The Nature of Attachment

Why are we drawn to the things we are? What makes us decide we like or relate better to one type of person, object, or subject more so than another? Why do we become attached to the things we do?

Emotional attachment is a very tricky subject. Certainly everyone has noticed at one point or another that people can become attached the strangest things for even stranger reasons. Often we might ask ourselves, “What do they see in him/her/that?” This becomes even more difficult to comprehend when a person who has a rather obvious pattern to what they like or dislike suddenly becomes enchanted with something that is clearly the opposite of their usual choices. Then again, how many times were you the person who did just that?

There can be many reasons why we develop attachment to things. In many cases, it can be a product of our past experiences. For example, there are places we may go into that will almost strike us immediately with a sense of déjà vu, a feeling that we have been there before. Perhaps it’s the smell of the place, or the ambience of the type of people who go there, or even the way it is decorated. It may remind us of somewhere we used to go, a place that we either really enjoyed or felt safe in. People can have the same effect on us as well. You can meet someone who has qualities that remind you a lot of someone you use to admire or dislike. When these traits appear, you may find yourself immediately attracted to or repulsed by the person.

Incidentally, such attachments can be placed on material items as well. Physical objects can take on almost a life of their own, can become something we honestly cannot imagine not having in our lives. Why is this? Perhaps the object in question is a family heirloom. It might also be an object that has a strong positive association to us. It could be a car, a piece of jewelry, a book, virtually anything. How would we feel if that object was suddenly lost, stolen or destroyed? What kind of a grieving period would result from such?

Attachment in itself is not anything to be particularly concerned about. If we never became attached to anything, we wouldn’t have much motivation to do anything either. Attachment is often our biggest source of inspiration to accomplish whatever needs be to done, or to keep going in the face of adversity. However, attachments can become counterproductive, especially when they are formed to things that are clearly destructive to the individual in question.

The most obvious example that can be given is the co-dependent relationship. Everyone at some point as seen either a friend, family member, or even a general acquaintance become romantically involved with someone who was obviously a source of negativity in their life. The following is a variety of symptoms that can result from such:

  • a loss of confidence (inability to make decisions without their partner’s consent)
  • obsessive behavior (including dangerous actions to be with the person or alienating behavior towards friends or family that aren’t in favor of the relationship)
  • irrational fear of losing said person (might imply they would die without them or constantly fretting over the idea that their actions will make their partner angry enough to leave them)
  • overcompensation (doing anything to make the other person happy, even if those actions make them miserable)
  • self-destructive tendencies (harming themselves for make their partner unhappy or allowing their partner to persuade them to do things that damage their health)

In such cases, attachment brainwashes the individual and their life is no longer theirs to control. It is either controlled by the partner or by the individual’s own delusions. Regardless, the individual is incapable of doing what is best for them, and becomes virtually useless to anyone else they have alliances with or must deal with on any level. Eventually, they will lose these alliances and everything else that goes with them, and find themselves with nothing. (Except possibly for the person they ended up throwing everything away for – and rarely do those relationships last much longer after that kind of damage has been done.)

Incidentally, this kind of attachment takes one a whole different meaning, or can be described by another word all together … ADDICTION. It also doesn’t have to be to another person. Many people form almost addictive behaviors to other things, like something they do or something they own. There are many people who only eat, drink, sleep and breathe one particular thing. Some would call that dedication, but it usually is addiction.

The problem with putting so much stock into one circumstance (or person or object) is that if you lose it, you may well lose yourself along with it. It is very important that one constantly ask themselves why they put the value in the things that they do and what they would do if they no longer had those things for whatever reasons. Let’s say you have been an employee at one particular job for the last ten years. This job has always paid you decently and offered decent benefits. Then one day, you go to that job to find out the company is being closed down, or has been bought out and you’re job has terminated. What would you do? Would you know where to go after that? The obvious answer would be to find another job, but what if the job you did was very specific and was not the type of work you could find just anywhere else.

You might be surprised to find out that many people have perished over such things. Some have been able to find other jobs, but usually do not end up keeping them for very long because of a lack of confidence or general depression resulting from the previous loss. The human heart can be a very fragile thing, one that seems to be strong in so many circumstances, yet so easily destroyed with one simple action. Usually that one action is the loss of something the person has become completely attached to.

The following questions may well be very painful to consider, but are ones that should be regardless. You just might find out something about yourself that you have never realized.

  • What relationships, alliances or objects actually help to define who you are
  • What is it about these attachments that makes them so special, they actually are engrained in your life?
  • What would you do if you could no longer have them?
  • How many of these attachments have been lost in the past and in result changed who you are?
  • Were these changes to your benefit or to your detriment?
  • How are these changes still affecting your life now?
  • What loss issues do you need to address in order to get your life back in your control?

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