What does detachment mean to you? If someone said they were feeling ‘detached’ from a situation, you might assume they were feeling left out or separate; even cold or aloof.
When I teach mindfulness, I describe it differently.
Being detached from something doesn’t mean that you don’t care anymore. It’s to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and what you need, but not dependent on an outcome looking a certain way.
It means we:
- recognise our own agency (our ability to influence the outcome) and let go of what we can’t control
- hold assertive conversations (which includes healthy dialogue about what we need)
- and acknowledge everyone is viewing life through their own lens, and interprets what we say from their own frame of reference.
- In other words, we don’t sweat the small stuff, and make room for reasonable compromise.
In other words, we don’t sweat the small stuff, and make room for reasonable compromise.
The challenge comes, when we’re emotionally invested in a relationship, and someone isn’t being who we really need them to be.
Think of your life as a tree for a moment, with all the branches and leaves as your friends, colleagues, associates and family. There may well be times when there’s a need to cut back in order to grow, especially where parts of the tree are becoming unhealthy. In the context of relationships, this is called affectionate detachment.
Sometimes known as compassionate detachment, it’s the process of putting healthy space between you and someone or something, where their presence is potentially causing more harm than good.
It particularly means recognising that you are not responsible for the way someone treats you, and nor is it your place to modify their behaviour or fix their ‘problems’. A period of affectionate detachment can last five minutes, five days or much longer if that’s what’s needed.
Here’s an idea of how this could work:
This week, maybe set the intention to Trim the Tree. Take some time to reflect on and evaluate the nature of your circle, and whether your tribe is giving you what you need. Consider whether you feel nourished, refreshed and rejuvenated in their company, or instead you feel drained, exhausted or stressed. Take some time to think about how you can raise your concerns in a meaningful and assertive way; maybe with the help of a professional (some useful links here) or talking it through with a friend. You may start to set boundaries which include not engaging in unhelpful dialogue. You may practice some assertive ‘I’ statements (e.g. I need or I believe). Most of all, throughout this process, remember to practise self-love and take good care of yourself.
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Copyright Delphi Ellis 2020