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Disentangle: When You've Lost Yourself in Someone Else

"Sadly, this book is greatly needed. Too many of us have been raised in a manner that, due to not developing a strong sense of self, we lose ourselves seeking our value and worth, and even our identity, in relationship with others. Nancy Johnston does a beautiful job of helping the reader to both understand and be compassionate toward our self-defeating behaviors that reinforce this while offering a path toward building and claiming our self. Personally, I found myself underlining much of what was written as a way of holding onto the thoughts long after the read. For me that is the sign of an important book." 


Claudia Black, PhD

Author of Unspoken Legacy: Addressing the Impact of Trauma and Addiction within the Family

"Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Yourself in Someone Else by Nancy L. Johnston, a licensed psychotherapist with three decades of clinical experience at least has the blessing of being authored by someone with some training and experience to help people in difficult family, divorce, or matrimonial law disputes. The book is not how to win the case, but rather how to win one’s life back in a positive, non-adversarial way. It is a solution-oriented guide for people seeking to find emotional freedom within their relationships with an intimate partner, the parent-child relationship, other family, friends, or even in the workplace. It is a guide to creating some “emotional space”, a component of regaining a sense of one’s own worth. All things considered, this is a very useful book if it describes your condition or that of someone you know."


Alan Caruba


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"Nancy Johnston’s Disentangle is an exceptionally clear and accessible handbook for doing just that: disentangling from the life patterns that hold us hostage. It’s also a guide for moving on, with a wealth of good counsel on setting healthy boundaries. Favorite chapter: “Developing Spirituality,” which is both inspiring and utterly practical. Bravo!"


Lisa Tracy

Journalist and Author of Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time

"The moment I laid eyes on Nancy Johnston’s subtitle, When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else, I knew that this author understood the process of loss, and I also knew from the title, Disentangle, that she had identified a path out. Immediately I began putting her four-pronged approach (Facing Illusions, Detaching, Setting Healthy Boundaries, and Developing Spirituality) to work in my own life. Next I introduced these concepts to my clients, especially my weekly Boundaries Group. What a wonderful guidebook!
I love the way the book is formatted, with a near perfect balance of vulnerability and self-disclosure, client stories, and practical skills. I strongly recommend Disentangle to anyone in recovery, those professionals working with others in recovery, and anyone whose relationships are entangled."


Margaret L. Cress, LMFT

"I mentioned this book on Wedensday and have been unable to put it down since then. It is amazing. The underlying philosophy draws from Al-Anon, Melody Beattie’s work on co-dependency, Women Who Love Too Much, lessons from her therapeutic practice and her own experiences. Because she draws on multiple perspectives, her suggestions really felt like they fit for me. While there is much I can relate to in Melody Beattie’s Co-Dependent No More and Women Who Love Too Much, I felt like there were so many patterns I couldn’t identify with and, more importantly, so far, I haven’t found they help me to change the patterns I do identify with.


What Johnston found in her therapeutic practice was that the experience of losing yourself in another person is common among people whether they identify as codependent, adult children of alcoholics, or as women who love too much. She writes:


Unhealthy attachments lead us to losing track of what’s important to us. They preoccupy our thoughts and then they can preoccupy our behaviors. We pursue, snoop, sneak, watch, and wait. And we wait and wait, waiting for things to be better, for things to be more like we’d like them to be. And the rest of our life goes to hell. And we don’t even care. We may not even notice. It just doesn’t seem to matter.


This notion struck a chord. Because I’ve been reading so many books lately, endlessly searching for the one thing that will help me clear away part of the fog I seem to be living under, I began to wonder if it would help. Her definition and description of the problem was dead on, but I wasn’t sure I could apply it in a way that would help me to change…until I got to the first exercise about illusions:


Think of a person or situation in which you presently feel entangled.


What is a present illusion of yours relative to this person or situation?


What is a hope or belief you are holding about this person or situation that may or may not really be happening?


What has happened that makes you believe your illusion may be true?


What has or has not happened that tells you your illusion may not be true?


Looking at this data, what is the reality about this person and/or your situation?


How are you feeling about this reality you are finding?


I did the exercise last night, thinking generally about a relationship. I was astonished by what I was able to write. There was something about the way the questions were posed that released me from my typical type-A analysis and freed me to write down my raw feelings. Once I’d finished, I realized it would be better to deal with a more specific situation or event so that specific learnings can be obtained.


There are three other sections in addition to “facing illusions”: detaching, setting healthy boundaries, and developing spirituality. I’m really looking forward to using the exercises in a more structured way each time a specific situation makes me feel anxious and out of control. In this way, I feel like there will be change in the way I view things. At the moment I can know something intellectually, but getting my heart to catch up has been a real challenge.


The Act of Returning to Normal

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