Thursday, July 26, 2020

Stress-busters: Being more detached

A potent source of stress is taking everything too personally. It’s easy to see criticism as a personal attack, or a setback as some kind of malice aimed directly at you. Neither viewpoint is going to help solve the problem. Both will send your stress levels soaring. Here’s an alternative.
I’m writing this article with a sense of trepidation. On previous occasions when I’ve turned to this topic, it’s generated quite amazing levels of abuse from a few people. So I’m going to start with an explanation. It seems that some people equate detachment with emotional coldness, standoffishness, and a kind of superior disdain for normal human feelings. That isn’t what detachment means for me. I’m not suggesting people turn off their feelings (it’s impossible anyway) or adopt some sort of lofty disregard for others. To understand detachment properly, you have to understand attachment first.

The common phrase “I’m attached to it/him/her” may imply liking or love, but people don’t become attached to stress, worry, overwork, obsessive competition, or always being first because they love it. Attachment, in the sense I’m dealing with, means being “stuck on” something. You can’t let go of it, however much it’s hurting you. You’re clinging to it because of some kind of habitual or past emotional bond. Usually these aren’t positive emotions either.

Attachment is an obsession. People half kill themselves with overwork and stress because they believe they must, not because they enjoy it. So . . . to be detached means to be able to step back from events and see them in their proper perspective.

The simplest way to define greater detachment is to see it as the freedom not to be “sucked in” every time—whether that’s into feelings that hurt you, actions that make you feel worse, or responses that don’t help.

Why detachment is desirable

There’s something delightful about being able to stand and look at events and remain in control of your feelings and reactions. If you want to, you can jump in. If you choose not to this time, you can stand aside. It’s your choice. You aren’t at the mercy of an internal “reaction reflex” that is just waiting to be set off by the next setback, the next jerk who pisses you off, or the next unreasonable demand from some idiot on high.

You are just you: conscious of what you are choosing and free to act in whatever way seems best to you. You’re in control of yourself and armored against most of the petty irritations that build into a serious stress load.

How to become more detached

Here are some ideas that can help you to become a little more detached; to let your own wishes and thoughts take precedence over the shouts, opinions, and commands from the outside:
  • Know what is most likely to suck you in. Take some time to consider the patterns in your life. What sets you going? What causes you to “lose it” and do things that you regret later? How can you recognize them before they draw you in? Make a list and memorize it. Then work at avoiding whatever’s on the list.

  • Build a habit of pausing and giving yourself time to think. It may take a long time to make this stick, but it will pay huge dividends. Instead of jumping into action, or snapping out a response, say or do something neutral: “I’d like to think about that a moment,” or “Let me get back to you on that one.” Buy yourself time to get past your first response and start considering the options. Try to make more conscious choices whenever you can.

  • Build a new self-image. Instead of being someone who’s quick to react or speak, start seeing yourself as the quiet person who rarely jumps in first, but who everyone listens to when he or she does say something. At first it will seem false and theatrical. But if you stick at it, it will mix with the rest of your personality and produce a new, calmer, more influential, and more popular you.

  • When you feel your emotions on the boil and your hackles rising, ask yourself whether what you believe at that moment is really true. Force yourself to stop and question your beliefs and feelings fully. You’ll be surprised how often you discover that you’re all fired up by something you’re assuming, something you’ve been told (on what authority?), or something that isn’t even real.

  • Watch others. See how simple it is for people to get sucked in—and how easily they’re manipulated as a result. Watch how a simple, trivial situation is turned into a drama, then a Hollywood disaster epic. Consider whether that’s how you want to live.

  • Ask yourself whether what you’re doing right now is your own choice, or the result of being sucked in by something that you’ve got hooked on. Notice how each one feels. Compare stress and frustration levels. Decide whether you want to be swept along or make your own decisions.
The best antidote to getting snagged into negative situations and responses is always to be aware of what’s happening inside and why you’re doing whatever you’re doing.

Being more detached means giving yourself more space and time to be aware. It means freeing yourself from compulsions that don’t serve your best interests. It means being master or mistress of your own mind, controlling your emotions, and choosing your actions with care. And it means only accepting the amount of stress that you are willing to suffer, instead of what events or other people want to unload onto you.

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Manny said...

I have been reading into a concept, "releasing desperation", that seems related. If you are "deperate" (for a result, a person, a victory) , you are, indeed "attached", and in a bad way. Paradoxically, detatching from the desperation can bring one closer to the goal being sought. I owe this concept to Sandra Anne Taylor's "Quantum Success" which I have discussed on my blog.

9:13 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, Manny, both for the comment and the book idea.

Keep reading, my friend.

9:25 AM  
Desertcat said...

Your blog was thoughtful, well considered and wise. Thanks.

I find myself striving to follow these simple instructions. I know they will benefit me. I guess I'm just not perfect....yet.

Thanks for the wise and skillful reminder....

10:26 AM  
Desertcat said...

Your comments are wise, insightful and recommended reading for anyone working in today's pressure cooker corporate environment.

Thanks for reminding us (me) of what we can be, and what we don't have to become.

10:31 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks, as always, for your kind comments, Desertcat.

I'm glad you found what I wrote useful.

10:59 AM  
Andy said...

For me its not getting into the drama of the situation.

Our lives are full of drama and happy ending from the media and hollywood - mainly cause they make good stories.

Life is not like that but I notice some people create drama where their isnt any.

They feel something is missing in their lives so they greate this emotional high of a dramatic situation - giving you such things as gossip, office politics etc.

I think if folks worked more on their self concept and self esteem they will find that they dont need to get into the drama so much and thus dont get stressed so much.

A shoulder massage helps also.


4:31 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for the comment, Andy.

I think you're right on the button. Many people seek drama in their lives, perhaps because the media have convinced them that drama is "good" and the mark of being interesting.

They miss the fact that the drama created by screenwriters is imaginary and harms no one. Real-life drama can end up being extremely harmful to the individual and all those around him or her.

Keep reading, my friend.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous said...

A psychologist once suggested to me that I imagine a glass wall between myself and a person who might be yelling at me. The words form and hit the glass wall and slide down, and I can choose how to react to them. I found that a really useful technique, and tried to pass it onto my 14yo daughter, but she sees it as being a bit airy-fairy, and not at all useful in dealing with bullying. Your post today seems to put the same idea across but in a more left-brain fashion, so I can try again with her. Thanks.

1:57 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Good suggestion, JR.

Good luck with your daughter. Sometimes what it takes for understanding is simply time. The young are often unable to hear things until they are ready for them. I know that I was.

Keep reading, my friend.

6:59 AM  
Ronnie said...

Another wonderful post, Carmine!

Developing detached concern is one of the most difficult things to do because it means we have to either accept that we cannot change people or situations, or accept that we have something to work on.

Detachment is often confused with indifference, but I'm glad you made the differences clear.

I also want to give an example of a colleague who was to do a presentation that didn't go as planned.

A colleague stayed up late at night working on a PowerPoint presentation for a seminar she was leading.

On the day of, the facility said the projector wasn't working, so therefore all that time spent making that presentation was a wash.

How did she react?

She had two options: worry, stress out, and get angry... or accept that she could not change things and make the seminar run smoothly anyway.

Obviously she was bothered by the turn of events, but in my amazement, she kept saying to herself: "detachment!"

She strived to accept the things she couldn't change, and make the best of what she did have.

It was very interesting to see just how peaceful and calm she was, when she had every reason to flip out!


Author of Stress Busters
Sign-up for ACQYR's free stress course.

8:54 AM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Thanks for your comment, Ronnie.

That's a great example! It makes it so clear that what we are both talking about is staying in control of wayward emotions, not becoming some kind of cold, emotionless zombie.

Keep reading, my friend.

9:22 AM  

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