When Your Preferences turn into Unhealthy Attachments
Having a dream is one thing, but feeling so attached that your happiness entirely depends on one thing, is bad news…
One challenge I encounter over and over again is being too attached to the ideas I come up with in my head; ideas that are not rooted in solid reality but are nevertheless so important to me that when they do not manifest, I am devastated. I am somehow feeling disappointed that the universe did not align exactly to the fantasy I had in my head.
“Deny the reality of things and you miss their reality; assert the emptiness of things, and you miss their reality. The more you talk and think about it, the further you wander from the truth. So cease attachment to talking and thinking, and there is nothing you will not be able to know.” — Ram Dass
The game is not about not having any preferences, it’s about not being attached to your preferences. But that is a difficult tight-rope to walk!
Buddhist teachings say that suffering comes from the clinging of the mind. You suffer when you have been, whether consciously or unconsciously, attached to something earthly. If you are so attached to a person, a circumstance, or a location that you think, “I will never be happy unless I have this,” then you are signing yourself up to suffer!
Let’s say you fall head over heels for somebody; maybe a coworker, or a friend, or even someone on TV. The first time you see them, you have that “well hello there…” moment; Doris Troy’s Just One Look plays in your head as they walk in slow motion toward you, maybe doves fly behind them — you get the idea. And from that moment on, you’re hooked. You think about them everyday, you fantasize playing house and living your lives together. Every time they walk by you and say hello, you think your heart is going to fly out of your chest. Sometimes, these crushes are fleeting and only last a week or two. Sometimes, they can last for years. And if you find out they are dating someone else, your heart breaks. Why is that?
It’s because you have become attached to your fantasy. The issue is not having the desire — fantasize about someone all you want! But the trouble comes when we realize we cannot be happy unless we have this person. You are breaking your own heart, and for what?
Instead of choosing to connect with people in our vicinity, people who line our universal path, we devote ourselves to a fictional relationship, instead of opening ourselves up to the wonders the universe can provide us through everyday human connection. What is it in us that craves what we cannot have? If you feel like you are not fulfilled by what you chase, then it’s time to ground yourself and check-in with your inner wisdom. “Why don’t I want to be happy?”
There is a balance to be struck between overcoming obstacles and ignoring protective barriers. If you hit an obstacle in your pursuit of something, barreling through can be part of the journey to your destination. If you feel like you are getting closer and closer, and you are successfully jumping over the hurdles in your path (maybe not easily, but successfully nonetheless), then you are probably on your way to something fantastic and life-changing.
But your higher self and your intuition knows when the scale tips the other way; if you hit nothing but obstacles, you stumble over every hurdle in your path, you’re exhausted and someone keeps moving that finish line further and further away, then maybe those obstacles are not obstacles at all. Maybe they are protective barriers that you are ignoring while actively running toward something not meant for you; something you think will bring you happiness, but will be harmful and disappointing in the long run.
To recognize the nature of your obstacles, you have to center yourself and recognize the stop signs from your guides. You already know the difference between obstacles and protective barriers. Just check in with yourself: the answer is already there. You will know when you are no longer pursuing your desires, but chasing your attachment.
As you continue your journey away from these attachments, making conscious efforts toward joy and gratitude, you will start to see how easily you detach yourself from earthly intangibles. You may even get excited by the prospect of something unexpected, unknown, and brand new coming your way, instead of deciding what you want and becoming addicted to the idea of it.
Through dedicated mindfulness practice, you will surprise yourself with how easily you can approach and accept new situations, life changes, interruptions, and the nonattainment of your preferences. If you are new to such mindfulness practices, start off small! Here are some things you can try to incorporate into your daily life:
- Morning meditation: 10–20 minutes in the morning, without your phone or TV, breathing quietly and setting a positive intention for your day.
- Breathing: A simple deep breathing session can completely reset a negative mindset and turn your day around. If you feel overwhelmed or upset, take a couple minutes to shut your eyes and breathe quietly. Repeat a mantra to yourself to channel your energy toward raising your vibration.
- Diet and exercise: What you put into your body and how you move your body affects every single facet of your life. Daily light exercise and eating fresh, unprocessed foods can dramatically alter your mood, energy levels, mental clarity, and overall quality of life.
You deserve to obtain what will serve you and bring you joy. Remind yourself of that and try not to pursue what drains you. That chase is not an addiction easily overcome, but with time and meditation and continued self-love practice, it can be done. You owe it to yourself to try!