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Symptoms of Detachment

When I first started helping my parents in 2018 after their health was seriously declining, my arrival looked something like this:

Walk in the front door.

Head to the snack cabinet for chocolate.

Greet my Mother and take an assessment on how she was feeling.

Take my bags to my room.

Use the bathroom upstairs, away from my parents' bedroom where my Father was in his recliner.

Start a menu plan and grocery list for the week.

Start a load of laundry.

Anything else I could think of...

Then greet my Father.

At first I didn't even realize I was avoiding my dad because I believed I was getting "straight to work."

But when I really paid attention to the motivation behind my actions and how I felt when I thought of going in to see dad, I had to admit - I was avoiding him on purpose.

I dreaded what mood he might be in or if he needed to go to the bathroom. He had Parkinson's Disease and could not get up and move about on his own. He was a big guy and assisting him required a lot of physical exertion - and was sometimes a smelly job. He could be cheerful and joking or irritable and snappy. You just never knew.

My actions created a wall between us.

I avoided discomfort.

Escaped into work rather than engaging with empathy.

Limited conversation with him.

Unintentionally, I was nurturing a negative attitude toward my father which isolated me from him, and literally left him isolated.

These are some symptoms of Detachment.

I began my Life Coaching certification several months in to caring for my parents and so I literally had the assignment to practice mindfulness. Thankfully, I became more aware of what I was doing and the decent, considerate parts of me could no longer continue on this way. I intentionally worked to show up differently.

Looking at my Contentment Grid, like we did last week, Detachment occurs when ones' sense of duty, or Obligation is avoidant. We think it's too hard to make the effort, feel the discomfort or seek connection with others. I was avoiding discomfort as soon as I walked into my parents' home and sought the solace of the snack cupboard.

Your Inner Critic will justify these actions to ensure comfort and safety.

In this space, we don't just separate from others, we separate from ourselves. We are quite unwilling to "do the hard thing" because, just like in Resentment, we are still motivated by external reward.

There was no reward for me in taking my dad to the bathroom or facing his mood swings. It was much more rewarding to interact with Mom and take care her "to-do" list, so I avoided, or procrastinated, those duties as Dad's caregiver until I became aware of the Detached way I felt and acted.

Even when we realize what we're doing, it's not always easy to correct. Unresolved trauma can cause Detachment and prevent us from healing. It often takes professional help to change our Avoidant behaviors and, gratefully, I had access to that during this time.

One day I asked myself how I wanted to approach my Dad, no matter what mood he was in. I decided on Compassion. When I went in his room to greet him, he was snapping at my mom about something. That kind of thing usually made me act defensively, but I remembered I was motivated by Compassion and didn't react.

I asked him, "Hey Dad, how does it feel to be you right now?" And then I listened.

He looked at me and his whole body softened. His tight shoulders relaxed. I realized he too often felt unseen and he answered honestly -

"It's terrible. I can't do anything I used to be able to do. Everyone's always telling me what to do all the time and manhandling me. It's terrible, just terrible."

I felt so much love and compassion for him in that moment and I swore to myself I would do all I could to stop avoiding him and accept him as he is.

Stop feeling detached as a caregiver
Dad and I, January 2020

I didn't need rewards for caring for him when I was motivated by love. And he didn't need to fight so hard to be respected and valued when I accepted him and his situation.

Detachment feels empty and confusing.

Acceptance feels calm and willing.

Connection breeds more connection.

Mark your calendars for Monday June 3rd at Noon, MDT and make sure you follow me on Facebook because...

I'll be going LIVE, offering a free mini-class on The Contentment Grid and how to move your way to the center of Obligation and Motivation - where Contentment lives.

Choosing Contentment requires Courage, which is great news, because you already have it within you.



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