met a woman at an AA speakers meeting, who, after 25 years of marriage to a man who drank to excess on a daily basis, finally said Enough is enough.  Enough of my failed attempts to affect positive change.  Enough of my internalizing my husband's drinking problem.  Enough of thrashing around out here in the deep waters with him.  I am not going to save him this way and we are both going to drown.

She swam to the shores of Al-Anon.  The years of anger, bitterness, resentment and disappointment began to dry up and evaporate.  She felt a lightness of being.  She began to feel joy and hope.

She told me, "I stopped saying anything to him about his drinking.  I simply left my literature and books about Al-Anon and AA laying around the house.  I stopped cleaning up after his drinking episodes.  I stopped rescuing him from the consequences of his drinking.  I adopted the attitude that if his drinking got him into a mess he could get himself back out of it.

"I stopped making excuses for him.  If the children asked, Where is dad I simply said, You will have to ask him when you see him.  I don't know the exact reasons.  If someone called the house asking after him because he was a no-show I answered the same way.  I don't know; he will have to explain it.

"I stopped making plans that hinged on his being there.  I began to create a life around him and at the same time made sure that he knew about it if he wished to be a part of it.  I learned to treat him with the same respect and kindness I would give to even a stranger.

"I stopped reacting to the negativity with anything other than a positive response and became active in my own life.  I started to remember the dreams I had left behind so long ago and decided to resurrect some of them.  I realized I could make many of my dreams come true.  I discovered joy and serenity.  It was wonderful."

Two years later her husband began his recovery in AA.  On the day I talked to her, they had over twenty years of recovery from the disease of alcoholism.

Detachment is not apathetic to the suffering of another nor does it mean walking away from a drowning man.  Detachment is the lifeguard training in spiritual rescue.

-Dalene Entenmann


A helpful article about Codependency is here.  Eventually I hope to include an essay on this site about Codependency, because I haven't yet made a clear distinction between Codependency and extraverted Feeling.  Is Codependency a common negative label for extraverted Feeling, or is there a place where extraverted Feeling gets "stuck" and becomes unhealthy?  Even the experts are confused about what it is.  Regardless of which it is, I do think Catalysts benefit from removing rose-colored glasses and practicing some detachment, as the essay above recommends.

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