The Buddha taught about suffering and the end of suffering. The Buddha said that attachment is the source of all suffering. Freedom from attachment is freedom from suffering.
I think the Buddha was actually referring to a certain type of attachment. Attachment in the Buddhist sense is more along the lines of clinging to things that change, expecting to find permanency and stability in things that are not permanent or stable. Expecting to find lasting happiness and peace in things that are fleeting.
Attachment, in the psychological sense, is a natural and positive force in nature. It is a survival mechanism in humans. As helpless babies, our lives literally depended upon our caregivers. We needed to be sure that there was consistent care for us. We needed to become attached to our caregivers. A baby who experiences secure attachment becomes a HAPPY child, a safe child. A baby who experiences insecure attachment results in an unhappy and fearful child.
Whatever kind of attachment we may have experienced as babies, we can’t seem to escape that deep conditioning. We try to recreate this experience when we grow up. After attachment theory in babies started to become popular, psychologists discovered that much of the same can be applied to love relationships. There are three basic attachment styles – avoidant, secure and anxious-resistant.
Avoidant – I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.
Secure – I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.
Anxious-resistant – I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.
Though most people fall into the secure category, we can still find ourselves acting more avoidant or anxious at times. I think that is a natural part of the ebb and flow of intimacy. That is, the ebb and flow of being close to someone while also maintaining personal identity. At times that we are feeling confident and have a strong sense of self, we are able to move very close to others without feeling threatened or afraid. At times we are feeling a little lost, we may need to move away from others a bit to make sure to remember who we are. I think this is natural and healthy. Overall, there is balance. Overall, there is interdependence. We have needs and we are needed. We can be close but maintain our own identities. We can be close and not be afraid of abandonment because we have faith that there are others who will care for us. We have faith that we are still lovable even if rejected by our object of attachment. We can be open. We can be vulnerable.
Relationships in which the couple have a secure attachment to each other are more successful. They have greater interdependence, commitment, trust and satisfaction. http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=1991-12476-001&CFID=6605581&CFTOKEN=91915571
A mutual, secure attachment to a lover you admire, respect and are compatible with is a beautiful thing! It can be a source of great pleasure and comfort. It is well worth the risk of a broken heart. Enlightened beings can and do love like this. When two of the Buddha’s disciples died, he is quoted as saying, “It’s as if the sun and the moon have left the sky.” In CS Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, he mentions how distraught Jesus was over the death of Lazarus. He goes on to say:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
–For more of Becca Thielen’s reflection on mindfulness in daily life, check out her blog, This is Dhamma.