Does this sound confusing? How can you love someone and not care about what they do? What does this mean? In AA circles it is called “Detachment with Love”. In Christian circles: “Holy Indifference”, while Buddhism calls it “Non-attachment or Equanimity”. Whatever its name, it is an aloofness to all outcomes, whether involving the self or others. It is a state of calm and balance, in the midst of difficulty; a feeling of compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy for self and others. The human condition makes this indifference easier said than done. When you are frustrated, you will often find yourself having a visceral negative response. In spite of your intentions to be kind and patient, the mere presence of the person gives you the same reaction as chalk scratching a black board. When this is the case, what can you do? The following are a few suggestions that may help you to accept a person as they choose to be.

EXPRESS YOUR POINT OF VIEW. It is natural to want people to understand where you are coming from. In order to do this, you need to be able to have a candid conversation, but you also need to decide to give this conversation limited effort. Sometimes people are interested in your point of view and can be persuaded. You owe it to the relationship to try to get your point across to see if you can find consensus. But before you venture into the conversation, Christine J. Kim suggests that you make the commitment to do the following: Listen well and resist rebuttal as you allow the other to share his point of view. Explain you side. Describe your discomfort, thoughts and ideas. Try to move the discussion toward a common ground. You will know the person is simpatico if you see them nodding their head in agreement or asking questions on ways to execute your suggestions. If you get a blank stare; or lots of “yes, but”; give up.

PRACTICE DETACHED ATTACHMENT even though it can feel irresponsible or unloving. Caring can be egotistical and does not equal love. Your care and concern can actually be unloving because you are attempting to correct another’s way of being. When you have a preconceived notion of how people should act and they fail to behave in that way, you tend to view them as inadequate or wrong. Sometimes your “help” actually keeps others dependent, stuck and feeling incompetent because they come to believe that they cannot do things right or need your assistance to live their life. When my daughter graduated from college and sat in front of the TV “looking for a job”, I was constantly offering her “suggestions” on how to find a job. Naturally, this wisdom fell on deaf ears and created unrest in our household. She was unconsciously picking up my fear and anxiety and interpreting my “help” as a vote of no confidence. It was only when I finally allowed her to chart her own path that peace reigned and she got a job.

LOVE WITHOUT CARING When someone you love goes down a path that you think is wrong, stay calm. By staying detached, you can allow them a safe place to examine behavior and feelings. If you are agitated over what they are doing, they will need to stay in a defensive posture and protect their position. As a therapist, I generally am able to provide a nonjudgmental environment which allows my client a safe place to explore their behavior. But in my own relationships, it is more difficult.

It is challenging to stay loving and detached when a person’s behavior directly impacts you, for example, when you are in debt and your spouse sits on the couch instead of looking for a job or if you have a nonchalant friend, who constantly lets you down. When this is the case, you need to look at the relationship and practice ROI (“on a scale of 1-10 what is the benefit this person will derive from your fulfilling their request and on a scale of 1-10, what will it cost you?” September 2008 tip). In this way, you can calculate if this relationship is worth your energy or if it is time to cut your losses and move on. When the person is someone you wish to keep in your life, you need to admit that you are powerless to change them and accept them as they choose to be.

A challenging reality in life is that you cannot change what a person is doing, they can only change themselves. When you are constantly cheer leading or coaching you waste your energy, stay stuck and do not focus on your own life. A visualization that I use when I am in repetitive worry is that I imagine the person or situation as a chapter in a book. I say to myself, “yes this is going on but since I can’t do anything about it, I’ll turn the page and focus on another chapter that is also in my life”. This action helps me to feel calm and concentrate on what I can control.

No matter the consequences or outcome, you can choose to live and let live but most importantly to be happy. Life invites you to release your care about whether a person conforms to your expectation and accept others as they choose to be, trusting that they are figuring out their life in the best way that they can. When you no longer care what others do, they will feel your acceptance and actually blossom. But more importantly when you stop caring what others do, you give yourself the freedom to focus on your own chapter, your own life and live the life that you are meant to live.

“If you judge others you have no time to love them”. Mother Teresa

Author's Bio: 

JoAnne is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who believes in the connection of emotional health to body, mind and spirit. She has integrated clinical counseling with holistic techniques and has formalized her knowledge by creating the Journey Back to Self program which is available in a recorded CD. In addition, in order to further assist others, she writes self improvement tips that you can find on Facebook or her website,