Attachment — The thing that hurts

Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha had all the wisdom of the world and was unfettered by emotions of all kinds. But he too could not escape the pains that attachments can cause — his fatherly attachments for his son…

Attachment is an emotion that binds us with a being or a thing or a place… abstract or physical. Just like any other emotion, it does not affect all equally, some are more prone to it than the rest. But I am almost confident of the belief that no being is entirely immune to it, though some might be more adept at faking the immunity.

The human mind is a possessive being… It likes to keep with itself all memories, good and bad. It has a very keen propensity to access the memories and relive the past time and again. Not everyone is equally good at it but some are just exceptionally competent in it, willingly or otherwise. And some are just too competent to the extent of attachment almost becoming a vice in life.

Unfortunately, I, most probably, belong to this class of beings who are a tad bit too competent in getting attached. At times, my ability to get attached surprises my own consciousness. I get attached to not only beings, things and places but also to ‘ideas’ or ‘thoughts’. By ‘ideas’ I do not mean scientific hypothesis or propositions, they are mere thoughts that I tend to conjure up in my head often in midst of utter idleness. But gradually, I tend to grow so fond of them that I get attached to them even though my subconscious is so conscious about its absurdity.

Just a couple of days back, a friend of mine happened to tell me that he has a short term memory and he can hardly recall memories of the past, even the most recent ones. And this led to the discussion that how things are just the complete opposite for me, with most memories always so vivid to me. He casually commented that this might make me prone to hurtful attachments and that moment, I realized how true this was and how it has always been the case!

Attachment is a perpetual nuisance in my life, mostly attachments to people and thoughts related to them. I feel I have a tendency to make connections between the people and everything else in my life. So at times when some people fade away, the missing connecting points feel like gaping voids, creating a sort of infinite vacuum.

Many believe that attachments are good. Attachments to family, values and principles prevent us from going astray, and though I do not completely disagree with this, I cannot call attachment a very healthy emotion as well. I feel attachments bind us to something in specific, like some strings binding us to a pillar or a post. The precariousness lies in the fact that the pillar might be a transient one and it might fade but we still might be bounded to it forever.

Personally, attachment has not proven to be a very positive attribute to me. In fact, attachment is not considered a very healthy attribute even in scientific research. The popular belief is that quality research can happen only when researchers are least attached to their hypotheses. In the field of research where the probability of a hypothesis failing is, very often, higher than it not failing, it is very strongly advised for a researcher to not get too invested or attached to their hypothesis. The solution that is very often offered for this problem is to have many alternative hypotheses and to not get attached to any of them.

But in our lives, it is impossible to go testing hypothesis by hypothesis and we cannot really avoid being attached to beings, things or places. The only antidote that seems to be available for this is to form multiple strong attachments instead of one, so that when one pillar becomes shaky, the others can support us well. An idea which seem to stem from the necessity of having multiple support systems for emotional well-being!