Compassionate Detachment May Help Us to Not Close a Door

From 5 Ways to Practice Detachment, the Skill that’ll Get You Through the Day:

“Detachment has many benefits, but the biggest one by far is that it’ll get you through any day, no matter how bad that day gets. Even when things look bleak, detachment allows you to go about your day — to go on, and that’s the part that matters.

At its core, detachment is not adding more suffering in imagination to what you endure in reality. It’s not about disconnecting from said reality or ignoring your emotions; the opposite is the case. When you stay in the moment and acknowledge your feelings, it becomes easier to move past whatever that moment brings and however you feel in it.

 1. Don’t judge things before they happen…

…especially the things you know will have to happen but don’t want to do — like your homework, for example.

I can waste a great deal of time, thoughts, and energy on the fact that I don’t want to spend yet another three hours staring at my tax spreadsheet — or I can just start staring. Once I make some coffee, play some music, and get going, it might not be so bad. How can I know before I start? I can’t, but I think I do, and that ruins the experience before it’s even begun.

This goes as much for things we’re excited about as it goes for events we deeply fear. When I spend eight hours thinking, “Getting ice cream will be great!” I set myself up for disappointment if the shop happens to be closed. When I worry about my plane crashing, it doesn’t make a plane crash more likely — it just makes me worried.

A judgment made in advance is nothing but an expectation, and when we form expectations about what’ll happen and how it’ll go, reality will always let us down because it never meets those expectations exactly as they are. Don’t judge too early. Don’t have expectations.”

From Practicing the Art of Detachment:

“So I’ve been thinking about how I still carry that habit of attachment, being overly invested in the thoughts and behaviors of others in my life. For instance, my children are both friends with a little girl who can at turns be friendly and funny, but also hurtful and deceitful. Whenever this girl becomes hurtful, my daughter comes to me crying. I want to shield her from the pain this girl causes her. I start obsessing of all the ways I need to separate her from this girl. But the truth is, it is my daughter’s choice if she wants to remain friends with this girl. She is learning on her own that sometimes there is a price to pay for this friendship – her feelings will get hurt. Detaching from a loved one’s pain is one of the hardest things you can do and those of us who have codependency issues find it incredibly hard.

In her book, Beattie goes on to say: ‘When should we detach? When we can’t stop thinking, talking about, or worrying about someone or something; when our emotions are churning and boiling; when we feel like we have to do something about someone because we can’t stand it another minute; when we’re hanging on by a thread, and it feels like that single thread is frayed; and when we believe we can no longer live with the problem we’ve been trying to live with. It is time to detach! You will learn to recognize when detachment is advisable. A good rule of thumb is: You need to detach most when it seems the least likely or possible thing to do.’

You need to detach when it seems like the least likely or possible thing to do – wow. Talk about some cold water in my face. I have recently joined Al-anon, the twelve-step program for people coping with someone in their lives who has alcoholism. For me it is my father. A big principle in Al-anon is to ‘detach with love.’ In the early years when I stopped drinking alcohol, I found myself so resentful that my father couldn’t or wouldn’t stop one day too. But now I am learning to accept him as he is and to detach from my overly controlling and judgmental thoughts toward him. It is his life to live and I still love many other qualities about my dad. He is even-tempered, intelligent and a very good grandfather to my children. He is getting his Covid vaccine soon and so I will finally be able to visit him for the first time in almost a year, and I am going to approach him with my newfound attitude of detachment.

Detachment allows the people we love to have the integrity of their own experience. My children will be teenagers soon and they are going to become more and more their own people, they are not going to be too keen to accept my advice. I want to be a ground of love and acceptance for them – to allow them to live their own lives and make their own mistakes and learn from them. Detachment means looking at our own fears and judgments right in the face and not letting them take hold of us. By practicing detachment, I surrender my control of another person and by doing that, I am able to hold both them and myself in an attitude of compassionate acceptance.

Today I will detach with love.”

From The laws of detachment:

Detachments comes in many different ways such as acceptance. Here it reminds me that it is not the absence of love but the ability to take care of yourself in the midst of someone else’s choices. It is about letting yourself off the hook for their choices. It’s a nudge to re-instill that you can’t make anyone better then they choose to be, because they are doing this to themselves, not to you. It’s an urge to find compassion while loving them just the same. The laws of detachment are teaching me to allow others to be who they are, without imposing rigid ideas of what is right and wrong. It allows me to be who I am. To not force situations and to remember that solutions will emerge if you believe that even the uncertainty has a place in the grand scheme.

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