Dear Dr. Norquist:
I don’t even know how to phrase this question because when I think about it I wonder if I’m sane. I have this curious experience that happens all the time when I’m around other people that I’ve never seen written about anywhere.
I have the experience of being here with the person, talking or listening to them and also being separate and detached as if I’m looking at both of us talking from a distance, from outside my body. I have found that I can alternate my perspective from inside my body talking to someone to this detached view of looking at me and us from the outside.
When I think about it, this detached looking should scare me, but it feels fine, almost peaceful, and definitely not scary. Sometimes I’ll have insights that are surprising from this detached perspective that really makes me wonder what’s going on.
Dr. Norquist responds:
The ability to detach is an important human ability. Many people learn this skill as a coping mechanism when in an extreme anxiety producing or traumatic situation. It can be used as a means of protection from the reality of the traumatic situation. Detachment is also an important skill to learn in certain interpersonal situations, especially those that engender a lot of emotion, such as parent-child, or husband-wife. If you have a tendency to emotionally over-react, the ability to detach gives you perspective, which enables you to have a much more balanced evaluation of the situation at hand, and to consciously choose how to react. This will help you to avoid impulsive reactions that you will likely regret later.
Detachment allows us to more consciously create and guide our lives. In their book “The Heart of the Soul,” Zukav and Francis use the analogy of a bridge over water. The bridge is the detached perspective, and the water is the ever-changing emotions related to whatever situation is at hand. If we are not on the bridge, our emotions possess us, and we are caught in the current of life, not recognizing the power we can exercise to change what we are feeling or to use the experience to grow. The detached perspective can allow you access to higher, more conscious aspects of yourself. So, do not worry about this experience that you describe. Instead, use it to more consciously choose how to respond to each moment.
Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at email@example.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services