I set out this morning to try and define attachment. Rather than use my own words, I've borrowed the following from Anthony De Mello.

"Now if you look carefully, you will see that there is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. And that is attachment. What is attachment? An emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy. "

"Has it ever struck you that you have been programmed to be unhappy and so no matter what you do to become happy you are bound to fail?"

"Everywhere people have actually built their lives on the unquestioned belief that without certain things - money, power, success, approval, a good reputation, love, friendship, spirituality, God - they cannot be happy.... once you swallowed your belief you naturally developed an attachment to this person."

"Who is responsible for the programming? Not you. It isn't really you who decided even such basics as your wants and desires and so-called needs. Your values, your tastes, your attitudes, it was your parents, your society, your culture, your religion, your past experiences that fed the operating instructions into your computer. Now, however old you are or wherever you go, your computer goes along with you imperiously insisting that its demands be met by life, by people and by you. "

"Look at it this way. You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. If you wish to meet them as they are you must attend to your attachments and the fears that your attachments generate. Because when you look at life it is these attachments and fears that will decide what you notice and what you block out. Whatever you notice then commands your attention... you have an illusory version of the people and things around you. The more you live with this distorted version the more you become convinced that it is the only true picture of the world because your attachments and fears continue to process incoming data in a way which will reinforce your picture"


Katherine said…
When I was a little girl, I was taught that it would be a very Bad Thing to be caught outside in the rain. Rain made you Cold and Wet and you might get a Bug and get sick. Rain was to be raincoated and unmberellered against. If it began to rain when I was playing outside, I'd run inside, squealing.
One day in my thirties I was down the back of the farm when a torrential Waikato downpour began. There was no shelter for at least 2 kms in any direction. I began to walk home, but before I got there, the rain had stopped. Suddenly I realised that I had survived a whole rainstorm from start to finish. What a feeling of freedom! I had been fearful of rain all that time, and never realised it.

Since then many times I have been released from attachment to an expectation, or a fear, by actually experiencing it, and seeing the lesson. The worst bit is usually worrying about the possibility.

'The only way around is through'. Robert Frost.

I've got off the topic, but thanks for reminding me to think this out.
Kelvin Wright said…
Thanks for this Katherine.

I have my own personal way of categorising all this stuff, and for me, you are describing here a phenomenon related to, but subtly different from attachment; and that is the phenomenonon of Life Commandments. LCs are the rules laid down for us that regulate our lives, a sort of shorthand of behavioural imperatives to relieve us from the burden of having to decide again everytime some paradoxical situation arises in which our physical or emotional or moral safety is threatened. LCs are important and useful but often need to be abandoned. "Always hold Mummy's hand when you cross the street" is an excellent life commandment when we are 4, but not so crash hot when we are 24.

Life commandments come in various types, and I could wax eloquent here for ages, but they are laid from the time we are born and perhaps before and can be verbal or non verbal in origin and expression. Whatever type they are they are marked by some common characteristics: They are absolutes; you NEVER go out in the rain. You ALWAYS eat everything on your plate. You ALWAYS do your best, etc etc. They are enforced by catastrphisation; the results of breaking them will result in catastrophe which is sometimes but not always speeled out: you'll die of pneumonia; or something TERRIBLE will happen. When they are finally broken the impact is of great guilt felt simultaneously with a sense of great elation and freedom.

Attachments are closely tied to LCs but the concept is a bit different. Attachments are fundamentally about surrendering our own autonomy to something or someone else; making that other thing or person reponsible for our own happiness or misery. They are betrayed in phrases like "you make me so angry" or "You make me so happy" or "I can't find peace until I know that you aren't angry with me" or "What will the neighbours think?" If I can't be happy until you stop being cross with me, I have delivered to you the power to make me happy or keep me in misery. I am attached to you and my autonomy is diminished. Note: attachment is not the same as being connected. In a fully mature relationship we are connected; that is, I value the other for what they are and appreciate and enjoy them but I am not attached. Whether they loathe me or love me is their business, not mine, and won't affect the way I treat them or the way I think of them or act toward them.
Katherine said…
I see the difference.

This makes me think of styles of teaching. Montessori teaching paradigms do not create an attachment of pupil to teacher (through eliminating such things as stars, praise, punishment) and the children are typically very 'mature' and self-motivated. The responsibility for learning (and behaviour) is kept with the kids themselves, and the difference in the Mont. classroom cf that in a regular school, is very noticable.