Thursday, March 15, 2007

Emotional Detachment

Watercolor by Carol Carter

Emotional Detachment:
"The person, while physically present, moves elsewhere in the mind, and in a sense is "not entirely present", making them sometimes be seen as preoccupied or distracted. In other cases, the person may seem fully present but operate merely intellectually when emotional connection would be appropriate."

There have been times in my life, when I have experienced Emotional Detachment, it becomes a form of emotional anesthesia, a stepping away from myself and others in my life that I felt were causing me or going to cause me pain. A fear/flight response.

It can be disconcerting at times, knowing I should be experiencing a certain emotion with more depth, should be able to connect on a level that I am just unable to accomplish........A self-protection from being wounded further?

In addition to the detachment, there were also times when I in effect dissociated from a situation, an event or person.

It can be rather frightening to look inward, and find that one is not truly sentient to all that one should be.

In thinking about and studying these amazing phenomena that our brains carry out in the area of self-protection, I learned something. A deduction, if you will, of why I have may have such a hard time holding onto memories.

As a child, I dissociated myself from large chunks of time, needing to, or I chanced the possibility of not emotionally surviving them. (And one thing I know, really know about myself, is that I am a survivor!)

"The dissociation can also lead to lack of attention, and hence to memory problems. . . "

I have used detachment/dissociation in varying degrees through out my lifetime to deal with emotional upheaval, with various traumas, in effect teaching myself to remove myself several steps away from stressful events, situations or people. The positive side to it all, is I seem to react quite well to many stressful events, from the anecdotes others present have related to me, but, I do not remember many details of said event. All leading up to my current problem, my current fear, of losing memories.

There have been so many times in life when I have realized that I have the memories available that I seek. They are there. Stored away in my memory banks (in the dusty attic of my brain as I am fond of calling it), but to retrieve this data, I must not think about it. The knowledge only becomes retrievable if allowed to be unmeditated, it must be almost an unconscious finding, it seems to work best if I am preoccupied with another matter, and when ask a question, amazingly (to me anyway) the correct answer is there. Those same memories, or facts become almost irretrievable if I set out on a diligent urgent search. Often when seeking something specific, I experience great difficulty, knowing I know it, but unable to locate it. I may even exhibit physical symptoms, a bit like vertigo, my mind just does not wish to "go there".

My solution to the memory problem is to try harder, use techniques to utilize more of my brain, and to achieve a healing in my dance through life.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have a need to find answers, to read others research to find those answers, thus, in my searching, I came across the definition of a healthy kind of Emotional Detachment, one that many seem very capable of, but, some of us have to learn, practice, and live to accomplish.

This favored type of Emotional Detachment is also described as Mental Assertiveness. " . . . a positive and deliberate mental attitude which avoids engaging the emotions of others. It is often applied to relatives and associates of people who are in some way emotionally overly demanding."

When first reading through that description, it doesn't really sound all that loving and wonderful does it?

But wait, read over this list of the positives of Mental Assertiveness:

  • Ability to allow people, places, or things the freedom to be themselves.
  • Holding back from the need to rescue, save, or fix another person from being sick, dysfunctional, or irrational.
  • Giving another person "the space'' to be him or herself.
  • Disengaging from an over-enmeshed or dependent relationship with people.
  • Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place, or thing.
  • Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life.
  • Establishing of emotional boundaries between you and those people you have become overly enmeshed or dependent with in order that all of you might be able to develop your own sense of autonomy and independence.
  • Process by which you are free to feel your own feelings when you see another person falter and fail and not be led by guilt to feel responsible for their failure or faltering.
  • Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern, and caring without the negative results of rescuing, enabling, fixing, or controlling.
  • Placing of all things in life into a healthy, rational perspective and recognizing that there is a need to back away from the uncontrollable and unchangeable realities of life.
  • Ability to exercise emotional self-protection and prevention so as not to experience greater emotional devastation from having hung on beyond a reasonable and rational point.
  • Ability to let people you love and care for accept personal responsibility for their own actions and to practice tough love and not give in when they come to you to bail them out when their actions lead to failure or trouble for them.
  • Ability to allow people to be who they "really are'' rather than who you "want them to be.''
  • Ability to avoid being hurt, abused, taken advantage of by people who in the past have been overly dependent or enmeshed with you.
All of that reads pretty good to me, all abilities I aspire to. I look forward to an achievement of complete Mental Assertiveness........and in so doing......maybe, just maybe, I will acquire another ability. The ability to hold onto all the small and not so small moments of my life.


Fiona said...

Sunny, you have such an innate ability to take a feeling and expound on it in such a way that you pull me into your scenario. I literally eat up your words as I read them.

You describe.

You give examples to help me understand.

You are objective enough to show me both sides of the story.

You interject the real you into the situation.

You always leave me with a positive thought.

I read all this and reflected on my own form of emotional detachment. I really do believe, and this is something I've had to learn along the way, that providing support, rather than succor, is the key.

eyechan said...

this all sounds very familiar to me. i have a terrible memory, and i think i must often seem to others to be preoccupied/distracted. a very revealing and informative post:)

Jonas said...

I am NOT a survivor (although I've survived for more than five decades). My emotional attachments keep me from drifting into oblivion. I'm tethered to the world by my soul-strings. Some may end up being severed, but new ones, stronger ones, magically appear.

And so it goes...

Sunny Delight said...

Fi, you are so supportive of me, thank you for that, one of these years, maybe, just maybe, I will begin to 'see' the person you see. Thank you.

It is very hard to unlearn, it is sometimes a battle for me to not detach when emotions run high, but I believe I am getting there.

You giving emotional support...yes you do! In spades!

eyechan, thank you, I keep trying, someone keeps telling me that I experience more of life, the better my memory will become, I hope he is right! and nice to meet you!

Jonas, you may not think of yourself as a survivor, but I do.

Soul-strings, what a very apt description, it does feel exactly like that!

Jac said...

Sorry to be late and slightly off topic but I saw this quote elsewhere and wanted to pass it by you to see if it resonated:?

"We would rather stay in our comfort zone and be tortured and unhappy, than walk through the pain and the fire of leaving but finally creating a better life. Fear of pain really holds us back without us realising we are already living "in" the pain rather than travelling "thru" the pain to a better place. Being ...(in a bad place...)is like standing IN the hot coals instead of running through them. Guess which one burns your feet?"

wreckless said...

You definitely have a great way of describing such a complex emotion or bunch of emotions. You are a writer!

Sunny Delight said...

jac, it does indeed resonate thank you, I may use it for another post I have in drafts, it is so very apt.

wreckless, I am just living it, and trying to grow and change into the person I want to be. Thank you, for the compliment, it is appreciated more than you know.

Steve said...

Sunny one...

I think I like two different words for "Mental Assertiveness"...




Sunny Delight said...

Steve, if that works for you, both terms you use, are a part of it to be sure, as it is self-preservation, but that can lead to the dysfunction of Emotional Attachment as well.

I am pretty content with assertiveness as a descriptor. Differentiation has a bit more of a negative connotation within me, I do want love and change to be a part of my relations with others, but I also know I need to be able to stand up for my beliefs and needs even when my love/need to please someone else tries to take precedence. That is learning to be assertive....not aggressive...there is a difference in attitudes and behaviors....between the two words.

Sunny Delight said...

oops! That was supposed to be Emotional DE tachment.....hmmm unless that was a Freudian slip, since there have been many dysfunctional emotional attachments in my life.....more food for thought.

Anonymous said...

my BF is somewhat emotionally detached, and even though it may be a good thing, it also hurts. when you become 'enmeshed' with someone cruel / destructive, this is a bad thing. but when you cannot 'enmesh' yourself--or feel connected to--a good, loving individual, this can be disconcerting. many relationships break apart because of this.

i am not emotionally detached at all. in fact, i have too MANY emotions, and they usually circulate.