Detachment doesn’t mean avoiding things and going to Himalayas. It means doing what is necessary without drowning in it. Sumit Singh
I started my healing journey about seven months ago after a tumultuous relationship with somebody who, I surmised, had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It has been quite a rough and challenging journey so far but now the destination is getting nearer. Stepping back from the madness of the relationship was the first step to gaining a sense of perspective. I was finally able to see the whole forest and not only the trees. Little by little I am trying to break free from the shackles that keep me bound to him. The bound was strong, therefore releasing myself from it has been testing but I am getting close.
Recently, I have been reading a lot about “Detachment with Love”. It is a coping strategy used by people whose lives are being ruined by the drug or alcohol addiction of a loved one. At first, I thought that there was a grammar mistake in the sentence. People detach FROM something not WITH something. It seemed odd to me. Nonetheless, I carried on my research into the subject and got to understand that what it meant was that we could detach ourselves from people with an addiction while still giving our love.
Addicts and people with narcissistic Personality Disorder have a lot in common. Their temperament is unstable, their behaviour erratic, they lie, they promise to change but rarely do, because the only thing that matters in their life is their addiction (for narcissists the addiction is to narcissistic supply). Loved ones are caught in the whirlwind. We want to help them. We want to fix them. We think that by telling them that they are hurting us with their behaviour, they will stop. We think that they cannot do it on their own. However by covering up for them, doing things for them, we are enabling them. We are spending all our energy into trying to change them while forgetting our own needs. We become obsessed, unable to rest or sleep. We are consumed by our desire to save them from themselves. We not only let their crazy world affect us, but we become a willing participant in it.
By detaching emotionally, we are able to make better decisions. It is not our responsibility to fix or rescue them. We cannot control their addiction for them. What we can control are our own actions. We can make sure that our choices are born of careful deliberation not based on emotional impulse. We must not take the bait and react in anger or sorrow. We must remain level headed, turn our efforts onto ourselves and let them face the consequences of their actions. By stepping back, we are also allowing the other person space to grow and get better. We are offering them the ability to make the right choices for themselves.
All this appears to be a good strategy to regain a sense of power over our lives. However, I think that despite the similarities between addicts and people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, there are also many differences:
- Addicts can change. Narcissists cannot.
- Addicts do possess empathy. Narcissists do not.
- Loved ones are collateral damage to addicts but intended targets to narcissists.
- Most addicts are aware of their addiction. Narcissists are not.
- Addicts do deserve love. Narcissists do not (unless they are a parent or sibling).
I have already started implementing this strategy with my ex-partner. However, I have left love out of the equation. I am detaching WITHOUT love. The love that I have spare, I keep it for myself or the people in my life who deserve it. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to remain detached when he is trying to triangulate, gaslight or subject me to the silent treatment. It is very similar to the Grey Rock method. I do not let my emotions get in the way. I just ignore it and move on. I just let it be.
Soon I will be so detached that he will only be a tiny dot in the distance, while I continue on my journey.