One of life’s greatest struggles has always been the ability of letting go — of possessions, people, our emotions. Many philosophers and spiritual leaders argue that becoming attached to physical things, people and even our feelings is not only unhealthy, but can also be very detrimental to your overall well-being — for your current life and beyond (whatever you believe that is).
Attachment can be like being bound in chains — it can eventually control your every action, thought and emotion, if given that strength. It’s not difficult to recall at least one forlorn lover who withered away to nothingness — sometimes resorting to death him/herself when that great love left this world. It’s almost too simple to think of just one person whose world revolved around riches, beautiful homes and other tangible things that showed his/her level of status. And it’s an everyday feeling to hold resentment, bitterness and sadness when betrayal, lies or failures come our way. But this is the residual mess created by our willingness to succumb to attachment, and all that’s usually left is pain, hurt and, as wise ones often say, an overall unhealthy well-being.
Perhaps it’s the attachment that we should be fighting to relieve our problems. I’ve been working for some time to adhere to this new idea, and though the idea is simple, the act of adapting is a lot harder. For reasons unknown — and I’m sure many will agree — people would rather feel something, whether it be painful or not, than feeling nothing at all. Similarly, I’ve found that anytime I’ve successfully begun to let go of an attachment I’ve recognized in my life and can feel the release and peace from the lack of those chains, it’s a little scary; sometimes I’d rather just go back to my olds ways — just to feel like my old self, and because it’s easier to be that way.
And I definitely have — many times…But these are the things I’m learning to let go (or working on it, anyway).
I’ve tried to explain to many people who I have very little expectations for my future because it’s not a healthy way to live. I’ve been disappointed to hear responses like, “Be more positive,” and the like. Be more positive? That’s not what this is about at all… The thing is, to have expectations and to have hope are two very different things; I have hope that things will be better, but I work very hard not to have expectations. How do you differentiate without having a sense of pessimism? Good question — and one I can’t really answer until you understand the difference for yourself. Hope means having faith that things will be okay regardless of the outcome of a situation ; expectations means feeling deserving of a certain outcome and have tunnel vision for only that outcome — which we all know is never in our hands. That’s the difference to me, and the only way I can be sane and content with the way my life is now and the way my life will ever be, I know I need to let go of expectations that things will always get better; I’ll fulfill all my dreams; I’ll marry the guy of my dreams, and about a million other things in “the plan” I’ve made for my life. Expectations are unhealthy, I’ve found, and I’d rather just have hope.
This is the toughest one for me because I love people hard — and of course, not everyone is like that, so it’s rarely reciprocated to the same extent. So many relationships — friends, family, etc. have changed in an instant, and every time it hurts the same. I’ve realized that it’s a pattern in my life, and perhaps it’s my inability to accept change, and this is where attachment has especially really hurt me. I’ve tried to close myself up and be less of a good friend or be less open to new relationships hoping that if and when that one ended, it would just catch me off guard less. The thing is though, it’s not that easy to change who you are, but I’ve learned to [try] let go of the attachment. Loving people but not letting your happiness be dependent on whether they love you back is important to understand because I’ve learned to let go. I don’t have to change who I am, but I can just change the way how I understand the situation.
Similarly, when a loved one passes on, it’s really helped me come to peace with it or — or at least the thought of it. It’s the way of life, and to let yourself be consumed with grief is a tell-tale sign of attachment. To grieve for someone’s death and be sad is, of course, due respect; however, to let yourself die a little with that person is only a way of killing yourself, too. And this is not the natural way of life, otherwise you wouldn’t be alive either — that’s just the way I feel about it.
Bitterness and resentment can eat your soul bit by bit, whether you’re harboring bad feelings over failures in life, people who betrayed you or whatever. I’ve found that being bitter and resentful towards the circumstances in my life have only attached me to those circumstances, and the feelings keep me bound from moving on. It’s not easy to let go of these poisonous feelings once they’ve been planted in your heart, but I know personally how unhappy I am when I’m thinking about a certain unhappy situation, whether it be today or 10 years ago, and I find myself bitter or resentful. Not one of us has control over the outcome of any situation in our lives — only the paths we take to deal with the situations, and even those only present themselves in mysterious ways. Whether people are betraying you, you’re failing in life or you’re just unhappy for reasons you don’t understand, I know that — at least for me — deciding to let go of the bitterness and resentment is the first step.
Learning to let go has now becoming my life’s resolution because I know it’s not something I’ll accomplish in a day or in a year, and I’ll probably waver many times even when I’m making progress. I’ll probably never accomplish true detachment because, let’s face it, I’m only human — but hey, there’s no vanity in trying, right?