her best-seller Codependent No More, Melody Beatty
calls healthy detachment an act and an art. She
believes that "detachment can become a habitual
response in the same manner that obsessing, worrying, and
controlling become habitual responses--with
Healthy detachment is about
* allowing others to be themselves.
* reversing the need to rescue, save or fix anyone who is
ill, dysfunctional, or irrational.
* reversing the need to be rescued, saved, or fixed
* giving other people the space to be themselves.
* disengaging from overly enmeshed or dependent
* being willing to accept that you cannot control other
people or situations.
* developing and maintaining a safe emotional distance
from someone to whom you previously gave away your power.
* establishing emotional boundaries between you and those
who are overly dependent on you.
* feeling your own feelings when you see someone else
falter, being neither responsible nor guilty.
* facing life with a healthy perspective.
* recognizing the need to avoid uncontrollable and
* exercising emotional self-protection to avoid emotional
* allowing your loved ones to accept responsibility for
their actions as you avoid scolding them.
* avoiding being hurt, abused, or taken advantage of by
others, especially those with whom you have been overly
you need to know when you should detach.
Melody Beatty suggests we do it "when we can't
stop thinking, talking about, or worrying about
someone or something; when our emotions are churning
and boiling; when we feel like we have to do
something about someone because we can't stand it
another minute; when we're hanging on by a thread,
and it feels like the single thread is frayed; and
when we believe we can no longer live with the
problem we've been trying to live with."
A good rule of thumb is: You need to detach
most when it seems the least likely or possible
thing to do.
This is a very humbling but true realization.
Developing inner detachment is no different from
developing any other skill. It requires an
understanding of detachment and the desire to
achieve it, which takes patience, practice and
skills. Based on the research of Dr. Bruce
Perry, a clinician, researcher, and internationally
recognized authority on children in crisis, here are
some powerful steps for developing healthy
detachment from toxic relationships.
Step One: Once you've identified your toxic
people and areas of dysfunction, spend time thinking
through [these areas] to gain complete understanding
about why you are in these toxic relationships and
why it is so hard to detach.
Step Two: Identify irrational or false beliefs
in your toxic relationship that stop you from
detaching. Replace those beliefs with healthy,
rational, honest ones.
Step Three: Identify why you feel hurt or
threatened by the relationship.
Step Four: Admit that the other person or
situation is irrational, unhealthy, toxic, or
addictive. No matter what you say or do, you
cannot change or control this reality. But the
one thing you can change is you. Stop
imagining things to be better than they really
are. Be honest about what the relationship
really is or isn't.
Step Five: Map out the reasons why there is no
need to feel guilty over being emotionally detached
from the relationship. Let go of the emotional
Step Six: Affirm yourself as someone who
deserves healthy, wholesome relationships. See
yourself as a good person at home, at work, and in
Step Seven: Seek support in therapy, from
friends, and from support groups for letting go of
your enmeshment in an unhealthy relationship.
Step Eight: Meditate and pray for the strength
to detach from unhealthy people and situations.
Step Nine: Allow no one and nothing to affect
your good feelings about yourself.
Step Ten: Practice, practice, practice the
fine art of letting go. It takes time.
Step Eleven: Go back to Step One and go
through the steps all over again.
Unhealthy attachments come in many different
forms--not just to people, but also to the
underlying belief systems that urge us to look
outside of ourselves for strength and support.
These beliefs tell us that we're not strong or
capable enough to take care of ourselves. To
some degree, within all of us resides a frightened
child who still believes we need something or
someone more powerful than us, or we could
die. This unhealed, scarred child within is
looking for a "magic pill"--a person who
will take away our fear and vulnerability.
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