“Detachment is not about refusing to feel, not caring about, or turning a blind eye to those you love. ~Sharon Salzberg
A few months ago, my father told me that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He seemed optimistic about the treatment, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to hear such news.
A few weeks later I followed up with him. He ignored my messages and went silent for months. His light ghosting was common and it made me feel neglected and neglected.
Meanwhile, I went to India for a few months. A few weeks before I returned, he contacted me and said he wanted to talk. He didn’t say specifically, but I realized something was going on and immediately agreed to talk to him.
It was Sunday afternoon when he called. After picking him up, he immediately inquired about his health. He then proceeded to explain the situation and future course of treatment.
The call took 1 hour and 26 minutes. Every Saturday I ask him about his health, where he goes hiking, what he eats after his hike, what time he wakes up, what he and his girlfriend enjoy, what his relationship with the students is like, I learned everything, including where to go dancing. night.
The only thing he knew about me was that my trip to India was great. He didn’t ask what I did there or why I decided to take such a radical step.
Shortly after the call, I was a little disappointed that he wasn’t interested, but my mom called me.
My parents are divorced, so I often have to split up these calls and keep them private in front of each other.
The phone call with my mother was almost the same. The only difference was that she was on antidepressants, often accompanied by alcohol, so she was doing the same thing over and over without realizing it.
After both calls ended, thoughts of worthlessness began to hit me. At first, I criticized myself for expecting my father to care about my life, and used his father’s health as a justification for treatment. And I realized that I was always making excuses to my parents. That was how I dealt with their behavior.
It was my duty above all to speak to them, but I knew that without contact the matter would not be resolved. But I didn’t know how to deal with this feeling. Every call with them felt like a reminder of how worthless and unimportant I was to them.
Growing up, my mother was addicted to alcohol and my father abused the whole family. When I started dating, I naturally attracted partners who reflected the way I thought about myself. It was “I am worthless and unloved.”
I didn’t know how to deal with it, but I knew there had to be a solution to this mental anguish.
After a phone call with my parents, I always came to the conclusion that I was worthless and inadequate. But this Sunday, I made a different choice. For the first time, I stopped the self-destructive thoughts in their wake and asked myself the fundamental questions that change everything. How long are you going to let your unhealed parents define your worth and how adorable you are?
After sitting in awe for 10 minutes and realizing the healthy step I had just taken, I asked myself another question. How can I manage these relationships to protect my mental health and maintain a decent relationship with them at the same time?
Here’s how I made the decision to move forward.
1. Set boundaries with understanding
I always dreamed of what would happen if my mother didn’t drink. When she was 14, she remembers kneeling by the couch where she was lying drunk and asking her to “stop drinking.” As a child and as an adult, she believed that everything would be better if she stopped abusing alcohol. She wasn’t a bad mother, she was an unhealed mother.
Today I understand that it may not be possible. It’s painful to watch someone you love almost self-destruct before your very eyes, but after working through codependency, I’ve come to understand that it’s impossible to save someone who doesn’t want to change their life.
Therefore, emotional distance is inevitable for me. I decided to use the skills I learned to help me recover from my codependent as needed. If I feel guilty that I have moved far away, that my mother has stopped financial support because she drinks, or that I am not there to deal with her alcohol problem, I stop. And I forgive myself for having such thoughts and remind myself that the only power I have is the power to heal myself.
When I find myself secretly longing for my father’s love, I am reminded of the loving and close relationships I was able to build with the people around me.
Another self-care method I use when I’m sad is doing loving-kindness meditation or talking to a close friend to calm my mind.
2. Accept and meet your parents where they are
Frankly, this was the hardest thing for me to overcome. For years the little girl in me cried and prayed for her parents to be more present, loving and caring.
I secretly wanted them to change, so I couldn’t accept them for who they were. I wanted my father to be more loving and I wanted her mother to be the overly caring woman that so many other mothers are.
When I began to accept that the people who caused my wounds could not heal it, I let go of my unrealistic expectations.
I also realized that instead of healing my wounded inner child, I was using her to blame my parents. So while giving them all the power to define my worth, I was trapped in a victim mentality.
Now I understand that expecting change will only lead to disappointment. Frankly, my parents have every right to be who they choose. It takes more mental strength and maturity, but I try to remind myself that this is the best they can be, given their unhealed wounds. This realization makes me more accepting of their actions and less controlled by their actions. That way you don’t take things too personally.
3. Practice detachment
Frankly, I was in high spirits when I decided not to let my parents judge how I felt about myself the last time we spoke. It wasn’t anger or arrogance. it was a break away. I remember sitting there with my phone in hand and repeating to myself, “I will not let you define my worth anymore.” Looking back on this day for several weeks, I can say that this was the first time I took responsibility for my feelings about my parents.
This story doesn’t necessarily have a happy ending, but it’s empowering, liberating, and incredibly healing. Breaking the emotional chains from the two most important people in my life is the healthiest decision I can make.
After my first victory in years of battle, I feel optimistic that this is the beginning of immense healing. I know worthless thoughts will creep in when I engage with them in the future, but I now understand that I hold in my hands the most powerful tool, the power of choice. .