When beating your head against a brick wall, eventually, you realize two things. One, the wall isn’t moving (not even a little bit). Two, you’ve got one hell of a headache! It might be a good idea to stop the headbanging, take a few Advil and maybe a nap.
I’ve experienced this myself. I try to live a drama-free life. Yet my family always wants to pull me into their mess – and I live several states and a 10-hour drive away. I’ve tried the best that I can to deal with their madness but this last time, I had had it. I needed to do something different, so I decided to take one very big step back.
You see, you can try and try to solve a problem but find that it still persists. You can do everything in your power. You can make sacrifices. You can live with frustration with the way things are while still hoping that they will improve – just to realize that may never happen.
Our frustration comes when people aren’t behaving the way that we’d like (even when we believe our way is the best). We cannot control other people’s actions, thoughts or behaviors. Even children don’t do what they are supposed to do all the time.
After you’ve exhausted all of your options, there is one more approach: distance.
Sometimes distance is better. This is especially hard when you are dealing with family and those closest to you. Yet even if it is your last option, it can be the best one- for you, for your sanity and for the other people involved.
Distance allows you to …
- Get out of the weeds. When you are in the thick of things, it can be difficult to see clearly. It is hard to stay above the fray when you are in the middle of it.
- Get off the emotional rollercoaster. There’s anticipation as the rollercoaster climbs to the top, then it plummets down before you’re slung back in your seat as you start to go up again. An actual rollercoaster can be exhilarating. When it happens in real life, it is exhausting and frustrating.
- Get clarity. When you step back, you can see the bigger picture. You can make better decisions. You can reclaim your emotional health.
Distance doesn’t mean you stop caring. In fact, it could be the most caring thing you can do. Distance can give you the chance to heal. You can also see the bigger picture in a way you couldn’t before.
Yet there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Don’t feel bad. Getting out of the commotion doesn’t mean you are abandoning the people who remain in the midst of it. You are doing something that you need to do for you. You know the whole thing about putting your air mask on before you help someone else with theirs; that applies here.
- Don’t let guilt get to you. Other people might question your decision. They might think you are being selfish or self-centered. If you aren’t careful, they can lure you back into the thick of things.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Guilt doesn’t always come from other people, it can also come from within. Learn to quiet that nagging inner voice. As the distance you’ve created begins to give you peace and freedom from frustration, that voice will eventually leave you all together (or at least go down to a whisper).
Distance doesn’t mean a lack of love, far from it. Distance can be a way of loving yourself. Distance can be a loving way of letting others solve their problems or stand on their own. Distance can happen once you realize that the battle isn’t yours to fight.