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Old 03-30-05, 12:46 PM
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Detaching With Love

My wife taught me a lot about this stuff by her fine example.

When I was much more toxic to relationships than I am now, she learnt how to get free of my destructive ways without losing sight of her love for me or her ability to care for herself.

I was very fortunate to have her example to follow. This concept has been very effective in helping to define what is mine and what is not mine during emotionally challenging times.
Ian.


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Detaching With Love

How Detaching Can Be Loving For All

By Wayland Myers, Ph.D
"Detachment is a means whereby we allow others the opportunity to learn how to care for themselves better." This statement helped me make a quantum leap in my understanding of how detaching from others could be loving. Last month, I shared that I heard this from a family program counselor. Hearing her left me amazed and disoriented. For the first time, I began realizing that abstaining from my attempts to protect or manage others could be a gift to them.

That was nine year ago. Today I have a fuller definition of loving detachment. Currently, I consider myself lovingly detached when I am willing and able to compassionately allow others to be different from me, to be self-directed, and to be responsible for taking care of themselves. Using this definition, I have come to realize that detachment is loving for everyone involved. In this article I will share my beliefs about four ways that detachment is loving for those I care about, and four ways that it is loving for me.

How detachment is loving others

1. Those I care for might learn to look within, and trust themselves for self-direction, including when and how to ask for help.

If I refrain from trying to manage their problematic situation, the people, I care about may learn something about thinking for themselves, problem solving, and when and how to ask for help. They might learn to better listen to their feelings and intuitions, to heed those little voices we all wish we listened-to more. They might learn to better recognize when they want help and how to request it in ways that leave them feeling good rather than embarrassed or ashamed. In short, letting them manage their own affairs gives them the opportunity to draw on their own inner resources, instead of mine, and from this direct experience of their abilities, no matter how groping or uncertain, they can build competence and may thereby increase their confidence. I believe this is the No. I and most natural avenue leading to increased self-esteem.

2. They might learn more about cause and effect.

My not intervening allows others to have an uninterrupted experience of the cause and effect relationship between their actions and the natural consequences of those actions. In this way, they have a direct encounter with their personal power to contribute to their own pleasure or pain. Allowing people to have appropriate sized, real problems, and real responsibility for working out their solutions, seem to greatly facilitate this learning.

3. They might experience the motivation to continue on or change.

Pleasurable and painful experiences often provide us the motivation to repeat what brought satisfaction and change what didn't. We all use this kind of emotional energy to move us forward in life. These motivating energies arise naturally from within and feel much better to respond to than the attempts by others to motivate us through guilt, fear and other forms of coercion.

4. Self discovery and enjoyment might occur. If I grant others the freedom to think, feel, value, perceive, etc. as they wish, and they relax because they feel respected and safe, they might discover many new things about themselves. They might discover what they really like, feel or think. They might have moments of creative insight that inspire, excite and encourage them. They might invent new, more satisfying dreams for their lives than ever would have appeared under the pressure of my controlling presence.

Whenever I find myself struggling with the impulse to step in and begin trying to manage another life, or solve his or her problems, I find it helpful to review the four points just presented. They strongly motivate me to remain lovingly detached.

Now, how about the ways loving detachment benefits me?

How detachment is loving for me

1. I am relieved of the strain of attempting the impossible.

By carefully reviewing my experiences of trying to control other people's physical behavior, sobriety, health, learning, emotions and opinions, I have come to one conclusion. The only thing I might be able to control is a person's physical behavior that requires that I possess enough physical strength and am willing to use it. If I accept my powerlessness to control the other things, the inner lives and wills of others, then I relieve myself of the stress and strain of attempting the impossible. This is a primary way for me to create more serenity in my life. In fact, if I practice this process deeply enough, I sometimes reach the point where I form no opinion about what another should do. This is a truly liberated and refreshing moment for us both.

2. What other people)think of me can become none of my business.

If I am powerless to control the thoughts, perceptions, values or emotions of another, then I can liberate myself by accepting that their opinions of me are none of my business. Accepting this as fact, I not only free myself, but the other person as well, because I cease my attempts to control their inner workings.

3. My attention and energy are freed to focus on improving my own life.

I have plenty of problem areas in my own life. Obsessing about another life can help me avoid the pain within mine. But the time and energy I spend obsessing about another life I don't spend on mine, and if I do this enough, my life stays at its current level of unmanageability or gets worse. Loving detachment gives me the opportunity to invest my energies in my life.

4. I can express my love or caring in ways that bring me joy and satisfaction.

When someone I care for is struggling with a problem, or feeling some kind of pain, I usually want to be supportive or helpful. But, I want to offer the kind of help that would bring me joy to offer and them joy to receive. One of the ways that I have developed a picture of what this help could look like is to recall the times when caring friends or others have offered me assistance in ways that I enjoyed. What did they do? While showing no sign that they felt responsible for solving my problems, they offered me four things:

* Their compassionate, empathic understanding of how I perceived and fell about my situation.

* Their experiences and learning from similar situations for my consideration.

* Their genuine optimism about my abilities to work through my struggles.

* Their willingness to help, on my terms, in ways that were congruent with their needs. To be offered understanding, companionship, encouragement and assistance, but not interference, is the most satisfying help I have known. Offering this to others increases both the joys in my life and my self-esteem.

Looking at the eight ways that I see detachment as being loving, I conclude that the most basic reason for practicing it is to provide an opportunity for people's lives to be improved. The lives of those I love may be improved because I respect their powers of self-care enough to let them have a chance to reap the potential benefits of struggling, learning and succeeding on their own. My life is improved because I avoid unnecessary distress, retain energy I might have wasted, and offer caring and support in ways that bring me joy. In these ways loving detachment plays a powerful and rewarding role in helping me to both live and let live.
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Old 03-30-05, 12:58 PM
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I loved this and will pass it on.
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Old 03-30-05, 01:16 PM
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And so will I.........Beautful and profound.
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Old 03-30-05, 01:38 PM
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This is great. This fits me to a T.

I am AD/HD and I suspect my wife is AD/HD without (inattentive). It was getting to the point in our relationship (me pre-diagnosis) that I was totally keeping my wife afloat. She was feeling controlled, but I was doing it to help her. For example, she would put her key in some wierd place and I would move them to a central location where our keys go. Our van would be a mess with CD's outside of their cases and papers all over the place. I would constantly reminder her about appointments. I would pick up after her in the house (shoes, clothes, dishes). I would do these things because, if I didn't I would have to deal with her guilt and anger.

Guess what?

I stopped!

She started to miss doctor appointments, the van became a mess and her favorite CD's got scratched and wouldn't play, she could never find her keys and the shoes and dishes would pile up.

I eventually learned to do this with the help counseling and my diagnosis.
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Old 03-30-05, 02:08 PM
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Very profound. I must go ponder this and see how I can apply it to me and my family. If only I could teach my parents.........
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Old 03-30-05, 07:25 PM
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Thank you for this post........ It's infor. I need to be reminded of.........
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Old 03-30-05, 09:19 PM
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That was beautiful, Itschaotic, I've been struggling mightily with that very question.

Saved.
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Old 03-31-05, 12:24 AM
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Thanks. That is a going to be mailed to several people...
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Old 03-31-05, 01:03 AM
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Once I got my head around this concept I made many more strides toward being the person I always dreamt I could be. It freed up a tremendous amount of energy.

It's bitter sweet when I watch others suffer as I once did. Compassion and empathy are skills worth persuing. I'm so glad people seem to have found this topic useful.
Cheers! Ian
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Old 05-06-05, 05:28 AM
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I guess emotional emeshment is the all, in the all or nothing state which frequently accompanies ADD!! What a wonderful way to say I am frreeing you to be you so I can be free to be me!!! I seem to add an emeshed person in my life, and then immediatly move in only to move out due to being suffocated!!

Now for the realy question HOW did your wife effectively cope during those dark and controling years you mentioned?(of nine if I remember) Enquiring minds want to know. She sounds awsom!!!!

Would also like to pass this on to partner if okay. Maybe an open door for discussion possibly another reason for defensiveness who knows(suffocated minds don't care at this point)!!!

Well done!!!
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Old 05-06-05, 09:58 AM
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My dear wife coped, by going to a lot of meetings of Alanon. She was at wits end, and had nowhere else to go. A docto of mine suggested that she might benefit from meetings, so I granted her permission to go.

Woe is me to have to admit to such a controlling nature!

I was a complete loser. By that I mean that there was no place in my life that was functioning. I was controlling, angry, verbally abusive, mean spirited and just plain miserable all the time.

She had to get free somehow, because she could not carry on. Over two years, with regular attendance at meetings, she got free. She was lucky in that she was low enough to do what was suggested. When new to these concepts, it's often difficult to accept the changes until one is absolutely out of gas and has hit rock bottom.

PU got free of blame and resentment. She became truly detached.

It was a brutal life threatening time for me. I was lucky, and looked at her happiness and thought I might like some of that for myself. I began attending meetings of AA three and four nights a week some times, and slowly things got better. That first year after I dried out was a very dark period in my life.

A thirty year old man with the emotional development of a 14 year old boy is a painful wake up call.

It was years before the tables turned completely so that PU was seeking some of what I had. Now my skills in self care are helping to lead her not to drive herself into the ground with a work ethic that is very intense. The cycle continues, and the principles of detaching are some of the strongest teaching methods I've ever witnessed.
Cheers! Ian.
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Old 05-07-05, 11:15 PM
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Thanks Ian, I had forgotten about alanon. I too have had the curse of addiction in my life. Funny thing about us sober addicts is when we finally stop using alocohol or chemicals to self medicate we tend to exchage our addiction for co-addiction.

I did not know this could happen. I discovered my tendency toward co-addiction one evening. I went to the alonon meeting instead of the AA meeting I was there to attend. The alonon folks had SNACKS!!!! I was hungry. I idenified with these people so much I ended up taking notes.

Thanks for the reminder may be a good place to go back and visit.
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Old 05-16-05, 08:13 AM
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Red face

Quote:
Originally Posted by EYEFORGOT
I loved this and will pass it on.
I loved this and will try to apply it to my life. Any advice on the steps to get started?

I've lived with the instinct to just jump in and help or jump in and control I think it will be a very difficult habit to break.

No, I can't go to Alanon meetings right now but I will google them and see what I can find.

Thank you again.
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Old 05-16-05, 10:49 AM
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zazen

It's all about letting go of the things I've no control over, doing something about the things I do, and striving to have the wisdom to tell the difference between the two.

Many of you might recognise that as the essence of a popular "12 step" suggestion.

I began by listening to my gut. If something is bothering me, there is something wrong with me. This is just another way I've gone from blaming anything and everything for my pain, to becoming responsible for my feelings and actions.

I know the only person I can change, is myself.

If I can identify in my gut something that is bothering me, I can then try and figure out whether it's something I can change or something that's beyond my influence.

If it's something I can influence, then I set to work to do something positive to change it. If I'm on the money with this choice, I am no longer bothered about it.

If on the other hand if it is deemed to be beyond my control, then I have to let it go. I have to let it go all the way down into my core until my gut knows it's released. I wasn't good at hearing those messages in the beginning.

Relinquishing control meant that I had to admit to not being all powerful. Until I began to practise letting go deliberately, I had no idea my faith was so thin. I don't mean a specific faith when I say that, but a more general faith in anything. I was alone and not connected to relationships, community or anything else in intimate ways.

I began experimenting with letting go of trivial things that bothered me. A kid misplacing a knife in the knife block, or something as silly. I made sure that I began with something small enough that I could easily do it. I knew I would have to experience success in this or I would not go back to it often enough to learn it well. Finding something small enough, was the most difficult aspect of learning to let go. I could not believe how much I was hanging on to, nor could I believe how tenaciously I clung to even the silliest resentment.

It was a kick in the teeth to know that baby steps were all I could do, at best. I beat myself up about this quite a bit which didn't help the process.

Once I began to have faith in the process of letting go, I began to meditate in a very simple practise. I sit quietly in a balanced and proved manner and begin the process of letting go again and again as thoughts come in to break up my simple counting of breaths. This practise takes time to work it's wonders but when I am consist ant and regular in my practise it's quite remarkable how free from the constraints of things beyond my control I become. It seems insane to be otherwise.

I'm emphasising the "detaching" part of the initial phrase of "detach with love" but the "love" part comes naturally for me once I'm letting go. Once I wasn't carrying a load of resentment and anger I became much more empathetic and compassionate. I no longer looked at a jerk in my face as necessarily someone in need of a good beating. They looked instead to be wounded by the paths they had traveled.
Hope this helps.
Ian
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Old 06-08-05, 02:32 PM
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Ian, thanks for a really thought-provoking article. This is something I'm really trying to work out for myself right now.

I'm new to these forums, a non-ADD partner of an ADD man.

Here's a question - I *get* the detaching thing (doesn't mean I don't struggle to do it!) but I'm wondering, what are some physical, practical measures folks have taken to detach. Like, one situation I'm thinking of is the checkbook, the finances...shared things in a shared household. For example, it might be much easier for me to be detached from overdraft fees in the checking account if my partner and I have separate checking accounts. I come from a cultural expectation that when you get married, your merge everything, and the thought of doing that with my man really frightens me, because there are possible outcomes that would make this whole detachment thing that much harder. So I try to imagine a different paradigm...one where there is much less merging. Is this making sense? Anyone have any practical suggestions?
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