Basic Two: It’s about Unhealthy Attachments

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December 19, 2011

It is normal to want things and to get attached to that which is important to us. People, places, and things share our existence and enrich the quality of our life, or at least they should enrich our lives. Disentangling is not about ending the good attachments we have in life. It is about shedding unhealthy and dysfunctional attachments that detract or take away from the quality of our life.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV (DSM-IV) indicates that a disorder exists if whatever condition present causes significant distress or problems in one or more important areas of one’s life. These important areas of life include health, relationships, work, etc. A few examples of such problems that can come from unhealthy attachments include:
Loss . . . of job, of temper, of friends, of family, or anything else we deem important.

Neglect. . . of spouse, of children, of ourselves, of our health, of our work, financial, or school-related responsibilities.

Failure. . .to prepare for the responsibilities of life or to show up for life, for example by isolating or staying in bed all day or all week not due to a physical illness. 

The result of these losses, negligence, or failures on our part is that they take up space in our mind, and our mental preoccupation with them drains us of our life’s energy. The preoccupation of our mind will cause us to engage in unhealthy behaviors. Pursuing, watching, sneaking, and above all waiting, drains us causing us to neglect other more important areas of our lives. Our focus narrows, and we concern ourselves only with the needs of the other person. As this preoccupation with the other person grows, our Self will wither and die deep down inside. When given the choice of meeting our own needs or that of another, we will choose to neglect ours in favor of those of the other person. As the unhealthy attachment continues to grow, we sink deeper into the hole we have dug for ourselves.

Unhealthy attachments rob us of our peace of mind. This concept is not new. The Buddha (563-483 BCE) discusses attachment in his Four Noble Truths. Essentially he said that suffering arises from attachment and it ceases when attachment to desire ceases. The damaging effects of attachment are documented throughout human history. How many conflicts are fought because a leader becomes fixated on taking, gaining, or having something…anything? How much mayhem is caused by someone whose romantic aspirations became larger than life and yet they chase the affections of another to the brink of insanity? Things can easily get out of hand without the ability to objectively view what is happening. It can happen…you can get hooked…on anyone or anything. The key is to recognize the attachment so you can begin to reverse the process.  

It is no surprise that attachment to another person can be so damaging to our health and welfare. Yet it can happen, and we may be unable to comprehend what is happening or when it is happening. We definitely feel its effects, whether physical or emotional, yet we still think we can handle it if we just try a little harder.

For now just think about the relationships you currently enjoy and ask yourself if any of them have become unhealthy or are draining you. Have any you used to enjoy become just too difficult and yet you can’t figure out what changed? Whatever you do, acknowledge it, but don’t dwell on it.

If there is an unhealthy attachment to another person in your life, there is still hope. You can disentangle, but in order to do that you must find YOU! And in my next blog I will discuss how to go about finding YOU.


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