We can love others, but we do not have the power to control their lives. That power rests within each of us as self-determining individuals. Detaching from a loved one who is struggling to overcome an eating disorder will involve examining our own anxiety and powerlessness in watching someone we love make choices that are harmful.
Detaching will feel strange and uncomfortable if we are so used to being overly emotionally enmeshed with others. In our interactions with those from whom we need to detach we will be actively practicing “holding our tongue”. Where previously we might have offered advice, or issued threats or bullying tactics in order to get our loved one to act in the way “we want them to”, now, with the tool of detachment, we will acknowledge that the power to change rests within our loved one, and we will make statements acknowledging that. Detachment also means allowing others the dignity to create their own life and reality. It is a paradox, but the more we take our hands off of another persons life and give them the “space” to make their own choices, the more they will step up and begin to take responsibility for their own actions. Building detachment as an element of character takes determination and effort but the rewards are worth it. Detachment will transform the way we experience and express love and concern. Previously we saw co-dependent over involvement as love.
All the major religions speak of the quality of detachment as a manifestation of love. In Buddhism it is the experience of equanimity. In Christianity, it called being in the world but not of the world. When we disengage our emotions from the actions of our loved one that is practicing detachment. Detachment also means focusing more on our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Often, in being overly emotionally enmeshed with a loved one, we have lost sight of ourself and have become completely consumed with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of our loved one.
Beth Burton-Krahn, CEDRIC Counsellor