Detachment in Love

“In true love, you attain freedom.  When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love.  If the opposite is true, it is not true love.” 

Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love

unnamedIt’s no secret that romantic relationships are complicated.  So many of us strive for perfect relationships based on unrealistic standards, or love out of familiar family patterns.  We may find ourselves feeling stuck in our relationships – mindlessly living day by day in unhappiness or feeling trapped by our partner’s expectations.  With so much relationship advice floating around, how do we find the right tools to cultivate true love in our own lives?

When clients seek me out for relationship guidance, I explain attachment versus detachment.  In unhealthy relationships, partners are attached to each other.  Partners may be unclear as to what keeps them connected, and might be fearful, jealous, or afraid of being alone.  Symptoms might include constant bickering, insecurity, or jealously.  Partners may attempt to regulate each other, or project issues onto their partner.  Codependency may be the foundation of the relationship.

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From Illness to Wellness

Most people who know me, know that I am an avid reader of spiritual, psychological and health & wellness books.  A book I frequently use in my work is “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D.  The title isn’t so appealing to most lay people, but the content is a treasure for all humans who endeavor to live life with fullness and passion.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not about sex, but living according to the practices will certainly improve all relationships, especially intimate ones.  During a recent perusing of the pages (as I often read tidbits from my favorite books each evening), I was caught by a quote that says, “Don’t do anything that is not play.”  And he really means ANYTHING!  I have read those words before, but this time it hit me differently because I’m in a different place in my life and what I consider play has changed dramatically.  We are programmed to “work” hard at everything and believe that having success, fame or a relationship will bring us joy and happiness.  However, those who actually have money, success, fame or great relationships and are truly happy, healthy and fulfilled would probably not chalk it up to hard work alone.  Most would say they loved the journey and had fun.  The connection between emotional wellness and physical health are well known in health psychology and related fields.  Since humans are social animals it is no surprise to know that healthy relationships can provide deep fulfillment and unhealthy relationships can cause deep pain.  Here is an exercise to help you understand the values behind how you choose to spend your time and energy:

  1. Make a list everything you do that you do not consider “play”
  2. Rewrite each item as: “I choose to_________”
  3. Acknowledge the intent behind your choice  and rewrite again as:  “I chose to _____________ because _____________”

So what is the difference between illness and wellness?  It’s as simple as the difference between “I” and “We”.

Dr. Patricia Shutt is Co-Founder and Clinical Psychologist at Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches in Delray Beach, Florida where she helps clients achieve lifelong wellness.  For more information, call  (561) 278-6033.

Women Who Walk The Line

Nicole Friedman, Psy.D.

In today’s modern world where women are required to juggle several hats, creating balance can be quite a challenging endeavor. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and professional, I am all too familiar with walking that fine line on a daily basis. We as women are innately relationship based, and feel the need to give 100% of ourselves to everything we do, often at our own personal expense. However, attempting to be all things to all people leaves us feeling depleted, angry and resentful not to mention depressed and anxious. It took me a long to come to terms with the idea that giving a little to me goes a long way at home and at work. In fact, when I take the time to take care of myself, I am much more present in my relationships. Remember, it’s quality not quantity that counts. In all honesty, some days are clearly easier than others. On those more challenging days, instead of beating myself up, I remind myself to continue to set clear boundaries, prioritize, learn to say no, and accept that people may not always like that. If I lived a life trying to avoid disappointing others, I suspect my emotional resources would be quickly drained, and I would end up disappointing myself as well as those around me. With that said, I encourage each of you to evaluate whether your life and your relationships are in balance. If not, there is no time like the present to make life-altering changes that will ultimately bring peace, harmony and balance to your world.

Living Your Own Life: Escape from Codependency

Anni Johnston, LMHC, D/MT

Many people use the term “co-dependency” to describe an over-involved stance with others in their life. Originally it was coined to apply to those in an enabling relationship with someone in an addiction. Now its meaning has broadened to describe anyone who repeatedly finds himself or herself wrapped up in a caregiving, over-planning, problem-fixing manner with people in their lives. There is nothing inherently wrong with caregiving, planning or fixing problems, it’s when one can’t let go of the need to do so they find themselves burdened. What is less understood is that one can get just as entangled with someone or a situation by striving to “get rid of” a scenario as they can by getting too involved. The resistance to accept, feel or allow a scenario in your life keeps you connected to it through the lack of peace it generates in you. Resistance creates tension, tension creates the desire to escape, and escape creates the urgency to avoid or eliminate. Wanting to avoid or eliminate something that already exists causes unhappiness and non-peace. In essence, control (can’t let go) and resistance (wanting to get rid of) are two sides of the same coin; each keeps you wrapped up mentally and emotionally. To experiment with disentangling yourself from a scenario or relationship where you want to control, fix, or get rid of, practice the following exercise. Try working on letting go of or moving towards (don’t resist) these urges:

  • Let go of holding on to outcomes and move  towards something you want to push away
  • Let go of clinging & keeping things the same and move towards feelings of aversion
  • Let go of 
“I want…..” and move towards “I don’t want…..”
  • Let go of  acquiring and move towards pushing awe
  • Let go of getting it a certain way and move towards fear
Let go of grasping and move towards change

Take time to look at the subtle ways in which something in one column might be influencing you in a way you’d never identified. Can you see the way softening resistance to things you had previously avoided has a similar effect to letting go of pushing for specific outcomes? Take time to journal, observe and discuss how these core ways of operating have been affecting you and keeping you entangled. In time, and with continued willingness, you will experience the peace and freedom of living your own life on your own terms.

Need more help? Ask your therapist about Anni’s new co-dependency group: “Living Life on Your Terms.”