Many of the 12 step recovery programs and counseling teach detachment from situations and other peoples stuff as a means of letting go of control and surrendering outcomes. This is a powerful tool in the recoverer's arsenal against insanity. I am realizing though that, so far, in my experience the program has not taught how to identify and heal detachment from myself. I am realizing how profoundly destructive this character trait (detachment from self) is and the profound role it plays in the process of thwarting healing.
Do you struggle with not knowing how you feel or not knowing how to feel? Do you struggle with identifying your emotions, your needs, or wants? If you can identify can you communicate that to anyone? Do you often feel robotic in work, home life, or social interactions? Do you have a tendency to fixate on someone or something and the majority of your attention goes there? Do you try to intellectually figure everything out but cannot seem to put that knowledge into useful practice? How about going a bit deeper. Do you ever experience the feeling that you are sort of watching yourself/what you are doing through your own eyes? Do you ever experience the feelings or perceptions that others only exist in the environment you see them in, like they are 2D cardboard cut-outs without a sense of person hood? Do you struggle with experiencing within, a lack of empathy for others or a hardness when confronted with suffering? Do you tend to deny your internal state and instead present masks to people around you? Do you tend to lose yourself in tasks and lose track of time? Do you tend to be very judgmental of others and demanding about who they are?
Defining DetachmentThese questions above allude to some common symptoms of detachment, depersonalization, and derealization. These three characteristics, in my opinion, exist in every humans life to some degree. I say that because from my personal and professional experience we are all learning to become truly connected to ourselves; being able to feel empathy and a full range of emotion and human conditions while bringing this state to our higher power for strength and support. Detachment becomes a problem when we detach from ourselves (the most vulnerable self, our truest self) to any degree. Detachment is not surrender. Surrendering parts of me or surrendering me to my higher power is healthy. Detaching from parts of me that threaten fear or overwhelm is not healthy.
Detachment from self (my truest self) exists on a continuum, from low level detachment (daydreaming a few seconds, compartmentalizing) to high level depersonalization/derealization/dissociation (multiple personalities, memory loss, experience of life not feeling real, the continual experience of watching me through my own eyes). With most of us existing somewhere in between the two extremes. One way to know if you have a dangerous level of detachment is to look at the root motivation for what you do. If you trace your choices backwards do you find "self" or "self-protection" at the root of your choices? Do you find conscience, a higher power's will, the greater "good" at the root of your choices? This may seem counter-intuitive but, if many of your choices are motivated by self-protection that may show a strong tendency to detach from your true humanity or your most truest sense of you and a feeding of your nature where self-protection reigns supreme.
Changing DetachmentWhere self-protection reigns, love and connection are blocked out. They are walled out. Change cannot happen very deeply because I am blind to me. I cannot hear my own inner voice let alone hear the voice of my higher power speaking to me. I have in a sense rejected myself or parts of me so deeply that I have silenced the voice that communicates to me the needs of that part of me. It as if it no longer exists. I have not seen it or felt or heard it in so long its no longer there or part of my awareness. It would be quite literally like lopping off an arm or leg and letting go of all need or memory of it. In some cases people reject their own gender, sexuality, body parts, body size, and begin to feel estranged from the very body they live in. Dissociation can be quite destructive on the extreme end.
So, how about you? Do you disconnect from yourself at any level? Are there areas of you that are too dangerous to feel, look at, deal with? Unless you are willing to take an honest look there your growth will stay blocked because higher power is not welcome there to lovingly take inventory and fill that with love. Connect with your truest you and you will be more able to connect with your higher power and receive his healing.