Detached Personality And Ambivalence

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Most people struggling with detached personality actually don’t feel like they’re struggling at all. They’re more or less content with their mode of relating to people and the world. While they may have the inkling that a certain something is missing, in this case the authentic sense of connection to external entities and the ability to share psychological and emotional material felt to be dangerous, you can’t miss what you don’t know.

Usually what prompts those who chose detached personality as a life solution to the problem of helplessness in a world perceived as hostile to seek professional help is the complaints of the people around them, specifically romantic partners, who have come to find that emotional wall and the lack of felt connection it entails intolerable.

Therefore we can always expect ambivalence, or simultaneous contradictory thoughts and feelings, around the detached personality life solution. On one hand it has been a very good friend since childhood. Deciding not to care about anything was the only surefire way to keep anxiety at bay. On the other hand it’s clearly causing a lot of conflict and unhappiness in the lives of others, which in turn means unwanted conflict and stress for oneself. So the paradox is that a life solution taken to eradicate life problems is now responsible for life problems.

In our view as long as the motivation for trading emotional detachment for emotional connection remains at the superficial level of pleasing others there’s gong to be very little movement. At that superficial level people don’t really want to change, they just want the conflict in their relationships to go away, in the same way they wanted conflict in the primary relationship to go away when they chose emotional detachment in the first place.

The conversation has got to move to the authentic personal ambivalence, to all that is gained from remaining emotionally detached and later to all that has been lost, from childhood onward. We’re not talking here about the complaints of others but rather getting into contact with that felt sense that something is missing and mining what that something is. Appeasing others is not a good enough motivation to change one’s underlying psychology. It might be a good enough motivation to change specific behaviors in specific instances but that’s it. And detached personality is much deeper and broader than specific behaviors in specific situations. It’s an underlying way of being, a way of relating, a way of seeing the world, a way of seeing oneself, a way of combating existential anxiety. Only when the free decision is taken that this way is no longer satisfactory to Self rather than simply unsatisfactory to others will movement start to occur.