The Gift Of Detachment

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It’s OK.

The greatest gift may be the one you lose.

We think that the term “detachment” means from “things.”

It is much more about relationships we try to foster that are illusions, that we hold onto as though they will finally come through for us, except they rarely do with much. Especially at the holidays, we are often bound by obligations that make it even more crystal clear to us that there are relationships in our life that are not based in the reality of real give and take, or real sharing and meaning.

By obligation we blow air into the never satisfied balloon of distorted expectations and often toxic silence, or subtle or not so subtle responses that make us try harder – when what is called for is detachment.

This just may be the greatest gift of these holidays: to let go of the attachments where it is impossible to really connect in a way that gives meaning.

Who doesn’t really “get you”? Who doesn’t really “know you” and doesn’t want to, because really understanding you would have to make them rethink their own narrow world?

STOP, reflect, and do what seems like the unholy thing – let go of the illusions of relationship and energy robbing relationships that simply are myths. They have lost their meaning.

We are terribly afraid of challenging the systems and networks that we believe are so holy. They aren’t holy if they aren’t life giving, and if you cannot be appreciated and experienced as who you are, if you can’t “be seen and be heard.”

Take a step back and see where you are blowing air into the illusion of a relationship that no longer works, no longer allows and helps you “be.”

We do no favor for ourselves by pretending to be what we are not, feigning interest when we don’t care, and using enormous energy to play the role someone else requires.

Perhaps it’s time to consider that the great gift may be to let go, to detach, and to let go of the expectations of how you think you should be and have to be, and to get really clear about what you want.

What do you WANT?

The rejection you fear when you are pretending to find meaning where you are not is really like you holding a mirror up to yourself and threatening yourself with nonsense that no longer serves.

Mirror Image

You are not enough, says the mirror. You are selfish, says the mirror. You are going to be rejected and unloved says the mirror, You will be alone, guilty, and full of shame, chants the mirror.

All of that is you, afraid to look at what is real and what is not.

Detaching from what robs you, from toxic expectations, or simply the ignorance of people who cannot appreciate you and fail to “know” you may be the beginning of your greatest holiday gift.

We fill our lives with the illusions of what satisfies and wonder why we are empty.

What do YOU WANT?

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin
  • jeris hollander

    “By obligation we blow air into the never satisfied balloon of distorted expectations and often toxic silence, or subtle or not so subtle responses that make us try harder – when what is called for is detachment.” This quote resonates with me so much when reflecting on past relationships and even some current ones. I consider myself to be blessed with many authentic and meaningful relationships in my life – these are the ones that set the bar for mutuality, trust, honesty, reciprocity, love and compassion. Of course, even these solid relationships are imperfect at times, but a deep sense of acceptance and understanding is ever-present. Learning to determine the difference between a truly authentic relationship and an illusory one can prove to be very difficult, and choosing to let go of the ones which no longer serve us can be even more difficult. Many of us have an inherent desire to fix what we perceive to be broken without realizing when detachment and letting go IS the appropriate fix.

    “We are terribly afraid of challenging the systems and networks that we believe are so holy. They aren’t holy if they aren’t life giving, and if you cannot be appreciated and experienced as who you are, if you can’t “be seen and be heard.” We so often allow our obligations, fears, insecurities, and resistance to change to determine our level of emotional attachment, when in fact, we have to power to choose detachment without any big dramatic display to signify the cessation of the relationship. Often times it is challenging when a person we’re detaching from remains a part of our lives due to familial or social connections, however we must remember we have control over where we invest our emotional energy. When are not accepted, understood, and heard, it is time to take a hard look at the relationship at hand and determine if it is one of illusion or one of truth. For those of us who consistently seek growth, change and novelty, we must accept that not all relationships will remain alongside us through this evolutionary journey.

  • Sandra Lintz

    There are coworkers, family members and people in our social circles who don’t really want to get to know us. They hold their judgements of us and have prescriptions for us for how they want us to be, how they see us and how they think we should think and how we should live our lives. It is possible for the negatives to overwhelm us; we may find ourselves in the down spiral. Maintaining our positivity is the most important thing we can do for ourselves, for our mental, emotional and physical health, thriving and flourishing. Results of scientific studies statistically support the Losada/Fredrickson Positivity Ratio of 3:1. Over time we must keep our positive to negative thought/feeling ratio to a minimum of 3:1 in order to flourish and maintain positivity. Accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative keeps a reservoir of positivity stronger. Certainly we can be around negative people who round us and refuse to listen to us and see us, but it depletes our positivity reserves. Be assured we have options available and good reasons to take care of ourselves. Give yourself the gift of exercising the option of detachment as necessary.

  • Audrey Sloofman

    We all seem to live in our own interpretation of the world and to be surrounded by many who want us to play some particular part in their version of their world. Having spent much of my life trying to be “good” and “nice”, “loving” and “forgiving,” I found that some people may never like me or be nice back to me no matter what kind of pretzel shape I put myself into. My thoughts and emotions were at the mercy of these others as if I were their puppet. Now I realize that there is no need for me to attempt to fit others expectations and, in fact, that is not possible. What is best is for me to focus on who I am and what I want. To not be the puppet of others, but to puppeteer my own emotions and thoughts with a focus on the positive and on my strengths. If I am doing my best and have good intentions and I still don’t please someone, that just might be their problem and I can love them anyway, but I don’t have to worry, brood or get down on myself for it. Instead I can use my strengths to create space for them and my positive mindset and emotions to generate a better grounding to relate from.

  • Jodi Ana

    I have noticed in myself, that when I maintain a state of positivity and am in alignment with my True Self and my Strengths, I really don’t care what other people think of me.

    When I lived in India, I was in such a positive state of mind (and had such a reservoir built up) that I felt like I was on top of the world! I was one of those people who were like, “nobody can be THAT happy all the time, she must be faking it and only posting the positive!” The truth, is that I was so dang happy every single day that I was on cloud 4,982 (or higher) most every moment and my life really truly was THAT good! It is a state that I harnessed by my own actions and practices.

    Here is the beautiful reality, as it relates to this article. Once I returned from this year-long journey through India, I came into contact with a family member that openly admitted to purposely doing things to upset me. Sadly, this was her way of being. One night while I was at her house visiting, she tried one of her ‘gimmicks’ and I simply shrugged my shoulders and went on with life. Later, she told me she was purposely trying to upset me and her words to me were, “I’m surprised you didn’t react this time like you usually do”.

    I was completely detached from the situation as it was occurring, because I was fully in my strengths. It is kind of odd, because one would think that a person would be upset to know that someone was purposely trying to get under your skin and upset you… but I didn’t feel any anger. I simply felt pity and compassion for the person who felt like she needed to stoop to that level in order to gain some sense of satisfaction.

    The truth is, she has access to a greater sense of satisfaction every single day by making a choice to practice positivity and awareness and coming to know her own strengths. She merely needs someone to teach her.

    Equally important: From my own experience, I have learned that, when we are connected to our own strengths, it is completely possible to be around these types of people and simply not be affected at all by their negative behaviors. It is totally possible to be at a point where it doesn’t have a negative impact on us at all – true detachment.

  • Dr. gloria wright

    One of the AA steps is to “detach with love.” I can do one or the other, but putting them together is really challenging.
    In my experience, trying to convince someone of your perception, when it is different from your own, is a challenge, if not impossible. When they believe their perception over your own honest meaning, it’s a bit of a lost cause. If they think they know what you mean or think and don’t believe you when you express your own honest intentions, what can you do?
    Detach is certainly one alternative. Detaching from their perception, and loving them anyway is challenging. I find I need to detach first, then add love later after some time with detaching.
    It can be sad that family members and/or friends don’t “really get you” or “really know you,” but it isn’t always possible. Letting go of the need for those you desire to get and know you can be futile. Being true to your authentic self is far more important.
    I don’t know who to give credit to for this quote, but I have it on my desk as a reminder: “Be happy. Be yourself. If others don’t like you, let them be. Happiness is a choice. Life isn’t about pleasing everybody.” Amen.

  • James Beeman

    The brain is constantly evolving and in our lifetime, the brain goes through numerous transitions that often correlate with external life transitions. Some of the main transitions are from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood; however, these are only the external transitions and reflect some of the external transitions that are occurring. The brain is going through transitions that move an individual through dependence, independence, and eventually interdependence.

    As we move through each of these transitions, we often fight the natural tendency to disconnect with the relationships that made sense in season of life and connect with the people who will help us become more successful in the next season. We often fight this detachment because it feels uncomfortable, wrong, and perhaps even selfish. However, what you begin to realize on the opposite side of the detachment is that the relationships you held in that particular area of life were only becoming more strained and you were already growing further apart.

    One of the ways that this plays our practically for many of my clients is that when going through a job transition, I often hear that they are afraid that their old employer is out to get them or is trying to destroy their career; however, while this rarely does occur, for the most part, this is not the reality. The reality is that the employer-employee relationship is no longer one that is mutually beneficial and therefore comes to an end.

    What makes detachment from one group of people and attachment to another group of people work well is when you have a clear understand of what it is that you want and move towards that. When you understand what this is and are pursuing your ideal goals, more of you will show up at work and you will attract the type of people who will help you get more of what you want and less of what you don’t.

    Detachment is the gift of the destruction of neuropathways that are no longer helping you to make meaning. Detachment from one group allows attachment to the next group.

    Go for it!

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute