Healthy Detachment

 Allison Salituro, PhD, ext. 321

Codependency is an old concept defined by the psychological community, who wanted to classify the dysfunctional behavior patterns of the relatives and spouses of addicts.  Individuals who spend a lot of time around the chronically addicted, ill, needy/dependent, and mentally disturbed develop functional behaviors to cope with these problematic environments.  However, these behaviors become trouble when applied beyond these settings.


Codependents are often overly attached to others in their lives and tend to be very reactive to situations.  You might define yourself as codependent, reactive, and overly attached if you:


·         Worry excessively about others’ problems,

·         Are preoccupied with controlling remote situations,

·         Find that your mental and emotional energy and behavior is focused around another person or around other people,

·         Caretake and rescue other people at the sacrifice of your own needs and wants, and/or

·         Enable another’s unhealthy lifestyle.


Codependency often begins in childhood.  When codependent individuals become adults, they have often encountered no other examples of how to handle relationships in their lives.  If you are codependent, you may become anxious when confronted with the option of healthy detachment from a loved one, because of the following reasons:


·         Detaching from another’s problems feels like you aren’t doing anything to solve the problem at-hand.

·         Sitting on the sidelines, or getting out of the way may make you feel fearful that something bad is going to happen to them.

·         Letting go feels like you don’t care or don’t love the person.


However, codependent attachment and caretaking offer little benefit.  You may find yourself trying to rescue or enable someone else who has not asked for your help, resents your help, or who has no intention of fixing their problem.  You may become resentful that you are doing so much for them, and they aren’t taking care of themselves or you.  Excessive caretaking can cause your life to become chaotic and unmanageable.  You may become moody, anxious, angry, and depressed over your relationship with others, meanwhile your own problems aren’t being solved.


Why detach?  First of all, feeling bad about someone else all of the time does not change that situation or person.  Trying to control something that is out of your control can be frustrating and may provoke a lot of negative feelings.  “Getting out of the way” allows other people to experience the natural consequences of their actions; pain is a great motivator for people to grow!


So, at this point, you may be wondering how do I detach in a healthy way?  Healthy detachment includes these 6 steps:


1.        Accept reality.  There is very little you can do to change anyone besides yourself,  and other peoples’ problems aren’t yours to solve.


2.        Give yourself credit.  You have done a lot to help.


3.        Restore balance. Seek balance and peace in your own life as best as you can.

4.        Let go. Remember that others’ behaviors are not a reflection on you, and their behaviors are not personal.     You can’t control what you do, but you can control how much you’ll take or how you’ll respond.

5.        React less. Notice when your feelings seem to be tied to the other person, try to figure out why this  happens, then practice detachment next time.

6.        Practice self-care. Get in touch with your own needs and wants.  Let others take care of you, accept their  compliments, and find mutual relationships.


In time, you will find you feel calmer, less angry, less anxious and better able to respond to your own life.