Love, Attachment, or Both

You have probably heard that love is good, and attachment is bad. I don’t think that things are black or white -everything is relative. There are degrees of attachment and misunderstandings in love. My initial thought when I hear of attachment is my psychology class in college that explained how children made an attachment with the food, and then with the source of the food, the mother. They did experiments where they removed the monkeys from their mother when they were young. They also did studies with abandoned children. Even though a surrogate mother was provided, the monkeys developed harmful behaviors relating to themselves and others including their own offspring. Something similar happened to children. So, there is a deep connection that we build. Experts also say that attachments should evolve. If we have an initial healthy attachment, where there is a balance with the time and quality of time spent together, when school comes around for example, the child should be a little uncomfortable leaving his parent but should settle into an appropriate school setting without much problem. This in turn forms the basis for healthy relationships with friends, partners at work, and romantic relationships. Unhealthy attachments may be a byproduct of fear, such as fear of being alone, of not being loved, of not having enough to survive, of not being accepted, or of not being enough to yourself. A fear that comes from traumas that have not been healed.

An attachment is something that is not part of you. It should be something temporary, but you make it a part of you through your emotions because you don’t want things to change. According to Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., the level of your attachment depends on how you answer the question, “Are you using knowledge or is knowledge using you?” It reminds me of the yogi’s quest to gain control of her mind through the practice of meditation in order to see the options and have some control in the decision process.  He says that there are five levels of attachment and compares us with a flower. The flower is completely open (Authentic Self) as we realize that we are a living being regardless of what we think or believe about ourselves. The second level is Preference where we use knowledge as a tool for transformation, so we can attach or detach as needed; the flower opens and closes slightly.  The third level is Identity, where I can identify myself as a vegan, yogi, or teacher, for example. The flower is not fully open; however, it still connects with others. Knowledge is beginning to have some control. The flower closes-up some more in Internalization where we allow learned patterns of behavior, and previous knowledge to control us. We no longer live the present moment. We are attached to the past. At the last level, Fanaticism, we believe that only by following those rules or past learned behaviors can we truly be. By reflecting on where we are at a specific time in our life, or a specific moment in a situation, we can decide if an attachment is harmful or not. Ask who is incontrol.

As I am writing this, I am visualizing a game of tug-of-war between unconditional love and the Fanaticism form of attachment as we go through the learning curve of relationships. Sometimes it’s so difficult to be present without allowing our prejudgments of ourselves or others to take control. It happens to me when I feel overpowered by others and old patterns of behavior surface. I look down and respond the way the other wants me to respond. I am glad I don’t stay in those situations for years as I previously did. It takes me a couple of minutes after an incident to realize what has happened. Little by little I am learning to avoid them.

Now, what about love or the misuse of the word love? The problem may be in our lack of communication. We may not be specific enough in what we want in a relationship. So, the people involved come with different interests. Some say that in English we don’t have enough vocabulary to express it, and that we may have too many expectations of one relationship. For this I turned to the Greek, for they have so many words for love. The ancient Greek used the word eros to describe a romantic, sexual relationship. Some saw it as dangerous because it could get out of hand. In the yoga philosophy, as I understand, this energy is the energy of creation, a powerful energy, not to be taken lightly. Philia relates to brotherly love, loyalty to friends, and sharing. Storge is the connection between parent and child, and last but not least, is agape or unconditional love. Some say that Ludus which is playful affection may be part of the list. It is possible that we want all of these or several of them to be provided by one person, instead, the Greek tell us to nurture the different types of relationships with different people.

Not only our expectations of a specific relationship could drive us apart, but also our lack of love of self. According to Aristotle, all friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s love for himself. So, this brings as back to attachment. How we have dealt with attachment to others, to things, or to our feelings in our past will determine how we will relate to others in the future. So, ask yourself, are you using knowledge or is knowledge using you?

Be well!