The Downside to Emotional Attachment
If you're not familiar with the idea of emotional attachment, here's my take on it.
When we get fixated on an idea or particular outcome, there is always an emotion involved. It may start with a vague idea, and a minimal associated emotion. Over time, we mentally create an outcome and the associated emotion grows stronger.
Let me give you some simple examples of ideas that formed in your childhood, and were, at least in part, ‘implanted' by your caregivers.
Summer is sunny
Christmas is exciting
Going to the dentist will be painful
Monday mornings are hateful
As you grew up, these ideas became more embedded. Thinking about sunny summers, or exciting Christmases, made you feel warm and happy inside, and these were times you looked forward to.
As you got older, you came to realise that summers (paticularly in the UK) are often cool and rainy, or Christmases are times of stress or family arguments, and were often hugely disappointed. But you still expected golden summers or exciting Christmases!
Your first visit to the dentist probably wasn't too bad, despite having overheard ‘scary' stories from the grown-ups around you. More than likely, it didn't hurt at all, but there was still an anxious, fluttery feeling in your tummy whenever you thought about going to the dentist.
On another occasion, the dentist probably did some work that caused you discomfort, or even pain. Suddenly, whenever you thought about visits to the dentist, that feeling in your tummy was quite a lot stronger!
And Monday mornings? Or ‘Moan-days' as they're often described? If they were school days, you probably didn't wake up feeling great. Perhaps, like me, the sick feeling started on Sunday night! That ‘Monday morning feeling' probably intensified as the years went by, and persisted even after school was replaced by a job.
Now let's look at what really happened. You became fixated on an idea and an outcome.. You continue to expect Christmas to be exciting, so when it's not, you feel sad and disappointed. Why? Because you created an emotional attachment to a particular idea that Christmas SHOULD be, indeed MUST be exciting.
Dental appointments remain a cause of anxiety because you are emotionally attached to the idea that they're going to be painful; summers are mostly disappointing because you're attached to the idea that they should be warm and sunny, and Monday mornings are not something to look forward to, because you're attached to the idea that they are ‘Moan-days'.
There are countless areas of emotional attachment that we experience every day of our life without realising it, causing us unnecessary anxiety, sadness and disappointment.
When we fall in love, we imagine being with that person forever and life being a bed of roses. Is it surprising how devastated we feel when things don't work out that way?
Smaller examples might be worrying about money and how we're going to survive, lying awake at night, with all the ‘what ifs' that our mind creates. Or feeling panicky about an exam, a driving test or an interview.
Remaining in Neutral
Ah, but hang on for a moment. You're STILL HERE and reading this. So you got through these times? You survived? Your life might not be as perfect as you were expecting (more emotional attachment), but you are still here, and maybe, just maybe, you are wiser for those experiences and can even begin to find the benefit of them.
Even better is to begin to let go of emotional attachment altogether. Don't allow yourself to be sucked into a perceived outcome, but instead start practicing the habit of emotional non-attachment. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera. This requires you to begin living in the present. You might call it ‘remaining in a neutral state'. That's not to say that it's not OK to lay plans for the future, or have pleasurable anticipation about forthcoming events. And a small degree of nervousness prior to an exam or speaking engagement is also OK as it keeps us focused and on our toes.
Free Will and Choice
By remaining positive about the outcome, whatever it might be, we can maintain a healthy emotional balance. By recognising that everything we think, feel and do is what we have chosen, then we stop being victims and begin to take responsibility for our own lives.
Let me say that again, in a different way. As humans, we are told that we have Freewill. Freewill means that we choose everything that happens in our life, from the moment of conception to the time of death, at some level of our conscious awareness. We come into each life with a purpose, which you might also call a Life Agenda. In order to fulfil our purpose, we will need many different experiences, both positive and negative (Yin and Yang). In choosing to accept and learn from every one of those experiences, we are ‘ticking the boxes' on our Life Agenda.
At the time of our death, we review the life we have just left. For every tick in the box on our Life Agenda, we can feel proud of our Self and recognise that those are experiences we can choose to not repeat next time around.
But why wait till death? How empowering for us to consciously recognise what we're learning through our experiences, however challenging, and tick the boxes while we're still here!
And it all starts with becoming aware of emotional attachment, and practising non-attachment to ideas and outcomes. This may sound difficult to you right now (another emotional attachment!), but it does get easier with practice, and I suggest you start in a small way.
For example ‘It's cold and windy and I don't feel like walking the dog' can be turned around to ‘Look at the beautiful sky with the scudding clouds and the swaying trees. I can wrap up well and enjoy a brisk walk.' Test these two opposing statements for yourself (or something else that fits your lifestyle) and notice how you feel inside after you say each one. Which just felt better?
By starting to recognise the areas where you're already emotionally attached, and imagining how much better you can feel when you can let go of those ideas, come out of your head and drop down into your heart, then you're already on your way. Your choice!
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