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Detachment Doesn’t Mean Not Caring

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It means caring for yourself first and letting others take responsibility for their actions. It means you care enough to not protect and understand that true personal growth happens when one makes their own choices and mistakes.

The idea to care for yourself before others is an unusual way to think about life and responsibilities. I mean, the airline advises you to place your air mask on your face first before helping others – which makes sense, right? You cannot help others without breathing, and that is easy to understand; however, other life messages speak to the belief that a parent who always places their children first is the better parent.

The idea that the person who cares for others first has a character who is truly compassionate and are a good human being- which I would say has merit- yet is that the same person who gives everything of themselves sacrificing their own health and stability? Is that the person who continues to give financially because the other person is not making responsible life choices? Is that the person who drops everything to care for grandchildren not just only in an emergency but always and can be taken advantage of? Is that the person who does everything for others while losing themselves?

Healthier messages are the ideas for example that the partner who dotes on their partner and secures that their needs are met while also practicing self-care is a good partner. That the giving of time, energy, and ‘things’ to others and practicing self-care is admirable and compassionate, not only to others but for yourself.

In the past, the historical societal message spoke to caring for everyone and everything and placing yourself last. We need to respect and praise the fact that you certainly are responsible to care for your children first, etc., but the key is ‘first’ which does not mean ‘forget’ about yourself. You cannot keep ‘caring and doing’ until you have nothing left for you. You matter and it is perfectly fine to take the time for you- to be honest, it is critical for you and your family.

Over the years, my faith and religiosity changed radically. I begrudged the opinion that others are first and therefore more important. It was through sickness and emotional despair that I acknowledged that I require self-care. Self-care is completely vital to my well-being and is NOT self-centered.

Enabling means that someone else will always fix, solve, or make the consequences go away. When someone is in the throes of an addiction or other grossly dysfunctional behavior pattern, he or she begins to rely on the resources available.

It does not ‘help’ to solve someone’s problems or listen to the same problem repeatedly. Why? Because it can enable the person, you are ‘trying’ to help and cause additional stressors in your life. Because the person may not want ‘your kind’ of ‘help.’ Because listening, being there, and sharing your experiences along with engaging the person to make their own choices, judgments, and errors is exactly what ‘helping’ can be.

Helping is doing something for someone that he is not capable of doing himself.

Enabling is doing for someone things that he could and should be doing for himself.

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