August 27, 2017
This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring terms that are sometimes over-used and under-defined. This time we’re going to talk about attachments. It’s a plus when we’re attached in healthy ways to our partners, families, friends and co-workers.
But attachments can turn on us. Unhealthy attachments are the offspring of ideas that need to be kicked to the curb. Getting out from under the weight of unhealthy attachments can improve every relationship you have, especially your relationship with yourself.
How might your life improve if you dropped the following attachments?
Drop the idea that you have one grand purpose for your life. If you’re always looking for what you’re missing, it’s likely that the people who matter won’t get the best of you.
Before it occurred to me to go back to school to become a psychotherapist, I had done everything from working in a factory sewing bar tacks on men’s levis, to working as a server in a restaurant, clerk typist, meeting planner, flight attendant and Director of Human Resources. I’ve re-purposed over and over, depending on who and what has shown up in my life. Sometimes my purpose was to learn life’s basic rules, or that I could live through the hard stuff, or that I could enjoy the unexpected. Sometimes it was to be there for others. And sometimes it was simply to show up as, and for, myself.
If there isn’t one grand purpose, the door is open for many grand purposes. Appreciating the purpose in this moment becomes a path. Does the path have heart? is the question that matters. Your life can be like a quilt made up of unique patches that only show the beauty of the overall design once it is completed.
Drop the idea that you’d enjoy incessant happiness. You know as well as I do that if you never experience anything to push against, you will die of boredom. Life is messy and paradoxical and wildly unpredictable.
Your body makes a chemical called oxytocin. It’s sometimes called the love chemical. Your day can be crap, everything gone wrong, but the moment you hug somebody, or even imagine hugging somebody, hold hands, laugh, give something to someone with no strings, or get a massage, your body will release oxytocin. But it doesn’t last forever. It needs your input, again and again. So get hooked on releasing oxytocin, the drug-free epitome of happiness, and forget about living in a bubble of perennial bliss. Honestly, it wouldn’t satisfy!
Drop the idea of giving everything 110%. What a crock! Exhausting!
Instead, invest massive amounts of energy in the things that play to your strengths, stimulate and interest you. Here’s the oxytocin thing again! Doing anything you enjoy – unless it’s illegal and has potentially dire consequences – will get the love hormone going.
Whether you want to be a physicist, pitcher, race car driver, frog trainer, dancer, astronomer … If it sounds interesting, try it! If you haven’t begun, start now. The quilt won’t care how old you are when you start.
Give anything that interests you enough energy to see if you like it. If it leaves you cold, then only give it enough attention to pass the test. When you have your degree most employers won’t ask if you got all A’s. (And your friends will find all A’s annoying.)
Drop the idea of being the best at what you do. There are few who reach the top in any field. Being the best at what you do requires an inherent talent, and then an often obsessive commitment of time and energy, which may not be conducive to creating satisfying relationships. Sometimes during the rise, the ones at the top have killed any joy they started out with.
When you get ready for bed give your subconscious a task. Ask it to come up with ideas to make the most of the next day. Awaken to the idea that you will actively participate in your life for the next 16 or 17 waking hours. And on the days when you come up a little short, remind yourself that you don’t need to be the best at everything. You just need to show up and join in.
Drop the idea of finding the ‘right’ partner. Make your peace with the one you’ve got, or work on yourself, or agree to part ways.
You will not change your frog into a prince or princess charming!! As often as you’ve heard it, I can almost guarantee you’re still trying! This one is a work in progress for all of us.
Everyone has their own crazies. I smile when clients are surprised by my stories about my neurotic tendencies, and their idea that maybe they are the exception to the rule. We all have them. Every one of us – there are no exceptions! And your partner or best friend is familiar with every one of yours.
Drop the idea of having the ‘right’ children. When my son was in his late teens he got sick of hearing me pick at him for his trashed room and hollered, “What do you want from me?! I’m a good kid. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t do drugs!” I realized, ‘OMG, the son I got is the one I wanted’. I said, “You’re right Bucko – keep up the good work”!
Drop the idea of being the ‘right’ person. I can’t begin to count all the ways we all pretend to be who we are not. If you have to pretend, go ahead and pretend to everybody else. But please, please stop pretending to yourself! That’s the crime, the time waster, the energy suck. That in and of itself will make your quilt boring and lifeless. Make friends with your shadow side. It’s hiding from it that does the damage.
We say that life is wasted on the young. That’s not true. The young are living it like crazy, in spite of not having a clue what they’re doing. Life is wasted on the grown-ups who are still pretending to be someone they’re not.
I would love to hear your thoughts. And feel free to disagree! Also, please share one or two small things you will do or or stop doing that will free you up to create and piece together the unique quilt that is your life.