I have always been a fan of detachment, from people, places, goals, situations and things. I see detached people as emotionally evolved. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am neither a ‘bitter’ nor ‘insensitive’ person. Only that over the years I have consciously practiced the subtle art of detachment. I am not yet anywhere close to being a pro at it, but I am getting better by the day.
In the journey of life, we form passionate bonds with people, certain places and even things and when the time comes when these bonds break or have to be broken, we sometimes undergo immense trauma, heartbreak and emotional distress.
Attachment can mean different things to different people. Attachment makes one feel incomplete without that object and manifests itself through feelings like anxiety, guilt, fear, anger, hopelessness and a persistent sense of loss.
I remember, when I was in college, I was deeply attached to my red scooter. I was devastated for weeks when my dad sold it before getting me a new one.
My Dad refuses to move out from our old house in the old neighbourhood where they have spent most of their lives, to a new one closer to my work, that offers better amenities. He is attached to the house.
A friend became suicidal after she lost both her parents within a year of each other.
An ex-colleague displayed symptoms of depression for months after his pet dog went missing.
An old couple in my neighbourhood lost all interest in life and became reclusive when their son, with his spouse and child, moved out of their house.
So, is being attached a ‘bad thing’?
Heck, No! Attachment is a positive emotion. Being attached to something or someone is not a sign of weakness. It turns into being a negative and destructive force when it transforms people from being happy, productive and passionate to being bitter, morose and unhappy.
Will being detached make you a bad person?
No, being more attached, less attached or detached is not a measure of any individuals goodness.
It is utterly important to understand that detachment does not mean that you should stop to love, to care, being passionate, being involved. It just means learning to “live in the moment”. Detachment means being able to be engaged wholly as long as the object is with us, and once when not, cherish memories with fondness and without judgement, anger or pain.
It is also critical to understand that detachment does not mean that you should not be hurt when the bond breaks or goal is not achieved. Being hurt is a powerful and constructive emotion. Detachment means allowing yourself to go though the full cycle of hurt and anguish, heal from it, let go of the pain and move forward in life with hope.
‘Connectedness’ Vs ‘Attachment’
Most of us mistake ‘connectedness’ as ‘attachment’. I am connected to my children, spouse, parents and friends. But, am I attached? Well, yes. But, one day, my goal is to be detached, in a well-meaning and positive way.
When we are connected with someone, we share our life journeys in a karmic, cosmic and spiritual level. Connection is an exchange of energies that nourish the souls, while attachment is more of a physical existence. Connectedness is timeless, while attachment come with expiry dates. When connected our spirits are free, while when attached, we become entangled and lose perspective. Connectedness empowers us to look within for happiness, while attachment pushes us towards people and things to seek happiness. Connectedness does not thrive on control, while attachment is almost always about being able to control the object, more so as there is fear of losing.
Is being detached easy?
No. Detachment is easier said than done. It isn’t an easy process. It can be messy, psychologically draining and emotionally exhausting. To be detached one needs to have a concept of self. When the self is strong, clear and rooted, being detached is easier. Self-concept encompasses all that you know about yourself, without filters.
In my view, the first and perhaps the most important step towards detachment is acceptance, of people and situations, and letting go of the urge to be in control all the time. It’s ok for things to go wrong, for people to mess up and for plans to fail!
Practicing detachment – Start small
Detach from material possessions: Detach yourself from the compulsion of owning things. Try doing a Mary Kondo at home. Give away old and lesser used appliances, bags, shoes, clothes and furniture, however expensive it may be or whatever emotional value it may hold. Declutter and detach. Try not to lose your mind when your kid accidentally breaks that expensive vase or bone china cup.
“Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”
Know the difference between connectedness and attachment: Don’t confuse ‘connectedness’ with ‘attachment’ or ‘love”. Don’t enforce people to behave in a certain way and meet your benchmark only because you love them. Love unconditionally and on a higher cosmic level. People come into our lives with a higher purpose, and leave when the purpose is achieved. Let go, if they have to. Don’t have unrealistic expectations that you can control other’s behaviour. Accept people without trying to fix and control them. If accepting is not an option, let go.
Embrace uncertainty: The only certain thing in this world is uncertainty!Letting go of your attachment to the illusion of certainty is not only empowering but also liberating. We take comfort in certainty, and we demand it of others. We plan, have back-up plans, and further plans to serve as back up if back up plans fail. Yet, life outcomes are not guaranteed. Detachment is planning well, but being willing to accept uncertainty with equal openness and enthusiasm without letting anger, sadness or bitterness to seep in.
Seek happiness in the moment: The past is gone. The future is unknown. Today is what you have. That’s the reason what it is called present! Cherish people and things as long as they are there with you, and their memories thereafter. People and things do not define you or your state of happiness. Instead they add value to what you already have.
Don’t carry bitterness: Being heartbroken, bitter and angry over something or someone is self-punishment and has little to do with the object. Save yourself the pain.
Practice gratitude: Gratitude is the single biggest emotion that brings abundance and peace. Instead of being sad over losing a pet, be grateful for spending good time with it. Instead of feeling hopeless to be stuck in a job you don’t like, be grateful for having one. Gratitude helps in being detached with the object, living in the moment and allowing abundance in ways more than one.
Next time when you feel hurt, pain, anger, resentment, and hopelessness, see if you can track it back to being an outcome of some “attachment” and devise a strategy to “detach” at your own pace. Detachment will help you focus on the experience and not just the object. Detachment will help you experiencing your feelings fully without allowing them to control you.