It became clear to me when I hit midlife that when I’m feeling too emotional, it is very difficult, if not impossible for me to make good decisions. Whether it be a decision about my work or personal life, if I am feeling very emotionally invested in the outcome of the situation, then I will most likely choose poorly.
High emotions lead to poor decisions. Negative emotions can also be quite uncomfortable. Emotional detachment can be an effective technique to lean into as you tackle life’s daily challenges. This isn’t the same as being emotionless. Think of it more as emotional control.
Consider the following:
- It’s wonderful to have a partner that you love and care about. However, it can be unhealthy if you find yourself obsessed with them. When your thoughts are consumed by the person, or when you spend all of your time thinking about what they are doing, this is not healthy behavior for couples because it doesn’t leave room for anyone else in their lives. Yes it’s great to love your partner but it’s definitely a bad thing to be so obsessed with them that you can’t manage the rest of your life.
- It’s reasonable to be stressed at work. There are deadlines, demands and expectations. However, it is clearly counterproductive when the stress becomes so bad that you can’t sleep. What then?
Too much emotion can blind us to flaws, create obstacles, and cause us to make poor decisions.
Emotional detachment has several advantages:
- Wise decisions. The importance of emotional detachment has been emphasized by many leaders and psychologists. It’s not just about “getting over it” but rather understanding the feeling, analyzing its purpose, and then releasing it. It is one of the most important skills for wise decision making because it helps you see things from a broader perspective. The ability to detach yourself emotionally can also help with stress management and lead to more emotional stability in your life. Being in a highly emotional state greatly compromises your ability to make good decisions. Wise decisions are based on logic, your values, your goals, and maybe even your gut. You tend to ignore these things when you’re in a state of emotion. The best decisions are always going to be made with a cool head.
- Less stress. If we can detach ourselves from our thoughts and feelings, then it stands to reason that we won’t be as affected by them. Allowing and maintaining a state of emotional agitation is stressful. It’s uncomfortable for your mind and your body. The stress hormones that are released at these moments are hard on your body. If you’re emotionally detached, you’re going to be far more relaxed. This technique is not for everyone, but if you want to reduce stress in a healthy way without medication or therapy, this could be the answer for you.
- Less anger. We all know that anger is an unpleasant feeling. It can lead to aggressive thoughts and behaviors, which can result in physical violence or emotional outbursts. Emotional detachment results in less anger. In fact, it leads to feeling fewer negative emotions overall.
- You care less what others think about you. If you’re emotionally detached it’s not that you don’t care at all, but rather that you’re able to override the negative thoughts because they no longer have a hold on you. If you’re emotionally detached from the opinions of others, you won’t care what others think about you. Most people are disproportionately concerned with the opinions of others, which greatly limits their success.
- You feel less fear. In the book “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer, he discusses how emotional attachment is actually a cause of fear because you are afraid that what you love will be taken away from you. Fear can also be caused by not knowing what to expect in the future. The author suggests that detachment and an awareness of death can help one become fearless again. Less fear results in more action. You accomplish more with less emotional fuss.
Develop the Skill of Emotional Detachment
Now that you see how being emotionally detached can benefit you, you may wonder how you can develop this state of emotional control.
Try these strategies to learn to be more emotionally detached:
- Notice your emotions as they arise. There’s no good way to suddenly turn yourself into an emotionally detached person. It’s a process. The first step is to notice your emotions right when they begin. This is not always easy to do, but it’s key to mastering detachment. As you notice one emotion arising, another will follow, and then another. Each has its own flavor–its unique emotional fingerprint that distinguishes it from all other feelings on earth. The more you practice noticing your emotions as they arise and identifying what they are, the more skilled you’ll become at doing so over time.
- Separate your ego from reality. Someone smirking at your shoes has absolutely no impact on your life unless you’re a shoe model. Any negative emotions you feel are simply your ego talking. Suppose someone criticized your business plan? Even if the criticism is valid, there’s no reason to be upset. Just improve your business plan.
- Use logic. Imagine you own a real estate investment company and you’re located in Missouri. Now, imagine that you’re looking for an apartment building to invest in. You’ve found what you think are three reasonable options:
- A nice building in San Diego. It’s by the beach, and you love the beach.
- A beautiful building in Manhattan. You’re excited at the prospect of telling the world that you own such a beautiful building.
- The last option is a run-of-the-mill building in St. Louis. You’re very familiar with this type of building, since you already own several that are similar. There are no surprises here. It’s a solid deal.
Logically, the last option is the best. It makes sense. The fact that you love the beach has nothing to do with evaluating a business deal. The fact that you would be proud to own a building has nothing to do with growing your business. Logic is devoid of emotion.
We all make poor decisions during times of strong emotion. It’s how our brain is wired. Logic goes out of the window when we feel really good or really bad. Emotional detachment provides the best foundation for making wise decisions.
When you need to make a decision, separate your emotions from the situation and rely on your intellect. It doesn’t mean that you have to think like a robot. It means that you aren’t controlled by your emotional states. You’ll find it easier to make smart decisions in less time with less stress.
If you enjoyed this post please share it:
My recommended reading for anyone interested in developing emotional detachment is to investigate Stoicism. Start with “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holliday,
Grab “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holliday on Paper, Kindle or Audiobook in the USA:
Grab “The Obstacle Is The Way” by Ryan Holliday on Paper, Kindle or Audiobook in the UK: