Often we attach ourselves—and our ability to be happy—on a desired outcome, only to find ourselves disappointed when that outcome doesn't happen. Learn how you can let go and start living from a place of happiness.
Detachment reveals the great paradox of life: In order to acquire something, you have to relinquish your attachment to having it. When you recognize that the only genuine source of security is living as your true self, then you can more easily detach. But what exactly is meant when we talk about detachment?
What Is Detachment?
The Oxford Dictionary defines detachment as “a state of being objective or aloof.” Being objective is powerful in practicing detachment; however, being aloof is not terribly useful. When you become emotionally aloof, you are disconnected from your feelings. You are not really getting involved in decisions, actions, relationships—life. I recommend you get entirely emotionally immersed in whatever it is you want.
True detachment allows for deep involvement—because of the lack of attachment to outcome. The trick is behaving like an Oscar award-winning actor playing a role: become fully emotionally immersed and recognize that you can step outside of the character and be objective. The emotions in that moment are just as real as your dreams, goals, and plans. This ability to recognize that you can step outside and reflect—to not attach who you are to any desired outcome—is what true detachment is about.
As spiritual author Ron W. Rathbun wrote, “True detachment isn’t a separation from life but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living.”
Clues You Are Attached
When you are attached to an object, a goal, a dream, or another person, there are feelings that tell you “If I don’t have that, I won’t be whole.” These are feelings like:
Why Do We Attach?
In an effort to define ourselves, we listen to what others want us to be and make choices about the things we like or dislike. The paradox here is that in our effort to become ourselves, we actually create separation from others.
The things we use for self-definition act like a protective shell, except it doesn’t actually protect us at all. Instead, our insistence on this definition keeps us from connection and happiness. A common misconception about happiness is that if you have all the things you want, and you attain all the goals you desire, then you will be happy. However, the reality is just the opposite: If you start from a place of happiness, you are much more likely to attain your goals and attract abundance. It begins when you are able to say, “I can own things, but nothing owns me.”
What Do We Attach to?
Many people are attached to relationships, money, social status, jobs, and more. Basically, anything you can use to describe who you are can be a sign of attachment. I might say: I am a blonde, mother, wife, daughter, and sister who is physically healthy and socially vibrant. I am a teacher, a writer, a speaker, and a student. However, if my brother dies and I was no longer a sister, I am still me. If I change what I do and stop writing, I am still me. Recognizing that the “me”remains without all the descriptors is the goal.
How to Detach: 5 Steps
1. Observe your mind: Become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think. What things or descriptors do you identify with most? Become a student of self and heighten your awareness of where attachment happens more frequently for you. Recognize attachment comes with an emotional charge. Notice where you feel this in your physical body. It’s different for each individual and learning your patterns is a useful tool in creating change.
2. Distinguish between the voice of your ego and the actual situation: Your ego might tell you that not getting the job you want has ruined your career. The actual situation is: you are disappointed because you don’t have something you never had in the first place. There has been no loss. Nothing has changed except your thoughts about your future potential. The actual situation is the same as it was prior to not getting the job.
3. Embrace uncertainty: Only a willingness to embrace the unknown provides security. As Deepak Chopra says, “Those who seek security in the exterior world chase it for a lifetime. By letting go of your attachment to the illusion of security, which is really an attachment to the known, you step into the field of all possibilities. This is where you will find true happiness, abundance, and fulfillment.”
4. Meditate on it: Meditation is a vehicle to help your mind release patterns of thought and action that no longer serve you. Spend some time in meditation each day and watch how the patterns in your life begin to change.
5. Don’t beat yourself up for falling into old habits: The first step in making change is recognizing what it is you want to change. Instead of getting frustrated or disappointed when you fall back into an old habit, celebrate that you are now noticing when you repeat the pattern of thought or habit. In time, this will allow you to transform your behavior.
When you begin living a life that starts with happiness from an internal place rather than placing your ability to be happy on external conditions, then you have understood detachment. Remember, it’s a practice. Happiness is the journey and not the destination, or as Wayne Dyer said, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
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