“Learn the difference between connection and attachment. Connection gives you power. Attachment sucks the life out of you” ~ Unknown
The difference between a deep connection that you want, need and enjoy and feeling attached, as if you need to hang on for dear life, is a distinction that, at times, is hard to see. Especially when you are someone who stays in relationships too long, fights long after they have completely run their course and feels the “need” to maintain the importance of the relationship when it is no longer important to the other person. Of course, most minds go right to intimate, love relationships, however, friendships fall into this deep well of unknown as well.
Being the person to never end a relationship on my own, I have found that one of the lessons of this lifetime for me is to learn more about non-attachment. I tend to be attached to what was, even if what was no longer is what is. I tend to believe that we are friends because we once were, even though there is no real reciprocation of that feeling from the other person. I focus on the feeling I once had and the hope that it is still there. And of course, I believe people’s words, and rationalize when behavior doesn’t square with the words. “They are obviously busy. I haven’t done anything to cause them to be angry, have I?” This causes me to then go over every little conversation, every little thing I may have done and dissect it, always assuming it is me not them.
With intimate relationships or those that feel that way, I do everything in my power to hold onto that person. And in doing so, I definitely push then further away. I hold on tightly, I allow my emotions to take over and that could mean I become angry and lash out. It could mean that I become submissive and will do whatever I think they want me to do except let go. I try everything to save the relationship and then when it cannot be saved, beat myself up and lash out at them. That has, at least, been a pattern that I have seen over the years. And I hang on, I keep staying in touch, finding reasons to be in touch. I am so fearful of no longer having that relationship that I find myself acting out in ways I don’t like. I cry, I yell, I plead, I have even begged. I don’t like that version of me at all, that is the one I am working to heal. I do not want to feel as if I can’t breath without someone else. I do not want that attachment. I want to practice detachment.
One of the limbs of yoga, Yamas, focuses on a code of social and moral conduct. One of the “codes” teaches us non-grasping and non-attachment. For me it is about being honest in my relationships and with myself and not holding on to people or things. It is about not allowing myself to become obsessed with hanging on to and being defined by an attachment to an identity, a relationship, a friend, especially when those things and people no longer add dimension and joy to my life. My identity as a successful professional was one that I was so afraid I would hang onto, as I didn’t think I had another identity. I am not a mom, a spouse, and without parents alive anymore, I’m not a daughter. So my work identity was one I thought I would hang onto, be attached to. I moved into learning a lot and studying new subjects quickly into my retirement so that my identity was able to morph easily, This was my first lesson in detaching, in not grasping for an identity but to allow it to flow as I learned more and began to speak about where I was in my life. I detached from my professional identity fairly quickly and have enjoyed the ride of identifying myself in a number of ways now. In fact, my identity is no longer attached to any one or any thing. My identity is about who I am as a person, the ways I have grown and changed and the ways I continue to work on me.
It is also a way to behave in our relationships, not grasping onto it but allowing it to ebb and flow. This is a harder lesson for me to learn. I seem to have it over and over as I haven’t really learned it yet. Most recently I had to decide if I was attached or connected to someone. He believes we are connected at a very deep level and considers me his “best” friend. I thought we had something deep and have found that we really did not. We had some connection but in reality it was more of an attachment on my end. He seemed to say all the right things, was a deep thinker and showed me emotions that I hadn’t seen in a man. Perhaps there was a connection for a while, however over time, that connection completely dimmed. I found his words empty. I found his emotions guarded and not as forthcoming as I once thought they were. I found myself empty as I was no longer getting any support from him, he no longer filled me when I needed. He wasn’t there when I needed him. I kept reaching out though. I was attached to a feeling that I once had, and I couldn’t let it go. I was attached to a fantasy of what I thought we had that I found really didn’t exist.
I grasped at him for quite a while, a few years in fact. I kept believing that there was a connection and we could get it back. Over the last few months though I have gained some clarity. I was attached to him because of my limited belief that I deserved someone better. I was attached because I thought he was something more than he was. I couldn’t let go for the longes time, and then, BOOM, it happened. His guardedness and inability to be truthful with me woke me up. His words and actions didn’t align and I had finally seen it as his issue and not about me. What I learned about me is that I deserve far better. I deserve someone who can share their feelings, who knows how to give and receive love openly. His wall is too much for me to break down, I think I started to, but he couldn’t handle it which is why he pulled away. Whatever his reasons for pulling away, I now know that it wasn’t connection it was attachment for me. And I finally have let go.
I have not reached out. I have not called or texted. I have even gone a day or two without thinking of him at all. Perhaps the lesson of detachment has finally been learned. Perhaps I finally see the difference with him and a few others between connection and attachment.
Connection or Attachment. The lesson for now, as I now see it, is being honest with myself; am I gaining a power and joy from this relationship or is it sucking the life out of me? That answer allows me to choose my relationships instead of grasping for them.