Monday, November 5, 2012

Detachment Is Not Just For Retinas

A random find-but worth checking out at this guy's snarky blog.

Look, Here's The Thing:

I've never been very good at the idea of "detachment." I am part of the world, and the world has problems. So that means the world's problems are my problems, right? When Lindsay Lohan gets sent to rehab for the gagillionth time, shouldn't I feel her angst? When my best friend can't figure out how to deal with her mother's crazy, I should be there for every step of her own madness and forget about sleeping for a month, don't you agree?


It's the thing about personality types like me and those that would be labeled "nurturers" (someday, my children will pay someone to help them get away from my invasive parenting). We feel so much for those around us it's hard not to get sucked in like a tampon illegally flushed down a public toilet (not that I'd ever do that, of course. I clog my own sewer ways). For anyone that's ever been in a relationship that reaches below the surface, it can get very difficult to distinguish between your dysfunction and theirs.

Enter the handy practice of detachment.

Detachment says that I am me, and here is my shit. Detachment says that I have these problems: trouble saying "no," difficulty articulating my feelings, chronic diarrhea. Detachment also says that your relationship woes, failure to pass chemistry and chronic yeast infections are NOT MY PROBLEM. I am dealing with my own dysfunction, and I hear your pain and I feel bad about it. But I can't take it for you.

Please understand me when I say that this doesn't mean a loss of empathy. To be empathetic means you are human -- that you feel for someone whose struggles could be your own at a different place and time. Of course you will lend advice. Of course you will comfort. Of course -- if you were me -- you would suggest a healthy round of probiotics and some cranberry juice for your troubles down under. We will always want to be there for those we care about when they are at a loss, because connection = tribe = survival.

But there's a different kind of survival that plays its part here. Detachment is all about recognizing what is yours and what is another's; because if we attempt to take it all on at once it's likely we won't be able to see out of the sea of problems crashing around us. The only person you can ever fully take care of is yourself. The only person you can act for is yourself. The only person you can see one hundred percent of the time is -- you guessed it -- yourself.

I have a tendency of getting lost in other people's toilet bowls. I want so badly for everyone around me to be happy and healthy that I lose sight of when that desire is affecting my own happiness and health. I love people unendingly so that they might love me back.

The problem is that when you take on someone's responsibility for taking care of themselves you take their power, too. Spiderman's uncle was totally not kidding: with great strength comes great responsibility. They work hand in hand, and when you take on anyone else's problems by talking about them over and over again -- by feeling for them at any given time -- you also take on their power to do something about it. When you obsess over how your partner feels inadequate at tennis, you are forgetting your own lopsided serve. And just like you can never coach anyone's atheltic prowess before you've gotten your own handle on the game, you will never help anyone with their emotional shortcomings before you've established your own.

So detachment is not about being jaded, cynical or unfeeling. It's about allowing others to feel and being a shoulder to lean on when it becomes too much to bear. And then it's about parting in order to deal with your own stuff on your own time, so that when you come together it is with the strength needed to create something even better.

1 comment:


    Other than that, great post :) I'm working on the same problem. Thanks for the (sometimes) detached support!