Have you ever tried giving up something that you loved? Either willingly or being forced to do so. What is the feeling that you experience? Do you feel that you miss that thing in life or that probably you feel deprived of something? Even if it’s not something that you love, when we don’t have things our way there is a strange feeling we all experience. It could be an event or an outcome which we did not expect or did not want in our life. It could even be a relationship where we feel that the other person hurt us. In either case what you probably experience is what we call “pain” in one form or the other. Have you ever wondered why we feel the pain? One of the biggest reasons is that we are “attached” to things, people, outcomes and results in our life. One of the strongest belief systems that we hold today is that with Love comes attachment.
What is Detachment?
A few weeks ago I was talking with my wife about being detached in life. If you move around in spiritual circles you will often hear this being discussed. It is said that for us to be happy in life we need to be detached. The word detachment triggers a very negative feeling or emotion in us. When someone says that he or she is detached, the image that we tend to portray is that of someone who does not care or is aloof to what is happening around him.
Our usual argument is that if we are detached from a situation or an object or a person, we would not have the love, emotional drive or passion for it. If you told a parent that they need to be detached from their children, you are sure to be seen as someone who is heartless, if not insane. How can someone be detached from their own kids? One can probably understand being detached from material objects, but how does one be detached from the very people we love. Wouldn’t that mean that we dint love them and dint care about their well-being?
Let’s try and understand this better. I’ll take the example of a parent—child relationship but you could apply this to any relationship where you feel that you need to be attached to show your love. Suppose that the child has had a bad experience in his life and is now in pain. A lot of the parents today will also go into pain along with our kids because we believe that it is “Normal” to feel our children’s pain because we love them. By doing this we are only adding to the child’s pain. Anyone who is in pain needs someone who is stable to help them come out of the pain. If we as parents drown ourselves in the pain along with our children, how do we expect to help our children? It is widely accepted that the best surgeon cannot operate on his own kid, because he is attached to his child. Our responsibility as parents is to help our child or family member come out of the pain and not add to it. We need to empower our loved ones and give them strength so that they can come out of the pain. We can only do this if we are not in pain. Pain can be eliminated only by being detached.
Detachment does not mean coldness, hardness, indifference, un-concerned, insensitive or withdrawing from the situation or the person.
We are not detaching from the person or the situation but we are being detached from the influence of the situation. When we are attached to someone, our feelings and emotions are influenced and governed by what the other person feels. So if the other person is in pain, we feel the same, if our kid is hurt, we feel hurt and so on. Our state of mind is controlled by the state of mind of the other person. In these situations, it is impossible for us to help the other person.
Detachment lets us see our own perspective about the situation. Detachment is being able to create your own thoughts independent of the situation or the other person’s thoughts. It’s about having the ability to be with you and to step away from the situation for a while and to assess the situation as an outsider. Detachment does not mean that we stop being sensitive to other people’s pain and sorrow. On the contrary, detachment lets you view the situation from an unbiased and uninfluenced perspective which helps you make the right decisions. Attachment is also the reason why psychologists and counselors find it difficult to heal their own loved ones despite being the best in their fields.
Detachment also does not mean NO Response. It simply means separating our response from the influence of the situation. When you are attached you will find it extremely difficult to provide a response independent of the other person. As kids we used to play what we called the “three legged race”. Two children would be tied together at their ankles and we had to run to the finishing line. The 2 had to work together and if one fell, the other would fall as well. Neither of them could take an action independently without impacting the other.Similarly, when you are attached to someone at an emotional level you will have a tendency to get absorbed into the emotions and feelings of the other person.
We often say that we need to “empathize” with people. This is often misunderstood and people think that to empathize means to “feel” the pain which the other person is going through. Empathize does not mean to “Feel” but it means to “Understand”. The objective behind empathizing someone is to avoid getting ourselves into the pain of the other person and simply understand the situation and his feelings so that we can help them. Once you are out of the influence of the situation, you are now fully empowered to help the other person.
Detachment is very internal to us. It is not about physically separating ourselves from the person, things or situation. Rather it is separating ourselves from being influenced and developing the ability to CREATE our own thoughts independent of what’s going on around us. So detachment does not mean that you should not be ambitious or you should not want to have things in your life. It is having the ability to live a life with all of these things, yet be able to separate yourself from the influence of either having or not having them. How do you develop this ability? By increasing your awareness of your true self as a spiritual being. Contrary to popular opinion, spirituality is NOT about escapism and leading a life of an ascetic in the mountains. Rather it’s about experiencing the life we have been given and being able to live in the state of higher awareness. That is true Bliss!
Also Read : De-Mystifying Spirituality
So going back to our belief system, is it then true that Detachment means we don’t love or care for the other person anymore. Absolutely not! By being detached we are now able to truly help our loved ones and empower them to face their challenges in life. By being detached we should be able to get closer to our family and provide them the support and love they need from us. So when spirituality teaches us to be detached, it is telling us to work internally in detaching our feelings and emotions rather than physically detaching ourselves in the external world.