The Dangers of Attachment
“Have a mind that is open for everything and attached to nothing.” — Wayne Dyer
Glancing at the title of this entry, you may be thinking what follows is general advice regarding avoiding attachment in relationships. While I’ll cover some components of attachment within this area, I intend to dive far deeper than the title suggests. Attachment Theory has been studied in the realm of psychology since 1969, focusing on the deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another. Yet, I’m inviting you to consider that attachment to another human pales in comparison to the type of attachment that really gets us into hot water in life:
Attachment to our position, views and opinions.
Grazing over the surface of that statement, this appears to be general sense. Yes, of course we cannot get too attached to a particular stance or we’ll never experience the benefits of anything else.
But if we look closer, we often have no idea just how much attachment drives our thinking, our decisions, and ultimately, our actions. It’s relatively common to lose track just how far we’re willing to let relationships that are dear to us and goals we burn to achieve stray away, strictly as the result of staying attached.
In my life, I grew into adulthood with a belief that I was stubborn. I can actually remember being told this once or twice, and apparently that was enough to adopt the belief for myself. From what I could gather about “stubborn” people, they were committed to their beliefs regardless of how it played out for them in reality. For a period of time, I admired this about people I knew to be stubborn because they appeared to be sure of themselves (something I knew I certainly wasn’t). Once I identified this, I developed a strict belief system and stayed committed to those beliefs regardless of how they affected me in reality.
As I made my way through time employing these particular views, I found more and more my desire for the belief to trump another person’s. So much so that friendships and relationships began to suffer as a result. I became so obsessed with being right, justified and invalidating others that I started to forget the purpose of the particular belief in the first place. It became less about the belief and more about making someone else wrong. It was about making myself feel significant and valuable for having the “correct” understanding or the sharpest opinion.
“Any time there is a loss of power, freedom or self-expression, it is due to attachment of a particular position.”
Whenever I would feel like I was losing ground in the conversation or the upper hand in the relationship, my attachment to my particular stance or beliefs would be at the source.
We can all appreciate the dangers of this. People will absolutely come unglued if you challenge their beliefs or their opinions. People kill over their beliefs. It is arguably the thing that human beings protect to the same degree as a child or loved one. The reason for this is when you challenge another person’s beliefs, you are essentially challenging their life. This set of particular beliefs have gotten them to this point in their life and by challenging the validity of their view, you are essentially challenging the validity of their life.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with staying true to what you believe. This is, in fact, very healthy to a certain degree. Specifically constructed linguistic agreements such as values, morals and religion serve us very well in many situations. The belief itself is not what produces harm in most cases; it’s the attachment, resulting in deliberate rejection of all others it tends to create.
What the attachment to a position truly does is limit a person to the confines in which the belief is constructed. If I believe that communication within a relationship should be a particular way and I’m attached to this outcome, I’m either going to get that relationship with that exact distinction of communication (highly unlikely) or I’m going to end up with no relationship at all. I’ll end up alienating every single partner that doesn’t share my opinion and not know why. The the other person will experience exhaustion to the point in which they have no choice but to move on. And yes, I’m speaking from experience here. I wouldn’t back down or give in to anything outside of my belief system because I felt it represented my entire life up to that point. I couldn’t let go because I thought I would lose my identity in the process, something that I had worked so hard to attempt to discover (even though I had simply created it for myself).
This demand for recognition as being correct and justified was very similar to my need to be praised and recognized in other areas of my life. I wouldn’t perform the work or strive to be the best without the element of promotion. I wouldn’t do the little things that need to be done to make a relationship successful if the actions didn’t bear the fruit of recognition. This immature thinking was a direct result of being rooted in attachment to the “way I felt things should be”.
“Your personal philosophy is the greatest determining factor in how your life works out.” — Jim Rohn
At the culmination, I came to the conclusion that maybe the way I felt things should be wasn’t exactly congruent with the way things are. My operating system had failed me one too many times and I was finally willing to give it all up. Being attached to my views wasn’t serving me in any way outside of my ego.
Once we grow in character to the point that real maturity begins to ensue and we discover that we are not the sun in which the world revolves around, only then is it possible to function from the state of a blank canvas. We often find out the hard way that the beliefs we are attached to end up running our life and it’s often responsible for any and all pain we experience. Our attachment keeps us from cleaning up with a dear friend or reconciling with a business partner. For taking a stand where we know we should but won’t because we feel the other person should apologize first.
Or worse, our attachment keeps us from expressing our true love to family and loved ones. Understanding this very basic principle, that we always have the option to simply let go, can enact a seismic shift in one’s life.
This begins to produce a remarkable process in a person’s life: taking full responsibility. Once you claim full responsibility for your life and everything that happens in it, magic happens. Once the attachment disappears and responsibility appears in its place, we then become creators.
With attachment, situations are fixed.
With responsibility however, situations can be transformed. We can then write our own life. We chart the course, not just steer the ship.
If we wait around for someone else to change, we may die before the change takes place. If we ever want to be a part of greatness, we must go create it. And to create greatness, we cannot afford to be held back by anything. Greatness deserves a clean slate, a blank canvas.
In order to plant the garden of our life, we must pull the weeds out first.
“Greatness isn’t born, it’s made.” — Daniel Coyle