Ways to Detach - work in progress

A Collection of examples of ways to choose healthy detachment. Note this is not the same as either a PD Trait or an Enabling Trait. 

"Not my circus not my monkeys" is a Polish saying and it helps me to remind myself that there is a lot that isn't really my problem, that I don't have to make it my problem and try to fix it. It is a reminder to leave the problem with the person whose it is, who has caused it, while I focus on my own life. Having been raised as a fixer, rescuer this is a big step for me and not always easy.

Another way is mindfulness, to observe my thoughts, my impulses and not jump right in, not see them as orders to act, but rather evaluate them first, sort through them what is mine, what is relevant, what might come from the outside and a lot falls by the wayside this way. The book that helped me was by Kabat Zinn "Wherever you go, there you are".

Part of detachment for me necessitated to go through the grieving process, to reach acceptance. You can read more about this here:

To detach myself for me means to observe and not absorb. To be a mirror not a sponge. To not be a rescuer. It's learning how to get the person you care for to learn new skills for themselves so that they can cope better and not be so dependent. 

I've done so many things that I didn't want to do because of FOG fear, obligation and guilt. I'm learning to do things for myself first and not feel guilty about it. 

If you see someone in distress and in a crisis it's so difficult not to step in and help them. 

It's about setting clear boundaries for yourself and sticking to them. It's about not getting on someone else's emotional rollercoaster with them. Watch them go round on their own without sitting beside them. 

It's about loving and appreciating yourself. It's about accepting things that you cannot change. 

It's about staying calm no matter what. It's about recognising that you can only change your own behaviour you can't change anyone else's. 

I hope that you are able to detach yourself. I know it's so difficult to do but over time with support and learning new skills it becomes easier. 

Best wishes


Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: xredshoesx on August 13, 2017, 10:20:40 AM

detaching has both mental and physical components.  while it was easy for me to put that physical distance between myself and my uPDbiomom and uPDexbf, it was harder to get their voices out of my head.  when i feel myself getting really self-negative i have to stop myself and ask 'whose words/voice am i hearing?' and usually i realize that i've been berating myself the way i was verbally abused as a child and in my relationship with my ex.  then i have to do some recentering/ refocusing the situation, often this means deep breathing or just walking away briefly  from the trigger situation which brought on the frustration.  i do some self talk too and try to list all the POSITIVE things i've done in my mind like a mantra, things that happened without their influence or chaos in my life that i did on my own, for myself.

as a side note, getting their words out of my head also really helped with my anxiety and some of my OCD behaviors.  our minds are the most powerful part of the healing process indeed.


Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: notrightinthehead on August 14, 2017, 04:12:17 PM

That would be wonderful to fast forward. I don't think it works like that though, you have to work through it. The anger phase was a good one for me, I finally had enough energy to stand up for myself. Feeling angry gave me strength.


Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: Spring Butterfly on August 15, 2017, 05:41:12 AM

Grief is about processing and accepting loss. The speed at which you go through that process and get to accepting is up to you.

The book "will I ever be good enough" mentioned in our book review board might be a way to help you get to acceptance. It has a well outlined plan with bullet lists along the way as sort of mile markers in your journey to see where you're at with certain stages of healing.

Karla McLaren has a good blog on emotions and the gifts and messages various emotions bestow. The gift of anger is letting us know a boundary has been violated and once that boundary is reestablished the anger naturally goes away.

On your original post, for a while there was talk here in the PD Parents board of taking an anthropologist viewpoint. I can't remember who started it but it really helped to think of myself as an outside Observer of PD Behavior. Some recommended even imagining yourself in a white lab coat with wire rim glasses and a clipboard taking note of the different behaviors. Others recommended a mental game like PD bingo where you start to check off behaviors. It was a lighthearted way to get to detachment.

The more Out of the FOG, the less controlled by Fear Obligation Guilt the more the whole PD thing became :meh: for me and I once actually rolled my eyes and walked away during a PD eruption.

Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: OnwardsAndUpwards on August 15, 2017, 10:13:08 AM

I read a quote "Be a lighthouse, not a lifeboat" when people are demanding that you step in and fix what's going in their life. A lighthouse shows the path, a lifeboat is risking yourself to go out there and personally rescue them. 

For me, when someone says "oh OAU! I have this big problem and I don't know what to do!" instead of riding in and taking charge to solve it, I (try to) now ask what they've done to help themselves, what they think might work, and if I have an idea (like call your doctor, or therapist, or the company that you owe money to, and ask them) suggest that. And this next part is crucial!! Then I stop. 

Don't continuing engaging. Let them be an adult and solve it. Some people are truly only asking for ideas or venting, but we're so conditioned from PD people to take over because otherwise we have to endure their anger, etc. 

And as for the PD people, when you consistently stop, they often move onto easier targets (though in my experience it took years). Someone described them as toddlers having a tantrum. When the toddler realizes that Parent A won't give in to the tears, etc. they learn to target Parent B. 

All the best to you!

Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: tommom on August 30, 2017, 10:25:35 AM

Ranchwife, I have trying to reason my way through this. I hope this might help. I used to literally get into a panic...PANIC!!! when things went wrong for the PD in my life (M first, then my current H). I even had stress issues at a very early age that made doctors scratch their heads. I had my first GI series (drinking berium and getting scanned because of such extensive stomach issues when I was a teen, for example). I lived in utter fear of the upset that MY PDs generated in me. (I meant to accent the "MY"). Once I was able to realize that it was not me and MY PD person, but me and that person over there....then it began to stop. As they say..."Not my clowns, not my circus." (That's how I learned it; thanks for the actual quote and info, practical!) then it changed. For me, it was like an electric switch being turned off. Her/his pain/drama/issues/anger, etc. were no longer mine. 

How that happened for me first was by drawing boundaries. I read a great deal about it first. Started with Anne Katherine's book "Boundaries" (although I like Cloud and Townsend's better) and read and read - and haven't stopped. "Stop Walking on Eggshells" was amazing, "How to Stop Caretaking" was an eye opener. Beattie's book is a great one.

Don't stop reading, including this site. If you were trained (like me) to be the caretaker for a PD parent, it is hard! They manipulate those around them and for children, we don't know anything else.  You need to unlearn that toxic connection. So read.

Common Behaviors on this site was an amazing eye-opener. I must have three times as many posts on that one! You can use those to process those behaviors you didn't see as PD. 

Go to see a therapist, if you can. Go into a support group. There are "Survivor" groups on Meet Up, even on Facebook, ask at chuches. Go and -when you can -talk. You (like me) may be the quietest one there for a while. Now I won't shut up. 

One day you'll realize that you aren't hooked into their emotional blackmail/manipulations/etc. It just happened. You might slip a few times, but eventually, you just won't go back. 

it will happen. Be patient, it's on its way!

Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: tommom on August 30, 2017, 02:55:41 PM

I wanted to add one more thing, if you don't mind: Self care. When I first started this journey I didn't get that at all. Why all the talk about self-care?

Well, one day it dawned on me (I can be a little slow sometimes) that it is a way of, yes, being good to ourselves, but also a way of defining ourselves. If, like me, you always had to put someone else's care above yours, you don't see yourself a clearly (if that makes sense) as some one whose background was less toxic. If your family was dysfunctional, even a functioning parent would be overwhemed with the day-to-day. If that is true, then a little one's self can get lost in all of the chaos around them. I actually did exercises to help me know who I am. My T made me do a 'homework' list of ways I could practice self-care.It was very helpful, actually.

So, I wanted to add that; don't forget to take care of you, too!

Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: mdana on August 30, 2017, 04:14:28 PM

Everyone's replies are so wonderful! 

Detachment for me has been difficult and layered. 

At the end of this long and painful journey I have learned many things about detachment which for me (at this moment)  is, not feeling the need or  impulse to control or change what is, what has been, what will be. 

It means looking at my daughter and feeling the sadness and love for her, but not the intense urge to fix  or change her. 

It means getting a message from my ex, and owning the past, but no longer wishing it could have been something different. 


Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: Spring Butterfly on August 31, 2017, 05:14:59 PM

Something I read today made me think of this thread "detachment is letting someone experience their consequences with trying to rescue them" and "helping is doing something for someone they cannot do themselves, enabling is doing something for someone they can and should be doing for themselves"

Also this article was very helpful for me to understand detachment and although it written with addiction in mind it applies I think to PD also

Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: Spring Butterfly on August 31, 2017, 06:41:51 PM

Just remembered these links from my research a while ago that helped me understand detachment more clearly. They helped my resolve to make forward progress.


Title: Re: Examples of and resources about detaching
Post by: findingmywaybacktome on September 15, 2017, 01:01:14 PM

I don't believe it's possible to fast-forward through the grief and/or recovery periods. I do wish there was, though. I do what I can to keep moving forward, but I don't think that it can be hurried along, sadly. I try my best to do my very best each day, while accepting that this is just where I am today and not beating myself up for not being at a different point. 

About detaching...I'm not sure how well I can describe it, but I'll try. 
It has been so helpful to me to be able to do this. I wouldn't say that I'm great at it, but it's an ability that I keep working on developing.

I started doing it while still with my husband. His gaslighting was...terrible. I didn't even know that he was gaslighting me at the time. But I knew he was lying. His lying had gone from hard to pin down to blatant, yet he was now lying to gaslight me regularly and I was caught up in a haze of confused emotions.
I wanted a way to 'prove' to myself that I wasn't crazy, that he was lying and lying. Yet, part of me didn't want to believe the man that was saying he loved me was lying like this. 

So, after watching the show Lie To Me, I decided to study up on body languge and then....observe him. And that's how I taught myself to detach. It was difficult. At first, I couldn't do it, would keep getting caught up in the spew of horrible words coming out of his mouth and reacting by crying, etc.
But, with practice, I got better at it.
And, one night, there I was, detached.
He was ranting and raging on and on, and I was just sitting on the sofa, observing him.
It felt rather like I was enclosed in one of those bubbles, as if there was some protective barrier between us.
He ranted and raved and I...just sat there, untouched by him for the first time.

After that, I started be able to do this at will and then used this ability to ask him questions. Not anything that would set off a raging fit for certain, just...questions I already knew the answer to. Hey, honey, did you get a chance to pay that bill?, when I knew he hadn't, etc. And then I would detach and observe his body language when he lied, and I knew he was lying beyond any doubt.

Well, I hope that helps :)

Detaching to me is rather like mentally closing off my emotions (making them inaccessable, and so unable to be manipulated) and then really focusing in on observing the behavior of someone else.

Interestingly, I found myself doing this fairly recently, automatically, without even thinking about it...I still don't know what it was in her behavior that triggered this, gave me pause. I'm now going to consider this instinctive switching into this mode as a red flag.

--Contributing Members: Practical, GuitarMan