Sunday, March 17, 2013

Blooming Cherry Trees, and Detachment.

From my front window I can see the deep pink Japanese ornamental cherry trees are coming into bloom. Another week or so, and they will be in full glory. I love this time of year - spring is on the way, and it lightens my heart, to see all the new growth starting.

I was listening to a speaker today, who said that one of the most difficult lessons in Al-Anon, is to fully accept responsibility for our own emotions. How many times have you heard someone say "He (she) made me so angry!"  There will often then follow an explanation of the way the other person  caused their anger.

When I was new to Al-Anon, I didn't realise how easily I could be manipulated. I didn't undetstand that as long as I viewed it as the other person "making me,"  I was stuck reacting to their behavior. I couldn't detach. They acted, I reacted, and thus began a chain of anger, frustration, hurt feelings, and obsession.

I've been asked to explain what goes through my head when I'm detaching. First, I observe, without editorial comment. If someone appears to be getting angry, I observe that, without deciding whether or not they have the right to their anger. This means I have let go of all of those "How dare she behave this way!"  or "He always/never..."  or any other of those self-righteous or critical comments with which I have responded, before I learned how to detach.

In order for me to believe that I have a right to my own feelings, I need to also believe that you have the right to yours. And I do believe this.

The actions we take while in the grip of those feelings, are usually a good indicator of whether or not we've grasped the concept of detachment. When I began to get better at detachment, I learned to observe my own feelings, without allowing them to sweep me away like a leaf being taken for a wild ride in a high wind.

I might think, "I don't like the way this person is speaking to me." Before Al-Anon, their anger would be met and matched by mine. Now, I can have that feeling, and respond with detachment by saying what I feel  - "I don't like it when you try to manipulate me into giving me what you want, by ignoring me or sulking when I refuse you."

I can decide if I want to continue the conversation, and if I do, under what conditions. This might be a matter of asking the other person not to make sniping or insulting comments because they are annoyed with me.  I might decide that their level of anger or determination is one that I'm not willing to deal with at this time, and I may bow out of the encounter by saying calmly that I'm not going to discuss it with them. I have choices all the way along, and I have control over my emotions. As the Promises in our book "From Survival to Recovery" state:

"We will begin to feel and will come to know the vastness of our emotions, but we will not be slaves to them."

Detachment has allowed me to have mastery of my emotions, instead of being a slave to them. It's a much calmer life. I have compassion for other people, when they are slaves to their own emotions and acting badly. I don't judge them for it, because I recall all too well what it was like to be in that place, but I also don't take responsibility for anyone else's anger today - I don't make anyone angry, just as nobody makes me angry.  Anger often comes from the stories we tell ourselves about how the other person should be acting. Expectations create resentment. Resentment creates anger. Anger is a terrible master; I was a furiously angry person for the first 40 years of my life.

I'm full of gratitude for Al-Anon, because nowadays when I tell people that, they have a tendency to look at me, and start to laugh, saying, "I can't picture it." I have a hard time recalling that myself. That's the blessing of working the program.


  1. Great post. It is no fun not having someone to blame for my pain.But it is nice to know you have choice not jump into the drama. If I don't take the bait and wait then I make better decision without emotions. I take my power back and that makes me feel good.

  2. My soon to be ex alcoholic often asks me why I'm so angry and your blog explains it clearly.

    Thank you so much for sharing,

  3. This always reminds me of Betaris Box which I think is similar to Al anon thinking. It is a very simple idea that says my attitude affects my behavior which can affect others attitude and their behavior. If I can alter my behavior by thinking, and detaching, if necessary, the other persons attitude may change. So if I am angry at someone they are naturally aggressive back. Of course it does not work so well when a person is intoxicated as you cannot reason with them but I can still change my attitude and alter my behavior for my own good. And likewise the alcoholics attitude and behavior can affect me unless I detach to break the cycle.

  4. We talked about this topic last night. I am glad to not keep trying to blame another person for my own resentments and anger. It feels good to look at my choices.