The Art of Detachment: Learning to Love…and Let Go

Have you ever struggled in vain to try and ‘fix’ another person? Maybe your partner suffers from depression or you have a friend who suffers from addiction. You have probably made yourself crazy trying to help your loved one heal, maybe even at the risk of your own health and happiness.

If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. But you are also are not surrendering. If you have read my last few blogs, you know that surrender is crucial for inner peace. Yet, you are probably wondering, “Dr. Berman, how can I surrender when my partner is in such deep pain? Wouldn’t that be cruel and unfeeling?”

No. I am not asking you to stop loving your spouse. But I am asking you to learn to love…and let go.

The Buddhists talk about the concept of “Loving Detachment,” a state in which you are able to observe thoughts, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, and actions in yourself and others without attaching to them as part of who you are.

The wonderful Buddhist monk and writer, Thich Naht Hahn, refers to the image of a mountain and says that what we are, at our very essence, is the inside of the mountain.  Anything can happen around the mountain and on its surface: storms, high winds, mudslides, but the inside of the mountain is unaffected.

Some people may come to see the mountain and exclaim over its majesty, while others will be less impressed, saying they have seen stronger, better mountains elsewhere.  But the inside of the mountain doesn’t change regardless of the turmoil or judgments (good or bad) made of its external self.  Your essential self, the inside of your mountain, is perfect, strong, and brilliantly radiating light in your optimal frequency.  No relationship crisis or any other external force can touch it, let alone affect it.  Staying connected to that essence within you is so essential to Quantum Love.  If you get caught up in your ego and the stories and the fears, then you’re going to get in your own way

Ask for Loving Detachment: When you are stuck in fix-it mode and finding it difficult to move into surrender, try to access your lens of loving detachment.  Begin by moving into a grounded open heart state and then ask your essential self, the lovingly detached version of yourself: “What would the lovingly detached thing to do be?”

You will find, as I and so many of my patients have, that the answer will come to you fairly quickly.

Such was the case with my neighbor Nina. She came to see me after an argument she had with her sister. “I need your advice, Laura,” she said, “I keep having the same issue with Jessie.”

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Every time we hang out she is in a horrible mood.  She is so stressed about work.  She is on her phone all during dinner.  I keep asking what’s wrong and she always says she is fine.  Other times she makes plans and shows up late or cancels last minute.”

“What do you want to happen?”

“I want her to be there for me! I want to have fun with her! I want her to chill out and relax!”

“Can you make her do that?” I asked.

“I wish,” she lamented. “I have tried.  I suggest exercise.  I got her a massage at a spa.  I offer advice.  None of it makes her happy.  In fact, it seems to annoy her.”

“What if you just detached?” I asked.

“You mean, drop her out of my life? She’s my best friend! Besides, I have always taken care of her, ever since we were little girls. I can’t just ditch her.”

“I don’t want you to ditch her. But, what if you stopped trying to change her? What if you stopped trying to help her? What if you got off the merry-go-round?”

“Let her suffer alone?”

“No,” I said. “You can send her loving energy.  You can be your happy, bubbly self around her.  But if you feel her energy start to bring you down, you can make the conscious choice not to go down that path.  Her stress isn’t yours to fix.  Maybe she can’t have fun with your right now.  Maybe that’s not in her capacity.  That’s okay.  That doesn’t mean it will be always be this way for her.  That could change in the future.  But for now, just…let go.”

Nina nodded slowly. “I see what you mean, I think.  I’ll try it.”

Jessie and Nina still don’t hang out like they used to.  In fact, Nina just took her first solo trip cross-country without her sister.  She sent me a postcard from Oregon that said: “Laura.  I let go.  It’s amazing.  Now I feel I love her more than ever…but I come first for once.”

Loving detachment is essential to learn in every relationship. We must surrender to the fact that we cannot change, fix, or control anyone. Not even our partners. Not even our children. We are only able to control our own behavior. But something amazing happens when you detach with love: The other person feels that release. They feel that your stress and intensity has evaporated. Instead of feeling tension around you, they feel nothing but perfect and unconditional love. And feeling that love can be powerful and life-changing. It can cause them to truly reflect on their choices or to re-examine their behavior in a way that no argument or guilt-trip ever could.

So, that is today’s lesson: Detach. Love. Let go. Trust in the universe to repay that love back tenfold. Miracles will happen.

Author:  Dr. Laura Berman

For more on loving detachment and other wonderful tools for your love life, read my book, Quantum Love:  Use Your Body’s Atomic Energy to Create the Relationship You Desire