Detachment is often thought as a negative word. It could mean losing touch with the world. It could also mean being aloof or separated. However, detachment is a skill as it is an art. There is nothing inherently wrong about this. On the contrary, it can be a saving factor towards having inner peace.Throughout our lives, we have this urge to find what’s ours in this world. We were taught that this toy is ours while that one’s someone else’s. We only play with what’s ours and that we can’t touch other people’s stuff. Ownership is an important governing factor in life. And, with that ownership comes attachment.
Attachment is deeply ingrained in us. It is human. We attach ourselves to things, people, ideas, beliefs, and even in ourselves. However, this attachment can bring us despair as it brings us happiness.
When we get too attached to objects beyond our control, we lose ourselves. It’s because we’ve attached ourselves towards impermanent things. This can mean losing people or material possessions will make us go off track. When we’ve attached ourselves to an idea, losing that thing could mean losing our peace.
A useful reminder in stoic philosophy is “Everything is ephemeral.” Everything in life comes and goes. Plants wither. Emotions switch. The weather changes. We die. Nothing is permanent. Those things are beyond your control. Attaching yourself to an impermanent object is a sure way towards pain. This is why you need to detach yourself from those things and people.
Think of detachment as a loose grip on objects that will disappear anytime. It’s not an excessive choking hold, but a gentle one that allows you to be free any time. When we detach ourselves from objects, we become more self-sufficient even once they’re gone.
We need to remind ourselves of the ephemeral nature of the world. We need to make the most out of the time that we have while enjoying the presence of this object or person. This allows us to nurture gratitude in our hearts. Take care not to view the ephemerality of life hedonistically, though, as there needs to be a balance. There is a fine line between #YOLO and making the most out of every moment.
Another way to look at impermanence and detachment is to focus your limited time towards the things that you can control. Although you can’t control how people treat you, you can control how you treat others. Instead of worrying so much what people think of you, focus on being a better person. No matter what others do to you, you know for yourself that you’re living an honest life and you’re bettering yourself.
Detachment, just like mindfulness, takes practice. You can’t just magically apply in all aspects of your life. There will definitely be some sort of resistance. However, you need to note it, let it go, and try again.
Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. I’ve been trying my best to detach myself from things beyond my control. What people think of me is out of my control. Therefore, it’s none of my business. When I try to attach myself to an idea of how people should perceive me, I become a slave towards that idea. Similarly, when I attach myself to friends who will change and will possibly lose touch with me, I am setting myself up for a major heartbreak.
Instead of focusing and attaching myself to people, situations, and ideas, I just try to focus on making sure that I am becoming a better person. I focus on my craft and my productivity. I ask myself, “Will I be happy five years from now?” What I do is that I try to become a better friend, a better partner, and a better human. I’m not perfect and there’s no easy way to go about it. I focus on these things because these are within my control. I’m still trying to discover what will bring me satisfaction in the long term.
Trust me, I don’t have everything figured out yet. There are times when I catch myself getting angry because a plan didn’t go my way or one person treats me badly. Once I recognize that thought, I note it, understand it, and let it go. Often, it takes days before I realize that I’ve sacrificed my own peace for something I have no control over. So, I just fucking let it go. It’s not worth it, honestly.
I guess what I’m trying to say is to detach yourself from the external ephemeral parts of the world. Instead attach yourself inwards and towards the things that you can control, like your values and principles. These are the things that are more worthy of your time.