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Why Do We Get Attached?

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When I get attached to something or someone, I hold on to it with all my might, fearful that if I let go, I will lose that which I so deeply cherish.  Unfortunately, since my hands are busy clutching that which I am attached to, they are not free to embrace all that life has yet to offer.  – Ronya Banks

Strings attached

In a previous blog, I talked about “letting go”.  I have discovered that uncovering and  understanding my attachments, has greatly enhanced my letting go process.

Bottom Line.   When I get attached to any person, place, thing, idea, or outcome, I am NOT going with the “Flow, and I ultimately cause more stress for myself and others.   So, why do we get attached, in the first place?  I will be exploring these why’s in this post.

One of the primary wisdom traditions – Buddhism teaches us that attachment, craving, and/or clinging are the root causes for suffering in this life.

Test it for yourself.  Every time you are struggling, look to see what you are attached to?  I guarantee that if you look honestly and deeply enough, you will find what you are clutching, even if it’s just a belief or an idea.

I have noticed that many people, including myself at times, are attached to youth – looking and feeling young and healthy.  Even though my 80-year old parents are in decent shape and take great care of themselves, I have seen them recently struggling with accepting their reduced capabilities, as well as the difficulties that naturally come with the aging process.  If we live long enough, chances are greater that we will be faced with needing to let go of any attachments we may have to youth.

So, why do we get so attached to our bodies, things, and people all being and acting a certain way?

Reason #1

I have heard neuroscientists say that over the millions of years of evolution,  humans passed on the survival strategies that have worked.  Two of these survival strategies include seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

Therefore, our neural networks are programmed for seeking out and attaching to pleasant people, things, plans, and experiences, while on the other hand, we are avoiding the unpleasant stuff.

Basically, we humans are drawn to pleasant experiences, the way bugs are drawn to a bright light.  But as we all know, some seemingly pleasant experiences, when sought are not necessarily in our best interests (like that nightly bowl of ice cream).

Also, sometimes we avoid some unpleasant experiences (like eating those brussels sprouts), which are in our best interest to pursue!

Reason #2

Another phenomenon that promotes attachment…..  If we study every single thing in this universe, scientists tell us that we will discover that everything including our bodies, are constantly changing, moving, being born, and dying.  But, our minds tend to see everything as static and unchanging.  With a mind that sees everything staying the same, we tend to get attached to the way things are –  presently.  Then when things change, which they will, we get upset!   Quite a conundrum.

Reason #3

If that thinking isn’t delusional enough, with our pleasure-seeking bent, many of us tend to also conjure up an inner “Mind Reality”.  This Mind Reality” is based on our expectations for an “idealistic”, almost “perfect” future and world in which we would like to live.  We even get really attached to this fictional Mind Reality”.  We are constantly comparing our present reality to our Mind Reality,  When our present reality does not measure up to our idealistic model, we become disappointed, disillusioned, and possibly even depressed.

Reason #4

Not to be a bearer of  negativity, but let’s face it – life can be challenging and scary.  On top of that, many of us were raised by insecure parents with their own unique set of baggage.  As a result, most of us did not get the sufficient amount of safety, support,  nurturing, and love each of us needed during childhood to develop a strong, confident sense of self.  Thus, many of us compensate for our insecurities by attaching to things outside of ourselves, that we believe make us feel more confident or secure.

The list of our attachments seems endless, and I have to admit that I have been quite amazed at some of the things I have become attached to, as well others.  For instance, years ago during my computer programming years, I worked with a fellow at IBM who was quite attached to his partner wearing high-heeled boots to bed.  I got some unfortunate visuals when I heard that one!

This past weekend, a young female friend was visiting from out-of-town.  On the day of her departure, when I was driving her to the airport, she got really upset when she realized she left her favorite pair of sandals back at my home.   I told her I would mail them to her, and suggested that she use this opportunity to lessen her attachment to her shoes.  She definitely did not appreciate my suggestion!  Bad timing on my part, I suppose.  Been there.  It can be very painful to be attached.

I have been attached to:

  • Feeling good,
  • Sleeping 8 hours, on clean bedding,
  • Exercising regularly,
  • Eating certain healthy and/or unhealthy foods,
  • Relationships,
  • Bread,
  • A house,
  • Bird watching,
  • Wine,
  • Comfortable shoes,
  • Nice weather,
  • Having fun
  • Plus so much more……

Stay tuned for the next blog, “Attached? – To What?”, wherein I will go through some indications or tools to help you uncover your attachments.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you – any explanations that you can add to why we form attachments, or what you have been attached to in this lifetime?

Written by:  Ronya Banks 

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6 responses »

  1. Reading this post was enjoyable and helpful. Thank you, Ronya!

    (The story of high heels being worn in bed made me laugh! :~)

  2. Hi Ronya
    What a great post on attachment. I have a whole new view of what this means in my life and how attachments keep me out of the “Flow” of life. Have been patting my self on the back about how many attachments I have let go of but after reading yours I decided to make my own. There are still many left. I was told once that attachment fall away when they no longer work for you. I did not realize that I would only replace them with others if I was not ready to live with out their imagined protection from imagined fear of bordom and lonelyness.
    Thanks, Charlie

    • Hi Charlie:

      I love how committed you are to your practice and living in the “flow”. Attachments do seem endless, but like you, I am not totally embedded by attachments anymore. But, I’ve quit wondering if there is any end to attachments, and now just stay open to seeing through the delusions that entrap me.

      Thanks for reading the blog and for generously sharing yourself.


  3. Pingback: Four Attachments | E'n'M

  4. Pingback: Attached? To What? | Mastering "FLOW"

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