Detach without getting bitter

Detach without getting bitter

When I was studying Substance Abuse Counseling and Psychology, I spent a lot of time working on myself which included going to Al-Anon meetings. A theme often brought up in that room was “detaching in love.” It was always such a hard concept for me, and one I’m still working on mastering (although I have improved in that area). This Flashback Friday post from 2014 will help us dive deeper into this week’s topic of detaching (in love) through the 8 Week/No Contact Rule …

I was talking with my (graduate school) faculty mentor the other day, and I was telling her how the concept of detachment is hard for me to put into practice because, for me, it feels like giving up on the person or situation. And giving up means I’ll never have my dream.

bitterness, how to not become bitter, detatching, detatching in love,

In her book The Language of Letting Go, Melody Beattie tell us that we have to continue growing even when our loved ones are not yet ready to change themselves.

“Sometimes, we need to give ourselves permission to grow, even though the people we love are not ready to change,” she wrote. “We may even need to leave people behind in their dysfunction or suffering because we cannot recover for them … The potential for helping others is far greater when we detach, work on ourselves, and stop trying to force others to change with us.

“Changing ourselves, allowing ourselves to grow while others seek their own path, is how we have the most beneficial impact on people we love. We’re accountable for ourselves. They’re accountable for themselves.We let them go, and let ourselves grow,” Beattie concluded.

Sometimes moving on means not getting our dream of being with someone because they choose not to be healthy. Not getting our deepest dreams and desires can cause us to become bitter if we allow it.

Hans Villarica wrote in The Psychology of Bitterness: 10 Essential Lessons published in The Atlantic that researchers from Concordia University and the University of British Columbia conducted a study on the topic of bitterness to be published in the journal Health Psychology. Their conclusion, in Dunne’s words: “The ability of older adults with functional limitations to withdraw effort and commitment from goals that are no longer attainable can help them avoid increases in depressive symptoms over time.” What does this mean in plain English? Being able to detach from a deeply wanted outcome will help you not become bitter.

Villarica offered these research-based lessons on bitterness:

  1. Bitterness follows unwanted experiences — failures, disappointment, setbacks — that are perceived to be beyond one’s control.
  2. Bitterness occurs when one believes, rightly or wrongly, that other people could have prevented the undesired outcome. Regret involves blaming oneself.
  3. Bitterness, much like other negative emotions, could forecast physical disease.
  4. To regulate bitterness, individuals who failed should assess the likelihood of achieving the goal if they decide to try again.
  5. If success is unlikely, individuals should move on to other pursuits.
  6. The embittered should try to reconcile, take some responsibility, and get over the blame game.
  7. Older adults generally experience more disappointments that could lead to bitterness.
  8. Most older adults can easily disengage from impractical goals and commit to other meaningful pursuits.
  9. Older adults who can’t curb their bitterness may be compromising their health and happiness.
  10. If bitterness persists, consult a mental health practitioner.

Lesson No. 5 seems to be particularly relevant for those in relationships with substance users. “People also need to find new purposeful activities. They have to reengage — find a different job or look for a different partner. Reengagement in turn has been shown to predict higher levels of positive emotions and purpose in life,” Wrosch wrote.

You can find these Flashback Friday blogs posted every Friday. If you want to know more how to have successful relationships and peace of mind, you can get a free PDF sample chapter of “The Princess Guide to Healing a Broken Heart” by filling out the form in the sidebar on this page.

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