Healthy detachment is a sweet and loving kiss goodbye to a toxic or debilitating relationship. But how to do it? So many people who are codependent or manipulated by narcissists have difficulty setting boundaries or keeping a healthy distance. Detaching is even harder. During the year of Covid, you may have been stuck at home with difficult or demanding personalities. But you don’t have to be stuck in a relationship rut forever. Now that the world is opening up again, this is your chance to start protecting yourself, keeping the negative people away and building your sense of self esteem. Let’s start letting go of what hurts us.

What is detachment

 Detachment can best be described as a process of letting go. It allows you to release difficult situations and, sometimes, difficult people. The Oxford Dictionary includes the word having objectivity. But how many of us have objectivity when we have never known a supportive or living environment?

Healthy detachment happens when we’ve tried everything else

Have you tried to set boundaries and found that to be an impossible task? What about limiting the time you spend with someone (or your whole family) who always seem to make you feel guilty and bad, but they continue to hang on and bug you. And then there’s the worrying and constantly fixing crises for loved ones or friends struggling with addictions. There are many kinds of toxic relationships.

Healthy detachment may sound like a recipe for the impossible, we’ll offer some ways to do it. We often hear that we need to detach from a dysfunctional family system. But how do you detach from perhaps the only family you’ve ever known? Or loved ones you can’t imagine living without? How do you detach when you’re afraid not being there could mean life or death for a child, a spouse, a friend? And In other words, how healthy can detachment be?

Melody Beattie, author of the bestseller, Codependency No More, states that: “Detachment is based on the premises that each person is responsible for himself, that we can’t solve problems that aren’t ours to solve, and that worrying doesn’t help.” Beattie describes detachment this way:

“’Present moment living’ – living in the here and now. We allow life to happen instead of forcing and trying to control it. We relinquish regrets over the past and fears about the future. We make the most of each day.”

 20 Ways Of Detaching With Love

  • Stop denying the obvious and accept reality. Look around and see what is really happening.
  • Let go of others’ problems – it is theirs to deal with.
  • Make decisions instead of suffering with inaction. We will make good decisions and bad ones, but at least making a decision leads to action.
  • Get out of chaos. This may even mean leaving the home if necessary.
  • Explore our own addictive processes (including our codependency). Read, go to meetings, use a sponsor, get online, etc., to understand the addictive process.
  • Stop worrying about things we cannot control. Focus on the Serenity Prayer, examine if we are attempting to control people and situations, and let go.
  • Stop controlling. Take this next step in letting go of controlling.
  • Let go of toxic shame: Read our work on shame as well as others’ work and recognize that we are wonderful human beings.
  • Feel our feelings and accept them. Feelings aren’t facts and they are neither good nor bad.
  • Utilize a combination of feelings and thoughts to help heal. This is taking responsibility for ourselves.
  • Act out of power instead of react out of emotions. If we react to others, we give them power while acting of our own will gives us power.
  • Trust ourselves and the decisions we make. We need to relearn/learn how to trust our own being.
  • Let go of caretaking others (enabling). Enabling comes when we are angry and resentful about our caretaking of others and neglecting ourselves.
  • Focus on depending on ourselves. Remember we are able to take care of our responsibilities.
  • Let go of attachment to people, places, and things. When we are attached, we are overruled by such attachment as they control us.
  • Focus on today. We were given 24 hours and we utilize this time today.
  • Set healthy goals for today and the future but don’t live in fantasy about the future. Goals can help keep us focused.
  • Find family and friends who support us in our positive changes: We all need support from others – ask.
  • Attend 12-step meetings such as Al-Anon or Codependency Anonymous. Get a sponsor. Again, this is getting help from others and from the program.
  • Get help by seeing a therapist specializing in addictions and codependency. We may need more help than what we can get from meetings and a sponsor.

Beattie tells us that “Detachment is not a cold, hostile withdrawal; a resigned, despairing acceptance of anything life and people throw our way; a robotical walk through life oblivious to, and totally unaffected by people and problems; a Pollyanna-like ignorant bliss; a shirking of our true responsibilities to ourselves and others; a severing of our relationships. Nor is it a removal of our love and concern, although sometimes these ways of detaching might be the best we can do, for the moment.”  Detachment is about love – love of self and love of others and a significant way to get healthy.

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Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the fields of mental health, addictions, and co-occurring disorders. Her other specialties include grief and trauma, women’s issues, chronic pain management, holistic healing, GLBTQ concerns, and spirituality and transpersonal psychology. Dr. Anderson has been educated and trained in the fields of education, social work, and spirituality, and she holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (non-denominational/interfaith) specializing in spirituality.

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