In which we explore a new word with different shades of meaning:

February, 2008

To explain, I have a friend who won’t talk to me. She’s a capable and intelligent woman, who has been seriously hurt in a few relationships in the past, and is understandably careful about present relationships. After a year or more of becoming closer to this person, she suddenly stopped corresponding with me, ceased conversations by phone or instant messaging, and won’t meet for coffee or a movie anymore. My attachment to her was suddenly painfully evident, and I began the work of re-balancing my world, but the open question of why she closed all the doors into HER world hasn’t been adequately answered for me, and might never be, despite the interesting fact that she writes a very good blog about the whys and wherefores of leaving relationships that have become destructive: http://www.escapeabuse.com

In following some links I found in there recently, I came across a reference to the term “disattachment”, used by the author of a book about abusive relationships to describe  a “severing” withdrawal from an abusive person or situation, when in the process of reestablishing a “sense-of-self”. (http://books.google.com/books?id=vdbqMR-pKEcC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=covert+abuse&source=web&ots=Auun7QM0et&sig=rPqd8GG80GTNF40BjntObDzoVB4)

The author wanted to distinguish this as different from “detachment”, which has already been used in psychology-parlance to describe a co-dependent person’s need to become less dependent on another. The distinction is very interesting to me, because it may throw some light on what happened between my friend and me, and how that differs from some previous experiences, both hers and mine.

It comes down to this; while I view my friendship with her as having been benign, she came to see it as “co-dependent”, and as such a wasteful diversion from a, perhaps, more useful path through life. When I think about my increasing attachment to her, it seems she may have a point. Her withdrawal might then be termed “detachment”.

This as distinct from what happened in her break-up with a man after several years. In that situation she characterized his behavior as increasingly destructive, until she had to tear herself away from it. It was very sad to Ann and me, because we had met them as a couple, and couldn’t really know or understand the full story in that break-up. For my friend, that was “disattachment”; a ripping away from something that was hurting her.

So this (to me) new word was of some interest, and I googled on it, and sought it in dictionaries. The online dictionary, dictionary.com, came up blank, as did its encyclopedias and thesaurus, but google located its use in a number of blogs. (Apparently, there may be a music-group called Disattachment. )  However, the link below was very interesting, because it uses disattachment as the antithesis of a severing or ripping separation. It uses the word in a zen-like context, for people seeking peace:


For those of you disinclined to chase after embedded links, let me quote a bit:

“…it all reminds me about the dangers of attachment. Attachment is like a heavy parasite that becomes so much a part of you that you begin to depend on it almost as much as it depends on you. In the spirit of annihilating any and every instance, occurrence, example of this certifiably ludicrous behaviour…”  …and so forth.

Well and good for those needing such cool distances, but, to me, I remind myself that ALL friendship and love derives from some kind of attachment, good or bad. Detachment, and dis-attachment, however you use the words, teach us the value of its opposite, and vice-versa.

May all your attachments be healthy, happy and lasting ones.


One thought on “Disattachment”

  1. I like your style. I like your sensitivity and thoughtfulness. And sense of humor. I suggest you investigate a slightly different angle than those mentioned above: the qualitative difference between “pain” and “traumatic pain”. This could be an involved and long endeavor. (I have personally been researching/studying/doing therapy on this for the past 42 years). [See the works of Karla McLaren, Peter Levine, Jon Kabat-Zinn, for starters.]

    Here’s a thumbnail sketch (not detached, still attached to the finger) of what I’m pointing at:

    Pain (disturbance, irritation, disenchantment, whatever) lies perhaps in the realm of discomfort: annoying but manageable, with effort;

    Traumatic pain (overwhelming discomfort, disturbance, irritation or disenchantment, and more) is by definition unmanageable, like a psychological wildfire out of control in the moment, suppressed by monumental effort and shoved below consciousness psychically and into the body structures, physically.

    The first (pain) is a take-it-or-leave it creature.
    Traumatic pain is stuck to you, inside you and can only be released/removed by a very specific set of events/circumstances/procedures which are only now being understood. (Talk therapy has limited value).

    See: Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levine et al.

    Seeing our phobic aversions and other “tendencies” or “predispositions” in this light makes more sense, to me, in a Holistic way. Our survival instincts get activated, very powerful indeed, and so the question of “rationality”. . . no longer fits.

    Food for thought. Contact me if you wish.

    Jeff Merson

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