Attachment, defined.

In many of my posts, I talk about not getting attached to things, because it makes it harder to let go. In my last post, I talked about trying to not get too attached to people and places, because it makes it harder when you inevitably have to say goodbye (or do you?).

But you can’t go through life not making friends or going places just because you don’t want to get hurt.

In response to my last post Debbie V said

Reading your post made me wonder if minimalism can be sometimes related to a person’s avoidance of emotional attachments to people. Just a thought. Holding on some things from the past – memories, friendships, even those mementos of very important events – is important to my sanity. These things sustain me in the rough times of the present. There’s a balance.

Thank you Debbie for your comment, I really appreciate it! I’ve wanted to clarify this point for a long time.

attachment, defined.

Attachment to something means:

  • you depend on having it to be happy
  • you never want to let it go because you think it will make you less happy

The problem with attachment is that you are depending of something outside of yourself to be happy. But we all know that nothing lasts forever. Things can break, get stolen, be misplaced, lost in a house fire, become redundant and a hundred other things. People can move on, drift away, change, fall out of love, get in an accident, move house and more. So your happiness is only temporary if you rely on them for it.

If you want to achieve stable happiness, you need to find it in yourself, not in things or other people.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have deep and lasting relationships, it just means you don’t depend on them to be happy.

For example, imagine a couple A. You have probably witnessed something like this before. They meet, they get together and ‘fall in love’. They spend all their time together. They think they’re really happy and they can’t stand to be apart.

But, after a while, they start to notice things about the other person that irks them. Eventually, they get into fights and break up. They’re used to spending all their time together, so they’re really unhappy because they’re alone. They can’t stand it, so they get back together. But all of the issues that caused them to break up in the first place come back, and they break up again. The cycle continues because they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes with being together, but they can’t stand the unhappiness that comes from being alone. They depend too much on having the other. It’s a downward spiral.

This is a typical example of an emotional dependency (attachment) to one’s partner. I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I know that in my experience, it does happen.

Now imagine couple B:

A couple ‘fall in love’. They spend a lot of time together, but they also spend some time apart. They miss the other person when they’re away, but they find their own life that is separate from their partner’s. They share things, and depend on the other person, but not all the time. They are independent, strong people together and on their own. They support each other and don’t hold the other back for selfish reasons. They’re not needy, suspicious or joined at the hip. Instead they’re honest, trusting, and strong. Because of this, their relationship is deep and fulfilling.

Should something bad happen to the other person, of course they would be devastated, just like anyone else. But they know that the other person would want them to find a way to move on, instead of losing their ‘life’ too.

They don’t agree on everything, and it’s not always easy for them either. But they keep an open mind, they’re willing to compromise and contribute equally to the relationship. They’ll probably live a long and happy life.

Couples A and B illustrate the difference between a relationship made of attachment and a truly loving relationship.

Yes, a part of minimalism is about avoiding attachments. But it’s not about avoiding emotions. You don’t have to be scared of meeting new people, making friends, or finding partners. If another person makes you happy, let them.

If keeping mementos from a holiday makes you happy, then keep them. Minimalists aren’t trying to avoid things because we don’t want to get emotionally attached, we try to avoid the things that can lower our happiness.

Where we can help it, I believe we can greatly contribute to our own happiness by finding it within ourselves and taking it wherever we go, instead of having to drag around another person or piles of junk with us, because let’s face it, they’re pretty heavy.

I’m really interested to know what you guys think about this topic. Let me know in the comments!

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