Detachment

Like Reiki and all things spirit, I also cannot get enough of psychology and relationship research! Among my favorites is attachment theory. This is a psychological theory stating that the connections that we form as children, beginning in infancy, will shape our future relationships with others, ourselves, and even our perception of the world. It is a big subject among parents of young kids, educational staff, and psychologists who work with childhood development. It is also something that affects us throughout our entire lives. Given the right amount of space to explore, with a safe and supportive home base, a child will theoretically, typically develop healthily. Simple and logical.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth’s research on our relationships, behaviors, and the types of attachments that we form is fascinating and illuminating. It’s also built on theories. And the thing with theories is that they are just human ideas. They can be exciting, testable, and enlightening, but still human ideas. And the trouble with our human ideas is that we have a habit of fanatically attaching to them. We even did it with attachment theory itself. We introduced a theory, expanded into types, figured out some healthy and unhealthy habits. Great work! That should be it, right?

Unfortunately, we humans tend to dislike stopping at simple and logical great work. We complicate it, creating rules and behaviors that must be committed to so that we can avoid conflict or pain. We write and read instructional books, listen to interviews, scan social media outlets, scour blog posts, and take to the Google! What was made from love, community, and curiosity often falls victim to fear, division, and confusion.

Okay, just follow me here for a minute. You’re floating in a warm pool of water on a beautiful sunny day. Everything about you is the perfect temperature. There are a few ripples that set you slightly off balance and a cloud or two may pass over quickly but overall, you are completely content. Then you get this idea. You think “Hey, if I just do this thing, maybe I can be even happier.” So, you tie this idea to your toe, you attach it to you. To your delight, it floats! Now your foot is just a little higher, a little warmer and you like the sensation. So, you tie the same idea to your other toe, but now it feels off balance. To get back in balance, you come up with a whole new idea and tie it to your hand and this continues for some time. Ideas, thoughts, emotions, relationships, identities all attached to a string, then attached to your body. Those you would call a success float and bring you a little higher. The things you would call failure have weight and pull you under a bit. After a while, you find yourself tethered to a great number of strings, half in and half out of the water. The hazy memory of your earlier contentment is rewritten and your fear of cutting the wrong strings and getting pulled under is overwhelming your trust that you were fine without all these attachments.

I think many of us find ourselves in this place today. It’s a form of identity foreclosure that we create over a lifetime. Whatever we created in our lives, or whatever is created for us is so tightly wound around us that it becomes a part of who we are. We can’t tell the weights from the weightless and we’re scared to let go of anything or create anything new so we become stagnant and defensive. Think of how hard we defend our preferred sports teams, our alma maters, political affiliation, or any form of idea or identity that we have created. It’s a lot of strings.

So, in the spirit of the first week of Spring, let’s start pruning. Start snipping every single string, the weights and the weightless equally. Let your perceived failures fall to the bottom of the pool. Sure, they’re still there but they won’t pull you down. And your greatest accomplishments and ideas can float along side you. They’re not going anywhere; this is your pool. And you no longer need to defend any ideas or identities because they’re no longer attached to you. They’re just there for your own admiration and inspiration. Follow Bowlby and Ainsley’s great and simple early advice. Give yourself enough space to learn and create, with a safe and supportive home base. Then, just take a deep breath, let the sun shine on your face, and watch yourself grow!

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