Facebook can be a wealth of information, most of it useless, incorrect, snarky, and gossipy. Occasionally, said information is funny, enlightening, and informative. Two sides of the same coin.
Recently, I saw a clip from a video about love and attachments which will fit in the latter category.
I believe the person speaking was Pema Chodron with whom I am not hugely familiar. In the recent past, I did listen to one of her teachings which I found informative. During this lesson, I found Pema to be a witty — and quite — enjoyable speaker. This time, I wasn’t so enthralled which the information she shared on Buddhism’s views on love and attachments.
I must preface I am not a Buddhist and that I do not fault Pema for her beliefs even though they differ from mine especially on the subject at hand. I have found Buddhism to have some very valid and useful insights. I just don’t agree in this instance.
As I understand it from Pema’s speech, in Buddhism love is “other” focused (I can agree with that) and that attachments are “me” focused (I can also agree with that to a degree). In her views, suffering comes from attachments. Therefore, we must love but not be attached…and here lie our differences.
Love and Attachments
I have a child with attachment issues, and subsequently, I have been marinating in this subject for other a decade.
Human beings are designed and wired to be deeply attached.
Attachments are not bad if anything, they are necessary.
In truth, the attachments we lay in childhood become the blueprint for all future relationships. As you can see, attachments are a huge deal.
A child with an unhealthy attachment will become an adult with an unhealthy attachment who will reproduce it in all future relationships. Unhealthy attachments are at the core of suffering, not all attachments in general.
I don’t believe that making the distinction between love and attachments behooves us. To love others fully — unconditionally — we must first feel safe and possess a healthy love-blueprint. This blueprint (as I already mentioned) can only be birthed from a healthy and robust attachment in infancy.
Children raised in orphanages, in an unstable family of origin, or who have been in foster care far too long prove this very fact. When children lack strong attachments they are unable to be compassionate or empathetic, they are self-centered rather than other-centered. They are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions, and as a result, they blame. Additionally, they are unable to form healthy, secure, and stable relationships at any point in their life (unless they find healing). In short, they suffer significantly and at the core of such suffering is the inability to attach and therefore love — themselves or others.
In this case, the lack of a secure attachment is certainly not equal to lack of suffering, to the contrary. These children suffer much and cause much suffering in those who care for them.
Attachment precede love.
Children with insecure attachments often grow into adults with the same issues. Sadly, our correctional system is full of human beings who did not form secure attachments in childhood. When adults without strong attachments are in society at large, they struggle to find peace and love. They also cause a lot of heartache in all walks of life.
These are not just my personal opinions but scientific facts.**
Humans MUST form deep and secure attachments to thrive and love.
** I will list the symptoms of weak attachments below.
It is also a fact (albeit a sad one) that love will cause pain because it is guaranteed we will someday grieve the loss of a loved one. If one loves, one will grieve. Yet, the alternative to loving is not any better; I would even say choosing to not love is worse. Grief is pain, but grief does not have to become suffering.
Pain and suffering are not the same. Suffering is constant; it is unrelenting and all-encompassing.
I have suffered. It sucks.
However, it was not my attachments which caused me to suffer.
Fear was the real enemy as it for all of us.
Fear produces wrong thoughts and beliefs and herein lies our suffering.
The fear of being hurt causes suffering. When fearful, we create masks, facades, walls, and fortresses which we erroneously believe protect us from harm. These unhealthy devices also protect us from love, from giving love and from receiving love.
It is also fear which also makes us hang on too tightly and which create the desire to control and the end, it causes suffering.
Love — to be healthy — must be free of fear. True love involves freedom.
I would love to say I do not fear. It might sound good, but it would be a lie. I do feel fear.
I fear that my loved ones may one day no longer be here and that I won’t be okay. It is the fear of not being okay, not being strong enough to weather the storms, the fear of the unknown which causes me suffering.
Suffering is paralyzing.
Yes, there will be pain in love, but love also gives us unspeakable joy and delight. It gives meaning to our lives. Love is THE meaning of life. Love makes colors seem brighter and more vivid, sounds more precise and more delightful, food more delicious and filling. Love makes us dance and smile. Love makes us perform incredible acts of courage or of compassion. Love makes us grateful.
Love is magic.
Yes, someday, love will cause unspeakable grief. Grief is indeed pain. Grief may even be suffering for a while. But grief can be transcended. Grief is life altering; it can also become life-giving.
As some of you may already know, one of my children passed away 17 years ago. To say this was not a dark time would be a gross lie. It was heart-wrenching, life-altering, and something I do not wish on anyone.
My husband while also grieving did not suffer as I did. In the midst of his pain, he had this unshakable trust and faith. His tears were for his lost daughter, and he did not create unhealthy stories about this event….unlike me.
I, on the other hand, suffered much. I questioned myself, and I questioned my God. I asked questions to which there were no answers, and I tortured myself for years with the “what ifs” and the “if onlies.”
Thankfully, grace came, and peace returned.…five long and painful years later.
The suffering was not due to my attachment to my daughter; it was caused by my defective stories.
Suffering came again like a wave when we adopted a child with many issues. I naively believed I was ready for the task and that love would conquer all. I wasn’t, and it didn’t.
The child in my home was unable to attach and therefore to receive — or give — love. He displayed behaviors I had never been faced with by anyone, let alone lived with those behaviors in the sanctuary of my own home.
I felt judged by others who felt that if I loved more or loved better, all would be well. In their eyes, I had become THE issue, and instead of discounting their misinformed opinion on a subject utterly foreign to them, I took it to heart.
I felt helpless, unreachable, ashamed, and alone. This suffering was tremendous and all-encompassing because it was constant and unrelenting.
I was told once that divorce is much harder to heal from than the death of a spouse. There is finality in death. Nothing can change the end result. Divorce has so many more facets one must deal with.
I found this to be true in my case. My daughter was dead, and there would never be any changing this fact no matter how I wished for a different outcome.
On the other hand, I had a child who could neither give nor receive love. A child who seemed to have no conscience and no care how their actions affected others. This situation was scary for me because my mind created horrendous scenarios about where his behavior could lead.
Gratefully, healing came when I meet others — therapists — who met me where I was without judgment and walked alongside me out of the darkness. I found healing in empathy, with someone who told me I had not created this issue, although I had willingly entered it. My child came into my life with a story of his own, and I became an actor in his story although, I was neither enamored with the role given to me nor the storyline.
Again, in this case, it was not attachment which caused suffering but rather the lack thereof.
Loving comes with inherent risks. In contrast, not-loving also comes with inherent risks and the risks of not-loving are far higher than the grief of loss.
The most amazing and beautiful human beings are those who love well and deep. I want to be one of these beings.
I am definitely over the proverbial hill — age wise — and I want to love better than I ever have. Anything else is not a valid option for me.
I become more fearless as I age…and with the loss of fear comes greater joy as well as peace. Happiness is in the loving. Loving well is birthed from strong attachments and deep self-love.
Unhealthy Attachments Symptoms:
- Difficulty handling conflict with other adults
- Denies responsibility for wrong-doing
- Controls others through manipulative or overtly hostile ways
- Trouble showing empathy, remorse, trust or compassion with others
- Lack of the ability to give or receive genuine affection or love. Relates sexual behavior to feelings of acceptance or closeness
- Resistant to efforts on behalf of others to nurture or guide them
- Lacks cause and effect thinking, especially when around normal thinking
- Acts out negatively and provokes anger in others
- Lies, steals, cheats and/or manipulates
- Destructive, cruel, argumentative and/or hostile
- Lacks self-control. Impulsive.
- Superficially charming and engaging
- Behaves in anger to protect feelings of sadness or fear
- Feels isolated and depressed
- Feels frustrated and stressed
- Addictive behavior i.e. substance abuse, sex addiction, work addiction, gambling addiction, etc.
- Behaves hyper-vigilantly and agitated and has trouble concentrating
- Confused, puzzled and obsessed with finding answers
- Feels blamed by family, friends, and professionals
- Feels helpless, hopeless, and angry
- Feels that helping professionals minimize his or her family problems
- Does not trust adults in authority
- Extreme need for control
- Manipulative and hostile
- No empathy, remorse, conscience, or compassion for others
- No ability to receive or give genuine affection or love
- Resists guidance and nurturing
- Lacks cause and effect thinking
- Provokes anger in others
- Lies, steals, and cheats
- Destructive and cruel
- Argues excessively
- Superficially charming
Source for Love and Attachments: