Understanding Attachment

by Judith F Kennedy, PhD

The first step after you choose once and for all, unequivocally that you will be happy is to understand that attachment to your own expectations is the main barrier to your happiness.

When you understand the role that attachment plays in your life then you will be free to choose happiness. Attachment is at the heart of the matter. Attachment talked about here is not emotional detachment from the people and things you love. It is about attaching to expectations. An expectation is a belief that the world should be a certain way. Attachment is a strong belief that, in order to be happy, your expectations must be met. This is the key and biggest barrier to your happiness. When you solidly believe that your expectations have to be met in order to be happy, you will be unhappy. Life happens, you do not control it. The distance between your expectations and reality is the degree of suffering you will feel.

You literally have hundreds of expectations. You expect people close to you to act a certain way… or to believe certain things… or to keep their word… or to be kind to you. Are you aware of these expectations? Can you see them clearly in your mind, or do you just see them as “how things need to be”? Belief in an expectation is what gives it power.

When our expectations are not met, we fall into grief and agonize when something or someone changes, a relationship falls apart, we get laid off, a friend turns against us. Nothing is permanent yet we live our lives as if everything will stay permanent and exempt from change.

The way to a satisfied life with integrity, peace and equanimity lies within you. It is not what happens to you in this life, it is how you respond to what happens to you. This response is predicated on your attachment to how things are instead of how you want them to be. What this means is that you must live in reality, you must be willing to see what is, rather than attaching to what is a story of how you want things to be.

 The pain of attachment

Attachment is to live in the fear that what you want will not happen and puts you in a state of dissatisfaction and traps you in a continuous state of desire. Attachment is focusing on the outcome instead focusing on the beauty of the process and the moment. No mistake, having a good outcome is wonderful. Being attached to it paradoxically will cause you a great deal of grief. A moment can’t possibly radiate fully when you’re suffocating it in fear.

Being attached to an outcome or what you want and expect to happen causes you to lose your power. It will force you to define your success and your happiness on what happens outside of you.

It will make you a slave to others and to events that happen outside your control. You will be in for a lifetime of unhappiness. You will stress about losing what is never permanent in the first place.