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The Beauty of Self-Care: Lesson 10 – Detachment


When it comes to my own self-care path, detachment has always been one of the most difficult concepts for me to grasp and practice. I am an empath through and through, and sometimes even making it through the grocery store without a gut-wrenching moment is very difficult for me. The sights and sounds of grouchy people can move me to tears.

I grew up in an alcoholic family and my brain was trained to be vigilant, watching and interpreting the moves and body language of everyone in my life so I knew when things were safe — and more importantly, when they were not. As an adult, it feels like I’ve spent a lifetime trying to tame those danger receptors in my brain, and detachment has been key to my self-care practice. Most talk of detachment focuses on detaching from outcomes, material things and people. I needed to detach from my own empathy.

Detachment, I’ve learned, does not have to be indifference. My inner-child would never let me get away with indifference. She and I agreed, after many years of negotiation, that our brand of detachment can be more of a shoulder-shrug “what-are-you-gonna-do?” Think George Constanza on Seinfeld — the guy complains a lot and has definite opinions, but he keeps on keeping on and still shows up at his friend’s house.

Detachment for me always meant isolation — hiding until the horrible thing went away. Then I learned the thing never really goes away, it just goes around the corner and hides in the bushes. It was my responsibility to learn to detach. In today’s exercise, I’m going to share a technique I use when I find it difficult to participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. If you’re looking for ways to find some peace and reclaim some extra energy for the coming new year, I hope you’ll use this exercise to become comfortable with the new reaction of not reacting–Caitlin

Click through for the five-minute exercise.


Quote above attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib

Image above created by surface pattern designer, Jessica Nielsen, for Design*Sponge

Because the ego is deeply involved in attachment, this exercise helps you train your brain to think in a different way by using the instead of I, my, mine, etc. For example, when I see a crying child in the grocery store, I immediately want to help. The voice in my head literally says “I need to help that boy.” I do know that if I barged into the boy’s life, his family would probably think it’s strange and inappropriate. My reframe is to take out the “I” and simply note, “That boy is sad. He will be happy again soon.”

Here’s the exercise:

  1. Grab a pen and paper and start writing sentences about things in your life that come to mind. Your car, your friends, your hair — whatever.
  2. Leave a blank space in between each sentence with enough room to write another sentence.
  3. Once you have 20 short sentences, rewrite each sentence taking out the I, my, and mine words. It’s hard! But it is a great exercise in trying to move things from having a greater attachment to ourselves than they actually do. Of course, you own your car but it can break or get stolen and you don’t want to find yourself in a position of wasting any time holding on to it. Most people would probably like to help the crying kid in the grocery store, but his sadness shouldn’t penetrate you so deeply that you, too, become sad.

Here are some examples to get you started:

My car is a Honda. The car I drive is a Honda.

My kitchen is small. The kitchen I prepare meals in is small.

I love Moroccan rugs even though I can’t afford them. Moroccan rugs are beautiful and expensive.

I can’t wait to own my own home. Homeownership seems exciting and satisfying. 

My friend is being way too snarky. Karen isn’t behaving as she usually does.

I hope this exercise helps you see how much meaning we assign to things that can leave us vulnerable when things don’t go as planned, or if we are not 100% on a particular day. Also, watch some Seinfeld episodes. The lightness that all of the characters embody when disasters occur will have you throwing up your hands, making an ewww face and laughing during those completely “attached” moments!

via Design*Sponge