Love, attachment, desire
I struggle with attachment, love, keeping relationships in the industry. For my lovers in my personal life to understand that sex vs love are very different things. So I explore the Buddist philosophy-----What is desirous attachment?
It is not the same as desire – we need desires, but we don’t need attachment. Attachment is “dö chag” in Tibetan, which literally means “sticky desire”. There is a stickiness, neediness, dependency, and self-centeredness associated with attachment. It’s “I need you to make ME happy”, as opposed to “I want to make YOU happy”, which is actual love. Attachment weakens us, and we give away the key to our happiness. Love strengthens us, and we stay in charge of our happiness.
Attachment is all about me and what I can get from you, and love is all about what I can give or do for you. There are three kinds or levels of love, affectionate love, cherishing love, and wishing love. Briefly, affectionate love is just liking people, having a warm, fuzzy feeling, the way our mom feels when she hasn’t seen us for awhile, just unconditionally delighted to see us without that needy, “I want YOU to do something for ME.” On the basis of affection, if we think about how kind someone is, we come to cherish them – we find them special, we want to take care of them, their happiness matters. So because we cherish this person, our question is “Are they happy?” The answer is usually, “Well, they could be a lot happier,” and we wish for them to have what they need, what they want, to be happy now and always. This is wishing love.
Attachment stands in horrible contrast to all types of love, but to begin with it can be quite hard for us to tell them apart as our relationships are so mixed up. It is one of Buddha’s great kindnesses that he distinguishes between them so clearly. It can save us from immense heartache. We can learn to reduce the attachment and increase the love in all our close friendships, which is guaranteed to bring us more meaning and joy.
Here is a definition from Understanding the Mind:
“Desirous attachment is a deluded mental factor that observes its contaminated object, regards it as a cause of happiness, and wishes for it.”
Attachment is the opposite. That’s why Buddha called the rest of us “worldly people” – someone is worldly if they are always looking outside of themselves for their happiness, and don’t recognize that their happiness comes from within.
The misconception occurs in how one defines attachment. Buddhism does not denounce possessions, hobbies, interests, food, or most importantly, relationships. It teaches that clinging to these things causes suffering. Clinging to a partner in a relationship would better be defined in the Western view as insecure attachment, not attachment. People with an insecure attachment (either avoidant or ambivalent/anxious) resort to the behaviors that Buddhism warns against in the face of loss: a craving or thirst for something. Craving occurs when one’s desire is excessive. Buddhism teaches that suffering ends when craving disappears.
Attachment theory posits that the more securely attached we are in our relationships, the more separate and independent we can be. Attachment to key others is a universal need that we never outgrow. Buddhism teaches against insecureattachment. Another point of confluence is that if we are insecure in our attachment style, we need important others in order to become secure. Sometimes we need professional help as well. We can’t do it alone, just like in Buddhism. We need others.
There is nothing wrong with desires and relationships as long as one does not cling. I can truly enjoy a movie or a restaurant as long as I do not cling to them. I can have a meaningful and happy relationship with my partner as long as I work with them to mediate the tendency to either pursue (i.e. criticizing, complaining, endless questioning, etc.) or withdraw (getting defensive, checking out, shutting down, avoiding, etc.) during conflict. Both pursuing and withdrawing are clinging. Both are suffering.
Thoughts? How do you love and not cling? Can you love without attachment?