What is emotional detachment?

How many of us temporarily detach ourselves emotionally from a relationship so that we can either deal with our lives or walk away from some form of abuse?

I don’t believe we’re consciously aware that we do it, but I believe we do it to protect ourselves, so that we can be free of restraints and stress, until such a time we manage to get back on our feet again. This is something cats do all the time, particularly in times of stress if they’re not being looked after properly.

In some cases, a physical detachment might also be necessary too. Once we’re emotionally detached, our minds take on a different thought process. We become free of any restraints, so that we allow ourselves time and space to make our own choices and decisions, whilst the other person becomes empowered to make their own decisions without us.

What is emotional detachment and how does it occur?

Emotional detachment happens when we choose to distance ourselves from those who we see as a threat.

We become emotionally detached for many reasons:

  • When we don’t feel a need to help the other person all the time;
  • We accept that on some level we cannot change others;
  • We put boundaries in place, so that both parties are aware of what is acceptable and what isn’t;
  • We allow ourselves to create a healthy way forward so that we only choose the people we want in our lives;
  • We take control for ourselves so that we don’t have to fall back into line again;
  • If we’re not happy with someone else, rather than try to change them, we choose to walk away.

I go back to my belief that how we are in our adult lives stem from childhood. We’re conditioned from a very early age to think the way we do. As a coping mechanism we disengage from our realities, so that for a finite time everything seems normal to us.

I think if we’re being honest, this is something we’ve probably all done and still do to some extent; we just haven’t put a name to it, until now.

To be cont.d/2


2 Mar, 2011

10 thoughts on “What is emotional detachment?

  1. I can see some of me, in what you say.

    As a forgotten about middle child I learned to be independent very early, so I didn’t rely on other people.

    I guess some of that is still with me.

    1. I completely understand. You had nowhere to go because you were ignored, so your only option was to emotionally detach yourself, so that you could live your life.

      Although that wasn’t an altogether bad thing because your parents didn’t influence you one way or the other, you’ve become too independent as an adult, so don’t always focus on family stuff.

      As you say, some of that is still with you.

  2. I have done this for years, more so since my mother and a good friend died. I tend to let very few people know the real me. I think it stems from being hurt and criticised a lot.

    I guess it is to protect myself from emotional pain. I have a hard time trusting people.

    1. I believe it is Randy, but I also believe there comes a time when we have to allow people into our lives so that we can live our life. We can then base our decisions on what we are presented with at the time.

      There are some good people out there that I’m sure we’re happy to connect with. We tend to emotionally detach ourselves when people bring stress into our lives. We just need to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  3. I really don’t know if I do this or not… and don’t remember doing it as a child but I may have. I may do it with my spouse because I don’t think I can change him at all, so I just go with the flow and do what I need to.

    I love him very much and would do anything for him, but there are days I do as little as I can and don’t talk to him much. I just keep myself to myself.

    1. Lisa from what you say it sounds like you do, but you’re not alone. I think many of us will have done this at some point in our lives. It’s a way of us being able to cope with our lives.

      Perhaps next time you feel that and it’s specifically down to a problem you need to deal with, have a go at sorting it out. You’ll feel so much more liberated. I know I do.

  4. There is a lot of me in that.

    When I am dealing with my issues, I become detached emotionally and sometimes I withdraw physically as well. When I do this my friends and family think that I am mad at them for not talking to them; but this is not the case.

    I just get so ‘self’ oriented that I forget how and what is important. I don’t mean to do it.

    1. Bill your explanations and actions are totally natural, but you’re right emotionally withdrawing doesn’t help others.

      In any event I believe it will hurt us more because unless others understand why we do it, there is an element of fall out which will always follow. It’s always best to communicate to tell those we love how we feel, but not so easy to do.

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