People associate the term ‘emotionally detached’ with two different things. One definition is ‘emotionally unavailable’ and is used when a person avoids something that makes them feel strong emotions such as anxiety. You know, like your ex’s commitment phobia.
The kind of emotional detachment I want to talk about is healthy and desirable. In plain terms, emotional detachment is about distancing yourself from drama.
Unfortunately, drama comes at you everywhere often in the form of family, whom you’re stuck with. It is impossible to physically distance yourself (I should note that if you do, you then enter into the emotionally unavailable realm), but you can avoid being sucked in. To be sucked into drama is to allow emotions to take control.
When emotions drive your decisions, you are apt to respond in ineffective ways
I’m not just talking about the heat of the moment, but rather after the moment has passed. Letting unpleasant experiences bother you too much is dangerous. You will either be miserable or pick up bad habits to temporarily escape the pain.
People commonly find themselves on a roller coaster where they succumb to negative emotions in return for periodic release, say through drinking. You know better, and you deserve better.
Life throws problems at everyone. Don’t take it personally. Instead, focus on the positive things and try not to care so much. And voila, that’s it!
No, really it is. I know that you’re skeptical and so far unimpressed, taking my advice as merely a snub. And so, for you, I delve further into the process of emotional detachment.
Now, before I begin it’s hard to welcome objective guidance, especially from a stranger. I, myself, hate the idea of therapists. However, this is not objective guidance.
Since struggling with my own drama and that of my family’s—made up of chronic disease and addiction—emotional detachment is quite personal.
Simple, yes. Easy, no.
To be emotionally detached is to accept things as they are. Past traumas, people and the universe. I usually find a way to break down self-help into logical steps and goals.
In this case, there are none. Acceptance is uncomplicated, yet dreadfully hard. It is a decision you make for survival, for self-preservation. It is your choice.
Another component of emotional detachment is never giving your whole self to anyone. This may sound unattractive to the romantics out there.
Though it’s not fit for a heart-wrenching romance novel, it is necessary in the real world. If you make your entire self available for others, there are people who will take advantage. Eventually, you will have nothing.
And, as the daughter of a single mother, I can tell you that your children will take every last drop of you so save something for them! I believe that children are the only beings worth giving your whole self to. This is, of course, assuming you decide to have children.
Emotional detachment requires concentration and exploration. You must focus on that which you do have control over, for acceptance does not mean compliance.
If you haven’t yet found a satisfying and lucrative way to contribute, then you need to explore. Explore different people, communities and activities until you have found something that works. Then concentrate on making a difference.
This applies to family, social life and career. Just as you would at work, focus on the things you have control over. You may need to reassess this and learn to compromise. Sharing blood or a roof with someone does not issue you control over their actions.
Will you become cold-hearted?
No, but people may perceive you that way. First of all, being emotionally detached does not mean emotionally numb. It is in everyone’s best interest to detach themselves from negative emotions, both yours and those of other people. All the same, life would be meaningless without emotions, especially the pleasurable ones.
Even if you learn to separate yourself from negative emotions, you won’t always be around people who do. When you react differently from someone else, it can be hard for them to understand.
Your apparent nonchalance, which is, in fact, calmness and stability, could be interpreted as insensitivity. I know how painful this can be especially when coming from a loved one. However, long term it is less painful than the conflicts you create if you let your emotions come over you.
Reaching inner peace and solidarity
Distancing yourself from your emotions is not a guarantee to happiness. Almost nothing is. An effective way of experiencing inner peace, emotional detachment is just about the closest thing to happiness.
By finding peace within yourself, you ward off detrimental habits that would only make emotional detachment more difficult. Binge-eating, alcoholism or even chronic pessimism are alternative, and need I mention unhealthy, ways people find peace.
These kinds of release from emotional pain are both temporary and contradictory as they harm your state of mental and physical health.
The more you are able to detach yourself from life’s emotional demands, the stronger you will become. Through analyzing and keeping your emotions in check, you actually become more comfortable with all sorts of emotions.
When you are confident that your emotions or those of others cannot consume you, they become less scary. In time, this strength helps you to grow a solid shoulder for someone in need.