Detaching yourself from objects that bring you fulfilment sounds contradictory. This is because we often tell ourselves and others that “if it makes you happy, keep it in your life”. Though there is some truth behind that, there is still more to consider when we look at what makes us happy and why we should always remain detached from our beloved possessions; be it, people, a place or items.
In my late teens I began my spiritual journey to self-discovery, I began to read around how to lose attachments to things that I was afraid would leave me; mostly relationships, but yet somehow still keep the object in my life.
Attachment to anything is where you have a strong connection between you and the desired object, whether it’s a person or possession owned. You may have an emotional connection the object, fond memories and great expectations for the future.
What I was mostly interested in, (being the intensely deep thinking teen) was how something could make me happy and feel loved but yet I still felt fear and sadness inside at the thought of a person leaving me. This is how I became to understand the term detachment and how to remain detached but still enjoy life and relationships.
Being detached doesn’t mean half loving another person or not loving the things you own; it’s about enjoying people, places and things but not letting them own you. If they own you, you are not in control of the situation. This is how we lose ourselves.
Before journeying into practising detachment, first understand and know your past.
Why do we get attached?
Attachment is a normal emotion. It has been present since birth and is necessary initially for human survival. This is why when born the mother is encouraged to have immediate skin to skin contact and to breast feed to help stimulate the emotional connection for the baby also to help regulate the new-born heart beat; this is how powerful the effects of attachment are. We get attached because it’s a natural human instinct to do so; however some attachments can be unhealthy depending on any underlying issues which is falsely masked sometimes as “love” or “happiness”.
To help you understand your reasons for attachment first look at your childhood experiences and family set up, as it plays a big part in our development as people. Everything we learn in our infant years is a reflection of our main caregivers. The attachment that is required between parents, (particularly the mother) and their children is without a doubt the most important attachment to exist; the attachment provides everlasting security, esteem, love and a safe haven throughout their adult life.
We learn everything that we are in our infant and childhood years from our main caregivers. There is a good saying that sums up childhood and parenting, “children learn more from parents by what they are, than what they say” – meaning if one of the parents, say the father tells their child they shouldn’t smoke but yet he smokes, the child is less likely to pay attention to the advice of the parent and will rather follow their actions rather than listen to their words; after all, it must be OK to do it if our parents do it, right?
The bond between child and parent is critical for survival where emotional and mental development is concerned. Some writers suggest that having a poor attachment to a main caregiver can be a contributing factor to mental health and behavioural problems throughout life, such as increased likelihood of depression.
The critical stage for creating an attachment between the child and the main caregiver should occur from around birth to 5 years old; if the attachment between the two is successful and strong the child is likely to “survive” – not meaning life or death, but able to cope with life during adulthood, being secure with themselves, able to form healthy attachments/relationships with other people they meet, having the ability to love with ease and less hostility or aggression is present.
On the other hand, if a strong attachment was not formed, say if the child was taken into care very early on or one of the parents were not always available emotionally to provide comfort to the child which they need to feel secure in this world (such as neglect) – it’s suggested the child is likely to develop into adulthood with insecurities about the world and of who they are, have difficulties forming healthy relationships or attachments to others, show signs of aggression or hostility in their personality, and unable to demonstrate affection in situations that may need care and love shown.
The reason why its healthy for you to observe your childhood and family circumstances is because it can answer many of the questions you could have today. This is how we start to work out who we are from the inside out; this is how you begin your journey to “knowing yourself” so that you can realise your worth and what you bring to other people’s lives so that you aren’t living in fear of losing.
How to stay detached by first knowing your worth.
We get attached to people by thinking we aren’t worthy of any other love or acceptance. So we try to hold on to the person or object because in reality what they are doing for you is helping you to love yourself. This is where the problem with most relationships occur; holding on to another person but at the core of that “love” is insecurity, doubt and fear. You constantly worry that you will lose this person, you think about it most days, so much so how you act begins to change; you almost destroy your own relationship, it becomes a case of self-destruction.
This all occurs because you aren’t taking care of you. You haven’t yet understood that even if this love wasn’t made for you, that you’d still survive, you would live to see another day and that your life still continues beyond your love for another person.
Think about this daily:
- Know what you bring to the table – meaning, remember you too are bringing some fulfilment to another persons life in some way; they chose you because they saw something they liked and then eventually loved about you. When we experience those dreaded words “I loved you in the beginning, you’ve changed” – it makes us feel that we are not worthy and that the problem must be us so then we have a period of self-hate towards our appearance and personality and erratically try to “be the person we were at the start of the relationship” which only makes us look like we really don’t know who we are.
- Practice being alone through self-care methods – in learning to love yourself and building your self-esteem, you must learn to be alone and be OK with being alone. How can you ever learn to love who you are if your time and thoughts are always consumed by other people so much that you never have a moment to think and feel your own self? Read the self-care tips blog I wrote to get you started.
- Keep interested in your endeavours – meaning, what do you love to do? What is it that makes you, YOU? It could be a personal interest from fishing to sky diving! Staying interested in your own personal pursuits are what makes you love yourself that little bit more. If you haven’t found a personal interest, think about something you haven’t done in so long that was good for your health and well-being that you would like to try again. Then get started.
- If in doubt, keep inspirational daily reminders around you – let’s be honest, the journey to loving yourself and being happy with our company can be pretty tough! Though I love my own company, I like being with others too. Sometimes I need a pick me up so I make sure I keep my environment inspiring by having lots of wonderfully whimsical objects in my home and at work. These can be pictures of my favourite memories, inspiring words, gifts from other people such as postcards and letters (mostly from students I have taught) also my journal comes everywhere I go, keeping note of good things that have happened in the day, or the good I have done for other people (even if it is one thing)
Lose the expectations that other people are here to save us; we must save ourselves.
Another reason we get scared of losing attachment to others is because we think another person can “save us”. Not in a life or death sense, but in filling the gap we have inside. The emptiness you feel isn’t to be filled by another person, if you allow another person to fill it, how are you going to feel when suddenly they decide they no longer love or want you? Empty. That’s how you will feel. The emptiness you feel is you waiting to be filled by no one else but you.
Consider this, when meeting another person, they want to gain just as much as you do. Whether it’s gaining through starting a family, being loved, being wanted, building a life together. This is why most relationships should be 50/50 – because both of you want something from the other person, therefore you compromise. When one person relies on the other too much to contribute towards the building of the relationship it creates two problems; the first being, one of you will eventually feel used and that they contribute more and the second being the other person becomes too dependant on the partner to “save them” i.e. fill their emptiness.
When you hold on to a person you are always suffering. Because attachment that is born of fear and scared of loneliness is never true love. You have to get to a place in your own life where you can say, “you know what, I love this person and I want them in my life, but if it didn’t work out, it would hurt like hell but I know I’m good on my own” – if you can get to that point in your life, you have reached a state of love with no attachment.
Remember, people are never ours to keep. Even our children eventually grow and leave; the journey is in knowing your worth, knowing what you bring to the table, knowing the value you too add to another persons life and having the ability to say if life didn’t happen to work out how I hoped, I’m good on my own.