"Lemme go or I'll hit you again," shouted Brer Rabbit. The Tar Baby, she said nothing.
"Fine! Be that way," said Brer Rabbit, swinging at the Tar Baby with his free paw. Now both his paws were stuck in the tar, and Brer Fox danced with glee behind the bushes.
"I'm gonna kick the stuffin' out of you," Brer Rabbit said and pounced on the Tar Baby with both feet. They sank deep into the Tar Baby. Brer Rabbit was so furious he head-butted the cute little creature until he was completely covered with tar and unable to move.
We form an attachment when we develop the belief that our happiness depends on a particular person or a particular thing. Once the attachment is formed we are subject to two powerful emotional tangles. On the one hand there is a temporary buzz of pleasure whenever the object of our attachment is attained. On the other there is a sense of fear that we will lose the object of our attachment. These sensations, in combination with the myriad other attachments to which we are prone dominate and control our lives. When we realise that this attachment is doing us no good at all we quite naturally want to get rid of it and try to push it away, and we learn our first valuable lesson about de-attaching namely, that as it is with tar babies, so it is with attachments. We screw up our reserves of courage, we resolve to deny ourselves, we push and shove. So, along with the pleasure, and the fear there is now a whole set of new emotions concerned with rejecting, disciplining, denying - and of course the inevitable guilt when none of the above seems to quite work. We have, in other words, greatly multiplied the emotional cloud surrounding the object of our attachment and thus increased the degree to which we are glued to it. Rather than the traditional course of discipline, rigour, positive thinking, goal setting, cold showers and all the rest, detachment requires another approach entirely.
In another of his books Anthony De Mello says there are three basic principles of spiritual life: 1) Awareness; 2) Awareness; and 3) Awareness.. Detaching requires the application of all three.
Firstly we need to be aware of ourselves. We need to be aware that we have developed a preposterous belief, namely that without the object of our desire we cannot be happy. We need to be aware of how this belief has shaped our actions and thinking. We need to be aware of the amount of emotional investment, both positive and negative we have made in this attachment, and the extent to which this attachment has limited and defined us.
Further we need to be aware of the thing or person to which we have become attached. Because habitually we see this thing or person through the lens of our own attachment it will not be easy for us to get a realistic picture of their reality. As we see them as they are the person or thing is seen as incapable of bearing the load of expectation we have of them. As we relinquish our desire for what we imagine she/ he/ it can give us, we are, oddly, free to enjoy them perhaps for the first time ever.
And further still, we need to be aware of the nature of our attachment itself. As we become more realistically aware of the object of our attachment we can sometimes take the step of discerning more accurately what is is that we think we so desperately need. Is it the desired person or the intimacy/ affection/ esteem we imagine we may obtain from them? Is it the alcohol or anaesthesia? Is it money or the security we imagine may accrue to money? Is it the desire to help or a need to be significant? And understanding the need will help us to the realisation that the need itself is illusory and a product of our own programming.
The attachment can be thought of as a gesture of clinging. To get rid of it requires not that we push and shove and fight, but merely that we open our arms and let it drift away. It is so simple, but so difficult. For me the daily practical practice in the art of release that comes in silent meditation has been crucial but there is no denying the size of the task that lies ahead if we truly wish to take up our cross and follow into resurrection and freedom.