To Detach is to separate from something else or from others, especially for a purpose. It can also mean to disengage or to withdraw.
Detachment is the action or process of detaching or separation.
Detachment can also mean building and maintaining boundaries to preserve your mental health.
It’s also good to understand what detachment is not.
Detachment is not cynical. It is neither selfish nor does it mean that you lack emotions or empathy. It’s about building healthy boundaries to make your expectations clear and to establish what behaviour is comfortable for you and what isn’t.
While some people view voluntary detachment as ‘rude’ or ‘unfeeling’, that’s rarely the intention of the person detaching from the relationship, situation, lifestyle, or anything that the person feels needs to be detached.
Well, at some point in life, we all change. People change. Life changes and the things that make up life change too: internal stuff; beliefs, values, goals, duties, obligations. Some things work for you for a while and then stop working for you. When something no longer serves you, that means it no longer helps you move forward in the direction you (currently) want to go. The need to implement these changes is what brings about detachment.
But we are creatures of habit, lovers of the familiar, aren’t we? What we know feels like safety to us, even when it’s no longer serving us.
Here are some of the reasons why you need to let go of things no longer serving you.
- Maybe this particular thing never really did serve you, but you did not realize it.
- It’s common to adopt beliefs, habits, goals and roles as our own because they seem familiar. Because we grew up with them.
- You may have a whole set of fears and corresponding defense mechanisms, too. Maybe they were relevant at some point. Are they still?
- Maybe this particular thing served you once, but you have changed focus, you’re going in a new direction, and it’s no longer helpful.
- Maybe it’s something you thought you wanted or needed, but once you got it, surprise! It wasn’t at all what you thought it to be.
- Maybe it was a limited-time item. Like fresh produce. You enjoyed it and benefited from it in the season, but now… it’s old. Rotten. No longer enjoyable or healthy. Time to let it go.
Accept and release what you don’t need anymore.
- It’s okay to let things go.
- It’s okay to admit that something used to work, and now it doesn’t.
- It’s okay to change. It’s okay to require positive change.
Although rarely addressed, detachment is a vital part of life and a healthy one sometimes. Below are some tips that can ease your detachment process.
- Write letters to the significant people in your past.
Maybe you need to explain yourself or forgive someone or just say thanks. Start with an idea of what you want to say; don’t hold back. Be honest, be real. You may find all sorts of stuff you did not know you wanted to say. Say it.
Now read the letter over. Will you send it? Maybe. Or will you cut it or burn it completely? Well, that’s up to you.
- Write out your Internal Monologue.
When your head is busy (as it always is), stop and write out what’s going in there. Tap into your stream-of-consciousness. No judgment. No hesitating. No grammar rules.
Then take a look at it. What’s it saying? Where’s that coming from? Whose voice is it? Is it guiding you or berating you? Encouraging you or criticizing you?
If you follow the direction of this Internal Monologue, what will your life be like? If your answer is anything less than joyful, it’s time to rewrite the monologue.
- Choose not to succeed at anything you don’t love
Success at something you don’t love isn’t success. It’s failure wearing a different outfit. If you hate your job, say, but you’re ‘succeeding’ at it, are you succeeding at work or are you failing at life? I’d say it’s more the latter than the former.
Success at something you don’t love is the true failure. It’s failure that doesn’t serve you.
Even failure at something you love is success. Failure at something you love is you learning how to get better at this thing you love. It’s skill-enhancing, it’s insight-producing, it’s consistency-creating, it’s teaching and learning and lifting you to the next level. It’s growing you in a direction you love.
What are you striving for? Maybe only 20% of what you’re trying to succeed at is something you love. Do you want to lose a lot of dead weight in your life? Quit trying to succeed at what you don’t love. Whatever it is, let it go. Bless it, release it and move on with what you love doing.
- Keep a Journal
As you let go of a relationship or a lifestyle or anything that isn’t growing you anymore, you’ll feel some big emotions. While it can be difficult to talk about them with other people, keeping a journal and writing down your thoughts can be a great way to process your feelings in a healthy, cathartic way.
- Detach yourself from people’s thoughts and opinions about you.
Your self-worth doesn’t depend on what others say about you. Words are neutral until you give them meaning.
You don’t have to believe and act upon everything everyone tells you. Choose only what grows you and implement that for a better you. Politely and respectfully ignore everything else that people say about you
The Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Ibn Glālib Al-‘Umari (May Allah protect him) said while explaining how to deal with unfair criticism:
“When you’ve tried your best to do what’s upon you, and you’ve done properly what you’re supposed to, while you’ve feared Allah in doing that and kept in mind that Allah watches you, don’t then give any thought, at this point, to an unfair evaluation or an unjust criticism.
This is where clarification and defending oneself against oppression comes in, (if that’s going to be beneficial); otherwise, it’s time to act oblivious… as if you never heard a thing (or) he never said it.”
Imam Ibnul Qayyim (May Allah have Mercy upon him) said:
“Make a private place for yourself in this world, because fascinating things will be presented to you. Know them and be on your guard, and do not be harmed by withdrawing from preoccupation while you are among them.”
It’s okay to withdraw yourself from anything and everything that doesn’t add value and meaning to your life (anymore). Be it with regards to your health, Deen, education, or even social life. Sometimes it is only by detachment that we get to experience growth.