I’ve spent the majority of my adulthood attached to certain people, beliefs, ideas and outcomes. I’ve run toxic relationships to the ground and I’ve clung to dreams to the point of self-destruction. Heck, I’m so emotionally attached to my 2005 Jeep that I know I’ll be ugly sobbing the day I have to sell her one day.
For the sake of this article, I’m talking about unhealthy attachments. These are the attachments that lead to fixation, obsession and perhaps an unwavering devotion to a particular person, outcome, object or belief. Unhealthy attachments lead to tunnel vision, suffering and disruption of inner-peace.
In spirituality and psychology, attachment connotes a level of inflexibility and stuckness on your path to growth.
To manifest your dreams, spiritual gurus like Deepak Chopra or Gabrielle Bernstein encourage us to let go of whatever we’re attached to so that we may discover mental peace and make room for change. Often, what we are attached to must be “surrendered to the universe” for us to be truly free.
To surrender is to cease resistance and submit to authority. In the realm of spirituality, that authority would be a higher power or the universe.
Fear, anxiety, worry, anger, overthinking, and stress from uncertainty are all signs of being emotionally attached to something.
When surrendering, you release your control over a situation so that the universe may provide what you’re hoping for, or better. In Christianity, I often hear the phrase, “Jesus, take the wheel!” This is the country music definition of surrender.
Easy enough, right?
Here’s where I get tripped up. How do we simply surrender our unhealthy attachments? It feels so complicated! Why doesn’t it come with instructions?!
Self-help books recommend that to surrender, you must release what you’re attached to into the universe. Some suggest giving it up to God. Suggestions like this feel a lot like defining a word with the same word. Let go by letting go, seems to be the universal instructions.
Not to mention, surrendering feels like one of those easier-said-than-done tasks.
I can sit on my meditation blanket and offer up my attachments all day, but if it were that easy, I’d be zenned out already.
To surrender my unhealthy attachments, I’ve started to try a few things that seem to be helping.
Recognize it’s Everyone’s Job to Be Exactly How They Are
Our unhealthy attachments have a lot to do with control. Those who are attached to a romantic partner are often preoccupied with that person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Many people end up attached to the belief that the other person will one day change, so they tolerate a lot crap in the present.
For instance, you may be in an on-and-off again relationship with a person who just doesn’t want to commit. It’s clear that timing is not right for them but you cling to the possibility that one day their closed heart will suddenly be open to your love and that they’ll decide they’re ready to commit to you.
In this case, you’re attached to a certain outcome, centered around the fact that that person is going to change. The problem here is that their change is not guaranteed.
When you’re in a situation that isn’t changing, that situation is meant to change you.
Same goes for people. In this one-sided relationship, it may be that person’s universal assignment to change you. Their purpose in your life may not be a committed relationship. Their resistance to a relationship may just exist to teach you something like the importance of loving yourself.
This is why it’s useful to recognize that it’s everyone’s job to be exactly who they are. Their stubbornness, their anger, their aloofness and their closed-mindedness are all supposed to serve you somehow.
For your learning, it’s their job to be difficult. You must detach from the idea of them changing and ask yourself how they’re changing you.
Commit to Becoming the Best Version of Yourself
Think about the life that you want to live and commit to creating that life for yourself. Often, your attachments are what hold you back from being the version of yourself that you want to be. For me, a lot of this has to do with creating boundaries. Owning up to how you’ve been complicit in your unhappiness is part of this.
When you shift your focus from what you’re attached to to prioritizing your own happiness over everything else, you reconnect with the power of your wholeness. You realize that you’d be OK with or without that relationship or outcome.
Figure Out Why You’re Still Attached and Question That
Maybe it’s taken some time to release this attachment. You may be consciously aware that it’s wasting your time and negatively impacting your life. Despite being aware of the massive downside to staying attached, you continue to cling.
This is a good time to dig a big deeper. Why are you so attached?
What will having this outcome do for you?
Often answering this will highlight the thing you’re trying to control. This may be connected to the way you want your life to look. Thank your attachments for showing you what you don’t want. Then, ask yourself:
If I let go of this attachment, will my fears actually come true?
Sometimes, our fears trick us into believing they’re real. Chances are, the thing that you’re afraid of may not come true anyway. And if it did, it wouldn’t be as horrible as your fearful thoughts make it out to be.
Embrace the Present
Focusing on the present will help you push aside those fearful thoughts about the future. Embracing the present encourages you to unconditionally accept your circumstances as they are. To me, embracing something is not only accepting something; it’s reveling in the good.
For instance, if you’re stuck at a job you hate and you can’t seem to secure a new one fast enough, how can you embrace the situation you’re in? Perhaps you can make an effort to strengthen friendships with your coworkers or request to go to a conference related to your field to revive your spirit.
If you are stuck on the idea of moving to a better apartment but cannot afford a better place to live, perhaps you take action to spruce the place up with new throw pillows or wall art. Maybe you could rearrange the furniture too.
Embracing the present can detach you from the outcome you want by allowing you to recognize life can be great without this thing I’m stuck on. It can also refresh your attitude when you start to see the good in the bad.
Get a Little Ritualistic
I consider myself a spiritual person, open to all matters of “the woo”. I’ve dabbled in everything from Reiki and psychic readings, to sound baths, connecting with spirit-guides, hypnosis, past life readings and saging the hell out of my living space.
I’ve recently started building a small meditation alter. To it, I’ll add little representations of the people and things in life that I care about that I’m perhaps a little attached too. I’ll light candles, pull oracle cards, play meditation music, burn herbs, and journal. I will pray with all my heart to surrender. I’ll communicate with my ancestors through prayer. I’ll envision my life and the happiest version of myself (who is usually dancing in a twirly yellow sundress).
And in the end…
I let my mind wander to the question: What if I only had me? What if nothing but my soul existed?
Who would I be if my dreams, relationships and belongings were stripped away from me?
After a few moments of examination I’m left with by myself, flesh and soul. There’s a rare feeling of wholeness. And just briefly, I feel what it means to surrender.