17 October 2012

Post #4,753 about Detachment

So in the words of Chantel, "How do you handle people who manipuate you?"


I've been thinking and reading up on boundaries again and this is what I found:

"Boundaries are guidelines that we establish to define reasonable, safe and acceptable limits concerning the actions of others... We resolve that we should be treated with love, dignity and respect.  We have the courage to say "no" to demands by our addicted loved ones [or just our friends and family] that are not in our own or their best interest.  We have a right to protect ourselves and choose to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us.  'We are seeking to allow less pain, chaos... and negative engery in our lives.'"  (Healing Through Christ 12-Step manual)

Allowing my little sister to yell at me and say cruel things was not only harmful to me, it was harmful to her.  My responsibility was not only to protect myself from her hurtful words, but to give her an opportunity to stop treating me in a way that was not in her best interest either. 

So what should I have done? I think it might be unreasonable to expect a 15 year old to have the maturity to handle it this way, but ideally I would have said to her

"I will not listen to you speak to me that way."  And walk away. 

The tricky part about all this for me is that, like Chantel, I want to correct people.  I can't just walk away because I feel compelled to offer a lengthy explanation of the faults in their behavior and the reasoning behind mine.  But my #1 rule for boundaries is that I can't set boundaries for other people, I can only set them for myself. 

So when it comes to Pete, I have to be okay with the boundaries I set, even if he never agrees with them.  As long as I am confident that they are in my best interest, and that I'm right with God, I can cease with the desperate attempts at persuading him that they are in HIS best interest too. 

For example, I can say to Pete

"I can not be part of your chaos.  When you are agitated or irritable, I have to detach."

Again from the manual,

"Detachment... means that we don't deplete our inner resources by struggling with something that is beyond our power to accomplish." 

Pete's mood is beyond my power to change.  This doesn't mean that I won't talk to him or interact with him, just that I won't do anything to try to change him or his behavior.  I won't manipulate.  Nor will I allow him to turn to me to try to make things better for him. When things ARE better for him, when he has found it within himself to restore his peace, then I can feel safe being emotionally invested in him again. 

When I shared my 4th Step Inventory with my sponsor we talked for awhile about my family and my resentments toward them.  She said to me

"Let them be who they are."

I struggle so much with wishing Pete would "let me be where I am."  The least I can do is offer him the same courtesy.  It is in the best interest of my peace and serenity to surrender all the manipulators in my life over to God.  It is between Him and them to sort out their issues. 

And because I'm still a little hung up on justifying my detachment, a quote from Alicia who sums it up well for me.

"The truth is: It's hard for me to invest fully in something when I know it isn't solid. I can't blindfold myself to uncertainty and carelessly throw my cash in the pile. I'm going to get hurt again. My heart is going to get broken again. I'm going to grapple with the harness of betrayal again.  I'm only doing today what I feel is right to do today."


  1. I like what your sponsor said "Let them be who they are."

    My family deemed me the baby manipulator from the beginning. I always hated that. Now I see that the label fits. I need to work on this big time.

    Thank you for sharing!

    I agree with what Alicia said:) I will always be hurt again, that is the nature of the addiction. I can't drive myself crazy, thinking about the future. All I can think about is today. What am I going to do today for me to find healing?

  2. You're a deep thinker. You're good at analyzing stuff. You should start getting paid to do it, Counselor Jane.

  3. I learned these words from Peggy, who learned them from Scabs, "I'm sorry you are feeling X. I hope you will make the choices to start feeling better." Although I never say the words out loud, I think them, I feel them and then I try to act accordingly. Detaching is hard but really good. Today my husband's bike tire was flat and he couldn't find his tool set. He puttered around the house and ended up working from home b/c he couldn't fix his flat. Around 3pm he was on the search again because now he really needed to get to campus and he was getting overly anxious. I gently suggested using the bike repair station next to our housing office. He looks at me and says with a grin, "What a great idea! Why didn't you suggest that this morning!?" I told him frankly that m.o. these days to never give advice unless asked. He looked sheepish and said, "Am I that negative?" I told him it's a holdover from my recovery work. Although a HUGE part of me wants to know that he can't live without me, I'm learning that he can manage his life (differently than I would do it mind you) and he feels a lot happier when he feels in full control of his life and recovery.
    I feel like I took a big leap of faith by handing him his recovery and though I landed safely on the other side, I'm still waiting for him to join me. Someday...

  4. Surprised to see me on here? ;) I'm not even going to try to catch up. Just picking up here. I miss you!

    Love this post. It is so so so hard to just let people be where they are. And so hard to decide to be okay even when someone else is not. Although I'm glad I'm learning this lesson now so that I can hopefully put it into place by the time I feel like fixing all my kids' problems.

    Marlee--Handing their recovery over to them is so hard, isn't it? But it feels so much better.

  5. is it sick that i kinda relish handing the recovery over to them. This is when they start to feel the pain and the sick twisted part of me finds some weirdo satisfaction in it. Feeling and burdening their pain for so long is a ridiculous place to be. It is, after all, their lives, their decisions, their problem. Not mine.

    I just think of the day Mr Scabs dumped too many chili flakes on his mango chicken wrap. I watched and observed as he ate the wrap and began to sweat buckets, feeling the fire on his tongue. Sure, i could have warned him, or helped him, or fixed the wrap for him but really, he's a grown man. He knows chili flakes are hot.

    The same thing happened the other day when he dumped a little too much jalapeno sauce on his burrito. I just watch the pain unfold. Seems counter-intuitive. We're taught to be kind, loving, caring etc. But there is no better way for me to care for Mr Scabs then to let him feel his own pain.

    the end

    love you Jane

  6. Thanks for all this insight! Haha I appreciate you writing another post about detachment :) I have such a hard time grasping boundaries because I'm so bad at doing it. For my whole life, I've always tried to jump in and rescue people, comfort them and love them, save them from their bad choices. So now that I'm trying to do this detachment switch.... it's hard. I feel like I almost have to develop a sense of apathy about the situation so I can detach myself. It seems wrong, but I really believe that it is healthier. I can feel my relationships improving. And those that were so co-dependent on me that they can't handle my boundaries have simply dropped from my life. And I'm okay with that.

    I'm so grateful for all of you that have taught me these powerful lessons. I know that my experiences are different than yours, but I still find so much application from them. Thank you!! And love you!!