Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy For Emotional Detachment

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While emotional detachment is a defense mechanism taken to reduce feelings of helplessness in a hostile world, partners and other intimates of the emotionally detached are wont to consider emotional detachment to be an inherent personality trait, as more or less one and the same thing as the person struggling with it.

This sets up a conflicted, hostile, combative situation that pits one person against the other. The partner thinks and says things like “Why are you like this? You need to change. You’re not capable of authentic connection.”

The beauty of narrative therapy, with general life problems as well as with the specific life problem of emotional detachment, is that by externalizing the problem from the person and considering this problem to be its own separate entity an opportunity arises to reshuffle alliances.

Suddenly it’s the partner and the person with emotional detachment one one side and the emotional detachment on the other where both people team up to confront and overcome the problem. Before it was the partner on one side and the person with emotional detachment on the other, both vying for the upper hand, both resentful and hostile towards one another.

With emotional detachment externalizing the problem makes a lot of sense since it’s precisely conflict situations that cue off the very behaviors that have partners and other intimates upset in the first place. For those with emotional detachment open conflict is itself a powerful producer of anxiety, and in the face of anxiety the relied upon method for dealing with it is used, which is to shut down, to turn away, to fold into oneself, to stonewall.

So beginning to see emotional detachment as a separate entity opens up some psychic space to actually be able to investigate the constellation of behaviors that are causing undue relationship distress. It’s no longer “You’re responsible for the lack of authentic, deep connection because you’re a cold, unfeeling person” and instead it’s “Emotional detachment is responsible for the lack of authentic, deep connection and if it’s adequately dealt with then the real you underneath will get the chance to shine.”