No doubt you’ve heard of someone who has detached themselves from something or someone and become a “leaner” or “loner.” They find that their attachment is holding them back or results in unnecessary anxiety. They want no friends, no help, no advice, and no ridicule. They, and they alone, are the captain of their ship. However, there are two sides to detachment, negative and positive.

Licensed Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, who works in the media and entertainment industries, shows us how to best use detachment. Detachment can best be described as a process of letting go. It allows you to release difficult situations and, sometimes, difficult people. By detaching from past experiences and future expectations, you can look at your personal and professional relationships more objectively, giving you greater clarity. Holding on to an idea because you have become attached to it creates anxiety.

Once you detach from the desired outcome, you can stop worrying about it. The truth is that most attachment is about control, and control is an illusion. So, it’s better to get on with your life, even when you don’t get exactly what you want. When you release your desire for control over the lives of others, it sets everyone free. Those endless hours of frustration can be turned into fruitful days of creativity.

On the other hand, clinical psychologist Randi Gunter who practices her craft in Southern California, states that committed intimate partners know how important it is not to detach from each other. Their strength as a team is the most critical tool; they must keep that bond when challenges arise. Many partners, unfortunately, have different response strategies for coping with duress. If they don’t interpret each other correctly, they can detach when they need most to connect.

Couples who know one another deeply understand why and when their partners use their coping mechanisms and don’t let those differences keep them from emotionally detaching themselves when their relationship is threatened. Most committed relationship partners find it easier to stay emotionally attached when challenges come from the outside but more complicated when they arise from within the relationship.

Author and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Specialist Kendra Cherry tells us that Emotional detachment refers to being disconnected or disengaged from other people’s feelings. This can involve an inability or an unwillingness to get involved in other people’s emotional lives. While this detachment may protect people from stress, hurt, and anxiety, it can also interfere with a person’s psychological, social, and emotional well-being. Emotional detachment can sometimes occur as a coping mechanism when people are faced with stressful or demanding situations. In other cases, it can be a symptom of a mental health condition.

Also, Danielle Dresden, freelance writer, arts educator, and award-winning playwright, also believes that emotional detachment refers to the inability of a person to fully engage with their feelings or those of others. It may interfere with physical, psychological, emotional, and social development. It can be ongoing, as it is in people with attachment disorders, or a temporary response to an extreme situation. Potential symptoms of a detachment disorder in adults include difficulty opening up, challenging intimate relationships, poor listening skills, a lack of physical, verbal, or sexual contact, poor self-esteem, substance abuse, and indecision.

Whether or not being emotionally detached can be beneficial depends on the cause and scenario. If it is due to a mental health condition or if it is affecting a person’s ability to maintain relationships or other aspects of their daily life, a person should seek treatment. However, it can be beneficial for people to distance themselves emotionally in some professions. For example, those who work in the healthcare profession or church ministries must learn to regulate their emotions. It can be a beneficial, trusted source to prevent burnout and help maintain their mental well-being. Some people may also become emotionally detached to survive traumatic situations. However, a person should seek treatment to prevent this from becoming permanent.

So, does the Bible say anything about detachment?

A young psalmist knew the joy of not detaching from God, especially in times of trouble. He writes, “Great blessings belong to those who live pure lives! They follow the Lord’s teachings. Great blessings belong to those who follow His rules! They seek Him with all their heart. They don’t do wrong. They follow His ways. Lord, you gave us your instructions and told us to always obey them. How I wish I could be more faithful in obeying Your laws! Then I would never feel ashamed when I look closely at Your commands.”[1]

The prophet Jeremiah found out how to keep peace of mind. God told him, “Cursed is anyone who puts their trust in mortal man and detaches their heart from God.”[2]

Then Jesus tells those who want to follow Him, “If anyone came to Him but will not detach themselves from their parents and siblings, they cannot be His follower.[3]

The Apostle Paul follows the same thinking when he proclaims, “So now, anyone who is in union with the Anointed One, Jesus, is not under sin’s death penalty. That is because, in the Anointed One, Jesus detached you from that curse through the law of the Spirit that brings life. He also detached you from the law that brings sin and death.”[4]

In another letter, Paul inquires of the Corinthians, “Surely you know that people who do not detach themselves from wrongdoing will not get to enjoy God’s kingdom.”[5] And later tells the same readers the importance of remaining attached: “You know that there is only one God, the Father, who created all things and made us become His; and one Lord Jesus the Anointed One, who made everything and gave us eternal life.”[6]

And to the Galatian believers, Paul wrote of the importance of being a fruit-bearing believer so that the fruit of a reborn spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Therefore, there is no reason to detach yourselves from these virtues. [7]

Paul sent his greeting to the Colossian faithful: “In our prayers, we always thank God for you. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. We thank Him because we heard about your attachment to the Anointed One Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. Your faith and love continue because you know what is waiting for you in heaven – the hope you have since you first heard the true message, the Good News.”[8]

Finally, to the chosen in Thessalonica, Paul tells them to “Never detach yourself from praying. Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.”[9] And his protegee Timothy, received this message from his spiritual father, Paul, “Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their household, have detached themselves from the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”[10]

[1] Psalm 119:1-6

[2] Jeremiah 17:5

[3] Luke 14:26

[4] Romans 8:1-2

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:9

[6] Ibid. 8:6

[7] Galatians 5:22-23

[8] Colossians 1:1-5

[9] 1 Thessalonians

[10] 1 Timothy 5:8

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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