Detaching, with Love

One of the topics that came up during YTT class was the concept of detachment from identities we create for ourselves. As humans, we often associate our identities with the things we achieve, the roles we play or the jobs that we do.


For example, someone may be holding a high-ranking position at a job, respected by many others in the firm and constantly being validated by the results he/she brings in and praises from management. If this person starts to derive an identity out of this role, the person would likely feel a loss of his/her sense of self if anything happens to this job.


The example above can be applied to many other different aspects of our lives as we take on different roles like being a parent, spouse or even just as a friend to someone we care for.


It is perfectly human for us to display such attachment behaviours as we all crave belonging and connection. However, when we begin to derive our identities from external factors beyond our control, we run a risk of allowing our mental and emotional states to be dependent on these identities that we have created. When things do not go well, we are likely to become more reactive, discontented and emotionally vulnerable as we struggle to regain control of the identities that we have created.


We may even try to control and have expectations of others who are involved in the role we play. For example, a parent may feel like he/she is only a good parent if his/her children have good grades. If his/her children do not do well in school, the parent might take it personally if his/her identity is derived as such. This could potentially lead to negative behaviours which will be unhealthy for both the parent and children.


Hence, I feel that it is very important for both ourselves and the people around us that we remain mindful and aware of our attachments and identities we create for ourselves. When we mindfully detach from such identities we create, we will be able to see and accept ourselves and others for who we are.


To detach mindfully does not necessarily mean we have to not care or be guarded. Here are some ways we can work on ourselves to navigate through our attachments and ultimately detach with love and compassion for ourselves and others:

  • Love yourself first: Loving without attachment will allow us to address our insecurities and be able to love and accept ourselves as we are right now. When we accept ourselves, it will be easier for us to accept others for who they are too.
  • Practice observance: When we notice ourselves being reactive, we can pause and breathe to listen to ourselves and observe why we are reacting in this manner. This way, it will help us understand ourselves better and identify our attachment triggers. With better understanding of ourselves, we can approach situations more rationally and make better decisions.
  • Recognise progress: Mindfulness is a constant practice and it will never be perfect. Once we have accepted this fact, it would be easier to make peace with ourselves as we know we are not always going to get it right. Instead, we can recognise each time we see ourselves make progress and be grateful for it.