Detachment Without Indifference: Two Realizations About This Important Concept

As a young man, I never had much use for or understanding of the notion of detachment.

To be detached seemed callous and uncaring to me, and disconnected from others and the world around me.

ideaTwo realizations have helped me come to a better understanding of this important concept.

The first is realizing that in embarking on any endeavor, It helps greatly if we can detach from the outcome. Like it or not, we are usually not in control of how things turn out. We are only in charge of doing the best job that we can and using the most skillful means available to us to accomplish our goals. It’s not that we don’t care about the outcome. We just need to learn to let go of attachment to the outcomes because mostly we don’t have control over them.

The second is that being detached doesn’t mean that I’m indifferent to what’s happening to others. The “serenity prayer” from AA is helpful here: Give me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference. There is a paradox here. The more securely I am attached to others, the more I can detach from outcomes. It seems that my strong loving connection with others is what allows me, helps me, to let go of fear and control.

Love is letting go of fear, and love is what lets me let go of fear.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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