THE CARETAKER SYNDROME & Nonattachment

The Caretaker Syndrome is usually associated with an individual emotionally attached to a loved-one dying from some form of dementia.  They are often unaware of how natural but ultimately dangerous this link is to their own health. 

 There is a difficult balance which needs to be achieved when helping a loved-one through these enormously stressful  periods in the lives of both involved.  The natural tendency is to devote every ounce of physical and emotional energy into their well-being. 

The problem, however, is that the Caretaker risks their own health. I've seen first hand, with family, friends and patients, the devastating consequences of such deep emotional attachments.  The Caretaker can, and often does, become physical sick.  Death is not unheard of.  Ultimately the Caretaker is unable to be there for their loved-one.  The consequences can be a disaster for all concerned. 

I am drawn once again to the analogy of the air line industry.  On every flight the attendant goes through the ritual of the oxygen masks being deployed.  They ALWAYS emphasize the need to place the mask on yourself first.  Only then can you help those with you. 

Placing the mask on yourself is not an act of selfishness.  The goal is to be able to help others.  The Caretaker should  heed this advice.  It is not an act of selfishness to attend to their own physical and emotional needs.  That may require an awareness of the notion of Nonattachmenet. 

I have previously written about the difference between Attachment, Nonattachment and Detachment.  We should endeavor to do everything we can to assist our loved-one's through their personal journey.  We should remind ourselves, however, that their journey is unique to them.  Every individual has their own.  No matter how desperately we choose to think otherwise. 

Nonattachment means that we do everything in the present moment to help them on their journey.  We need to be nonattached to the outcome.  As strange as this may sound at first I believe it is absolutely necessary. 

Much of our personal suffering is derived from worry about outcomes.  Will our loved-ones suffer and die?  Will our business succeed or fail?  Will our children be there for us when we need assistance?  Will they be content in their own lives?  What about grandchildren, friends ?  Our minds keep us enslaved within a wall of worry. 

 In sense we are always Caretakers for someone or something.  We need to be mindful of the dangers inherent in this state of being. 

 Ironically the mental state of Nonattachment will not manifest itself in the physical world by behavior that is in anyway different from our attached Caretaker state of being.  From the perspective of anyone viewing us or our actions we will appear exactly the same.  Our actions are unchanged.  We still are present to interact to intervene to champion the cause of our loved-one.  The "only" change is from within our minds.  Yet that "only" is "everything".   It allows us to wear our oxygen masks while we assist our loved-ones who don't have theirs.

 Nonattachment to outcome may allow us to find serenity in the present moment and to be whole and well enough to help those we love.