Psychological Self-Help

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Detachment from another person does not involve rejecting the
person, it is rejecting your feeling responsible for them. As Beattie
explains, "detachment is caring without going crazy." To become
detached from another person requires a clear notion of who we are,
what our purposes are, and what limits we place on our involvement in
another person's life. Being able to detach involves "having well
defined boundaries." The boundaries between people may be very
vague and fluid, especially in very close relationships, e.g. a mother or
father may "feel for" a son as he struggles with a physical handicap or
a daughter as she goes though the loss of her first love. A spouse may
feel great pride as his/her partner gets promoted or graduates with
honors. Our identification with our children or spouse may be so great
that we "live their lives with them," experiencing their joys and
problems ourselves. The boundary between their life and our life may
be weak; in which case, their life invades our life; as a codependent,
another person's life becomes our life...and we try to fix it. 
Very dependent people have vague boundaries; they feel the need
for others to "take over" and make them feel sufficient and whole.
People who have been raised to be caregivers--or to feel unworthy of
love unless they give a lot more than they get--tend to believe they
should be strong and "take over" and take care of other people's
problems (weak boundaries). If we have been controlled by someone,
it may be unclear to us what parts of us are ours to control and what
parts someone else has a right or needs to control (weak boundaries).
Of course, our original bonds with our parents (involving weak or
strong boundaries and major or minor control over us) have powerful
effects on our relationships throughout life. 
If a 25-year-old child or a spouse constantly gets into trouble, say
some illegal activity, the weak-boundaried, codependent parent or
spouse would continue to respond with dread and excuses for each
offense (almost as if he/she had committed the crimes) and feel
compelled every time (probably thinking "I can't let this ever happen
again") to do everything possible to buy the best legal defense to
avoid punishment. On the other hand, the strong-boundaried,
detached person would have regrets but hold the other person
responsible for his/her illegal behavior, let him/her fend for
him/herself, and let them take the consequences. It isn't a matter of
codependents loving the other person more than detached people;
rather, it is differing degrees of enmeshment or confused identification
with the other person. It is a matter of trying to control someone
else's life. 
If you are a codependent and overly involved in running someone
else's life, you need to withdraw and detach yourself. This is done by
"setting limits" or "setting a boundary" with this person. In this way
you clarify what you will and will not do for another person; you
establish your rights and set the limits of your commitment to the
other person (even if you feel you should do everything for them).
Explain to the person you have been worrying that you have done all
you can, that they must now care for themselves, that they probably
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