Detachment is not about being aloof or withdrawing from the world. We can be passionate, involved, enthusiastic, and engaged with life in all its forms.

Living in seclusion may help some people to go deep within but for others that sort of separation from the world is not desired or possible. The detachment contemplated in this article is an internal process to be undertaken while remaining immersed in life matters.

Attachment to certain outcomes, exaggerated reactions to events, skewed perspectives, and over-the-top emotions all create drama and turmoil. Especially in cases of over-care and over-identification where happiness and life’s meaning are based on success, achievements and possessions.

Compulsion, obsession, needing excessive validation, holding on too tightly, being shattered when expectations are disappointed or things don’t work out, create a great deal of chronic stress, fatigue, conflict and burnout. Anxieties of various kinds, worry about unfavorable outcomes, potential dangers, and change are also major contributors to physical and mental stress.

The Benefits of Detachment

With detachment we notice what is going on but are not drawn into its drama. Rather like a witness, we step back from the immediate turmoil and reflect on the true significance of events or people’s behavior. In many cases the overreaction is a result of seeing a mountain where there is really only a molehill. This is not to deny that there may be very serious problems that can throw us off-balance. However, more often than not, events are less catastrophic than we first believe. In either case, only when we let the storm subside will be able to think and evaluate the situation clearly.

Detachment allows us to live an intentional life based on our values, goals and aspirations. It gives us the mental freedom to make choices about how to be, rather than being catapulted into turbulence. Assessing what is within our control and what is not, we can act accordingly. If our boundaries are violated we can stand our ground. Adversity does not break us, but taking a long view, we find ways of moving on from it.

Our core self is independent of external factors. With detachment, a sense of inner-peace and integrity is ours, no matter what happens. We can be at home in ourselves, solid and trusting that we can deal with life’s currents and obstacles.

How to Practice Detachment

  • Emotional stability is key. Emotions often seem to have a life of their own, coming and going, rising and falling, seemingly of their own volition. You cannot deny or fight them directly. But they don’t have to control you. To tame them, you can work with your thoughts and self-talk. While they may seem true, they are not facts but commentaries colored by your beliefs and experiences. Challenge them and make sure your thinking is realistic and constructive. The second approach to manage extreme emotions is through the body, using self-calming techniques and other ways to settle your nerves.
  • Take responsibility for your actions, emotions, and thoughts. You may be triggered by people or events, but no one can make you do or feel anything. How you respond to challenges is entirely your choice.
  • Contain your impulses. Not every spontaneous email or text message needs to be sent or works in your favor.
  • Clear emotional baggage: This includes blame, bitterness, hate, regrets, guilt or self-pity. Hanging on to the hurts of the past will keep you stuck. To process and move on from negative emotions can only be done if you look at the past event with some degree of detachment, where you seek to understand what went wrong, who did what, when and why.
  • Accept the reality of a situation or person. Assess what you can change or need to let go, what is your issue and what is theirs. Not everything needs to be taken personally,
  • Focus on solutions instead of problems. Ruminating about what is or could go wrong only contributes to stagnation and felling overwhelmed. How do I deal with this? is a good question to ask instead of thinking, all is lost.
  • Detach from other people’s choices, opinions and actions — even when you are in a close relationship with them. You can be supportive but their life is theirs to live. Everyone has their own path to walk.
  • Accept yourself. Don’t shrink from your failings and short-comings. Make amends if needed but be at peace with being fallible and imperfect like every other human being. In most cases, neither your mistakes nor those of others are calamities from which there is no way back.
  • Embrace uncertainty. If you can do something to create clarity, go ahead. If not, go with the flow and adopt the attitude that you have what it takes to deal with whatever lies ahead.
  • Be present in the here and now. Only then can you take charge of yourself.

Finally, consider this saying from award-winning author Tolbert McCarroll, “You always have the choice to take all things evenly, to hold on to nothing, to receive each irritation as if you had only fifteen minutes to live.”

What does detachment mean to you? How could it be relevant in your life? What would be the benefit if you adopted a detached attitude to drama?