Emotional detachment


It’s strange the way you can feel like you’re getting nowhere for years, and then suddenly there seems to be some sort of progress or development in a quick leap. It can be getting a new job, or meeting someone, but I’ve found this past week that it can actually just be making your mind up and doing something you’ve been meaning to for a long time.

In my case, the progress I’ve made has to do with emotional detachment. I’ve always found it hard to know what is an appropriate level of attaching to a friend. On the scale of ‘I don’t give a flying fuck whether you live or die’ to ‘stalkerish and jealous to the point where you’ll start wondering if we’re actually a couple’, you ideally want all your relationships to end up somewhere in the stable middle. But how to actually do that has been a mystery to me. Still is, in some respect, but so worth trying!

Of course, the process isn’t really made easier by some people on the high end being quite comfortable about being there – and why shouldn’t they be? You’re giving them so much power over you! If a friend that has constantly stood you up or had you as a low priority finds out that you are emotionally detaching yourself from them, they might get worried that they won’t get away with treating you like that anymore.

But for me, emotional detachment isn’t about breaking contact. My ‘high-end’ friend is still my friend, and I still care about them, but I just can’t tie my happiness to them anymore. That doesn’t mean I won’t be happy to hear from them – it just means I’ll be okay even if I don’t.

This is not like flipping a switch, of course, and I’m fully prepared for set-backs, but I know this is the right move and the fact that I seem to have finally figured out a little bit how to actually do it just give me a great sense of finally getting somewhere! So, my concrete how-to steps for emotionally detaching yourself from somebody you have let slide too far up the scale of caring.

1) Don’t worry about them. Don’t look for signs of life from them, or stalk them. Realise they’re not your responsibility, you cannot change them – let them be who they are and take care of themselves. If you’re like me and have this illogical, superstitious feeling that something awful will happen to a person as soon as you let your ‘guard’ (i.e. worry about them) for a second – realise that you really don’t have that much power over the world. What will happen will happen and odds are that it will have nothing to do with you.

2) Trust that they won’t disappear just because you give them a little bit of space. There was this person I used to talk to every day, and I was – again – irrationally afraid that if I didn’t, that would be the end of the friendship. Then it ended anyway due to moving and circumstances, but we reconnected a few years back and now we don’t talk everyday – sometimes weeks can go by – but we still see each-other and do stuff and have a great time together. A real friend won’t fall off the face of the earth if you give them a little bit of leeway.

3) Caring less – or starting to care a reasonable amount after having cared too much – doesn’t mean you’re ‘doing something to them that you wouldn’t want them to do to you’. This was also a big thing for me, who was raised with the idea that the way you treat people is the way they will treat you in return. This – which was a bit of a revelation to me – is simply not true. People are different, and they’re going to do what they’re going to do in the way they’re going to do it no matter what. Sure, in broad strokes if you’re a dick to people, they generally aren’t going to like you, but I mean on a smaller level. If you make a point of always being on time, that doesn’t mean that they will! If you make a point of remembering their birthdays, doesn’t mean they’re going to! And if you detach yourself emotionally, but still stay in touch and still remain a good friend, it doesn’t mean that they will all of a sudden dump your ass for not caring about them anymore. Most of the time, they probably won’t even notice that anything has changed, as the change is about how you feel, not what you do.

Well. Those are some of the things that work for me. Perhaps they might work for someone else too.