Developing Healthy Detachment
Lucinda Bassett


In 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 practice."

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 yourself
* giving other people the space to be themselves.
* disengaging from overly enmeshed or dependent relationships
* 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 unchangeable realities.
* exercising emotional self-protection to avoid emotional devastation.

* 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 enmeshed.

Now 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 "hooks."

Step Six:  Affirm yourself as someone who deserves healthy, wholesome relationships.  See yourself as a good person at home, at work, and in the community.

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.


Bassett shows readers how to go from fearful to focused; how to alleviate insecurity and feel confident about the future; and how to transform depression and anxiety into hope, happiness, and peace of mind.  She offers a positive action plan that turns every challenge into an opportunity, and even helps relieve stress-induced exhaustion and poor health.  So even if you can't change what's happening around you, you CAN change what's happening inside of you, thanks to this empowering new solution.


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