“Let it go, let it go…” and so the song continues. I must be one of the only people in the Western world to not have seen that film! I have managed to avoid it so far – the song on the other hand is a different story, I’ve heard it plenty.
What is attachment and why does it hold us back?
I’m not talking about the kind of attachment to objects, places or people. Although those things can hold you back too, I am talking about the more subtle attachments, the ones we don’t realise we have.
So here goes.
1. Attachment to self.
This is an attachment to who we think we are. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 7, and back in the early 80s, dyslexia was seen as a problem that could not be fixed. So from that moment, on I was taught ways around my problem – well, I found my way around it… I just didn’t read. It was simple.
At the age of 40 I hit rock bottom and after coming through the feeling of numbness I was experiencing, I then had to find a way to shut down my racing thoughts because they were causing me so much pain. iPad games were no longer working as an escape, but I found a free book – “As a Man Thinketh”, by James Allen. This short book took me around 3 weeks to read and understand. I’ve read so much since then that if I attempted it now, it would probably only take a few hours. So in 3 years my reading ability has improved that much!
Imagine if, back when I was younger, I wasn’t attached to that label of “Steven the Dyslexic Person Who Cannot Read”, if I didn’t let dyslexia define that part of myself. Imagine how different my life could be today.
We can’t get attached to who we are, who we think we are and who people tell us we are.
Think about it for a moment: how many things do you believe about yourself because you’ve been told them? You’re no good at art, mathematics, writing? I now earn part of my living through writing, despite how I started out. How strange is that?
We know the brain will rewire to be efficient at whatever we practice doing.
2. Attachment to how things should be.
In any present moment we cannot do anything about our immediate current situation. Granted, we could think about it differently. We could be in a wonderful embrace with someone we love, and be thinking nothing but negative thoughts of fear that they may leave us someday. But that doesn’t change the present, it just brings a negative spin to it.
Equally, we could be facing a really difficult day; maybe health-wise we’ve had some dreadful news. It’s normal to wish that the news wasn’t real, to wish for a different outcome. But since no-one has yet invented a time machine, we have to learn to accept the present moment for what it is. Only at that point do we stop fighting it, resisting it and hoping to be somewhere else, or wanting the present moment to be something else.
We cannot change the present moment.
We can change how we respond to the present moment, but that can only be done when we accept the present moment for what it is.
How many times have you been in the moment and spent all your energy wishing it was different?
3. Attachment to how it was.
How many times have you been in an argument about what was said just a few days ago? You visit a family member and you have a discussion a few minutes long, then a few days later that same person accuses you of saying something you did not. You are adamant about what you said, because you can recall it with 100% certainty. Equally, so can the person you’re arguing with. In their mind they also have 100% certainty in what they heard and said.
Are you both right? Are you both wrong?
Relatively, you are both right. You both recall it in the way it was stored in your mind so relative to yourself and your memories you are both absolutely right. But truthfully you are both partly right and partly wrong. The way we store our memories is massively flawed. On our ‘inner TV screen’ we replay every memory like some kind of high-definition video. And because we can see it, hear it and feel the emotions that go with it, we have no doubt what we are seeing and feeling is what happened. However, it is an interpretation based on many different aspects of how we store things in our mind.
If I asked you to picture a pirate, they would probably have a hat, maybe a chest of gold with an open lid next to them. I suspect you have a pretty good image of a pirate in your mind. Let’s look in closer detail – how many buttons does he have on his top? What colour are the buttons? What colour socks is he wearing? Does he have long hair? What type of shoes is he wearing? Let’s be honest, as you read those questions you are filling in the gaps in your image. You are making the image up as you go along.
This is how we recall our memories. Essentially we get most of the picture right. But the little bits in between, the nitty-gritty so to speak, are often made up on the fly.
Also the way our memories are stored is based on how we see the world. If someone watches a lot of gangster movies then witnesses a crime in real life, they will more than likely store the memory of this crime alongside some of those gangster movies and other related real-life experiences. So when they try to recall the memory of the crime and play it back on their inner video screen, their memory could mix those things together. And again, because we can each see this brilliant high-definition video in our minds we simply don’t question how authentic and real the memory is.
How many times have you heard people reminiscing about how everything was better in the past, rather than living in the present?
So, three ways to stop attachment holding you back – stop being attached to who you are, stop being attached to how you want the present situation to be, and stop being attached to your memories and how you perceive them to be.
These three things will give you a more relaxed view of life. You will stop being at odds with people because you will understand that you are both flawed and perfect at the same time. You will stop wanting to change the present moment because you realise that it too is flawed and perfect at the same time, just like you.
And that’s okay. Enjoy it. Hold everything loosely and don’t become too attached to anything.
Name 2 things you are attached to in the comments below?