Over-Attachment

QA150 QUESTION: I have a slight over-attachment to my family, to put it mildly. I’m also told that’s not good. I can’t see where it’s wrong. And I wonder if you can help me?

ANSWER: Let us be clear first to use the word “wrong” not in a moralistic sense – a threatening or punishing authority that forces one to do what is right but against one’s own interest. But let us be clear that the word “wrong” means disadvantageous for you as well as for all of those whom you are connected with – that it is to your disadvantage.

It is to your disadvantage because, what does this attachment really mean? It means, “Do for me, be responsible for me. If mistakes are made, they are your rules and you are responsible. I merely want to be a child that obeys the rules so that I do not have to go through the hardship of having to think, having to choose, having to be responsible if the choice does not come out so good; so I do not want all this bothersome thing that makes up adult living. I want you to take care of me, and be totally responsible, and give me all good, give me the best of all worlds, which I just have to receive.”

Now, of course, offhand this sounds like a very desirable state for a person. Let us consider why it is not desirable. In the first place, to insist upon it is not desirable if for no other reason than that it is impossible. Nobody will do it for you, so that you rub yourself raw in the process of insistence.

In this insistence, you waste the best forces of yourself in the vain hope that your insistence will finally make you win. But it is quite impossible to win, for no one can do it. It is virtually impossible, no matter how much a mother or a father or their substitutes would love – it cannot be done. It cannot be done.

The very fact that it is impossible makes the insistence and the tie, and the insistence to remain in this tie – for this is what the tie means – impossible and disadvantageous.

Reason number two why it is a disadvantage is that even to the small degree one seems to succeed – or let us even assume theoretically it would be possible – it would still be a disadvantage, because a person would live in perpetual fear of losing this benefactor, this benign authority who lives for you, who’s responsible for you, who gives you all and requires nothing of you.

The enslavement and the fear to lose are a thousand times greater than the hardship, or the apparent hardship, of being responsible for your own life.

The next reason why it is a disadvantage – and this is perhaps the most important one – is that not under any circumstances is it possible for a self to respect and like itself when this way of life is inwardly – no matter how hiddenly – chosen. Nothing could be worse than self-dislike and self-rejection.

There is no deceiving oneself, for one can try one’s very best to squelch this voice and not to be at all conscious of its existence. Inwardly it exists, and the effect of self-dislike is devastating. To the degree an individual insists upon this tie to a benign authority – which of course, always starts with your own family, with mother and father – to that degree one is dishonest, one wants more than one gives, one is dependent and in fear and in self-dislike.

The effect of that is self-destruction of all one’s possibility for happiness, for a meaningful and pleasurable life. And the more this happens, then the greater the need for the authority when all this is unconscious. So the vicious circle continues. Now do you understand what I’m saying here?

QUESTION: Hardly.

ANSWER: What is it you do not understand?

QUESTION: I don’t understand how to be healthy in this area.

ANSWER: No, you cannot force yourself to be healthy! That is an impossible demand.

QUESTION: Because every attachment then becomes disadvantageous.

ANSWER: No!

QUESTION: Otherwise you are just unattached to anything.

ANSWER: No! No! No! There are healthy attachments and unhealthy attachments.

QUESTION: Could you explain a healthy attachment, please, to me?

ANSWER: Yes! Yes! Now let us see the difference. To recapitulate: the unhealthy attachment is the one I described in which the person makes himself artificially completely helpless and is completely dependent on being given to and being the recipient. But that enslaves so much that one then gives in a wrong spirit, in a spirit of buying, in a spirit of fear and enslavement, not in the free spirit.

Now the healthy attachment is the one where two individuals stand on their own feet inwardly, have found the center of gravity within their inner self, are self-responsible, autonomous, and therefore are free spirits to give and receive, without fear, without dependency, without threat, without enslavement, without appeasement, and without buying and selling.

But it is a very free act of giving and receiving, and that is the only way a relationship can be pleasurable. To the extent this healthy attachment exists, it is pleasurable. To the extent it is the unhealthy attachment, it is unpleasurable. Of course, with most human beings, it is more or less a mixture of it. Only in rare cases it is very much to one side.

But it is very easy to gauge exactly where one is in the relationship, to really render one’s self-account to what extent is it freeing, liberating, good, happy, and not unpleasant, in this sense, and to what extent is it the other way?

QUESTION: Maybe I just have never knowingly seen any family where this is the way you’re explaining it, but I don’t know this in anybody I know. Maybe for that reason I cannot quite comprehend it. Can you say how to get it?

ANSWER: Well, first by recognizing the extent of your unhealthy attachment, not to force yourself away from it but merely seeing it, without any hurry, without any haste, without any pressure upon yourself, without any threat that you should already be different, but also without any hedging, and in the desire to really want to see this.

 

QA182 QUESTION: It is said that love, to a man, is a thing apart; for a woman, her whole existence.

ANSWER: Is that what you believe?

QUESTION: In some sense, yes. For me, I put everything into it and it’s just nothing else. So it’s one reason why I stay away from it. {Yes} In other words, a woman sees a person all the time; I think men, frankly, are a little smarter about this. They don’t have to see a woman all the time; and they have, you know, something else in their life. I tend to go in the direction of making life just about wanting to see the person. Can you comment on it?

ANSWER: Yes, I will make some comments on two levels. I will first make the comment on a general level and then on the specific level as far as you are concerned – or to put it differently, on the social level and on the personal level.

You have to realize that this is not a state of nature: that a man is this way and a woman is that way. It is very often that mankind confuses these things because cultural habits have been established at times for hundreds of years in which men live one kind of life and women live another type of life, and then this accrued into – apparently, allegedly – so-called natural facts.

Well, these are not natural facts. These are culturally fostered facts. By nature, a man needs a woman’s love as much as a woman, and a woman needs to unfold herself and her personality, and needs to be inwardly autonomous as much as a man.

Now we come to your personal problem. If you feel this need to be possessive and to be all the time with the man, it is not out of love, my dear. It is out of your lack of owning yourself, lack of being a whole person. And this may very often be confused with love.

Many, many women claim it is love when they merely need and really are parasites onto the man in every way and on all levels. It is ever so often, again and again, that human beings glamorize their problems and make it a so-called natural law, and even make it something good when it merely indicates a deep-rooted problem.

Much rather than indicating the capacity to love, it diminishes the capacity to love. Love in its essence is, among many other things, granting freedom to the other person to pursue his growth, to unfold in his own way, to become autonomous, to even be wrong if need be. This is love.

Love means to let go and not always having your own way. Love means that you are strong and on your own two feet so that you can give. For only, logically speaking, as a strong person can you give, and never as a weak person, never as a needy person who cannot be alone.

So I would say, no one is capable of a really functioning relationship who cannot be content within himself, who cannot be alone. For he who cannot be alone cannot be together, and this is proven again and again. Practical reality proves this.

If you cling to the other person under the auspices that this is being feminine, and you pride yourself into putting your whole self into it when you merely are needy and do not trust your own resources and want to be taken care of by a stronger figure, what will happen inside is that you will resent and fear this stronger figure. And what will happen to him is to resent you for the prohibition of this freedom, which you clutch away.

Now, freedom is love. The inner freedom of giving is the greatest sign of love – giving the other person his own choice; giving the other person the right to grow in his own fashion; giving the other person the wholeness of your being.

But if you do not own yourself, you cannot really speak of love. You can speak of a neurotic need that may indeed be covered up by an apparent depth of feeling. This is subtle and it requires a great deal of insight and honesty with yourself to make these distinctions, my dear.

But you will find, if you can verify this, that you can only then begin to truly build your personality for making it ready for real partnership, where there is give and take, where there is exchange, where there is not only the outer gesture but the inner giving, not only of yourself but you give the other person to himself. And that kind of inner freedom is real love.

In that attitude you will not require total togetherness at all times. In that kind of attitude, you will not fear to be by yourself. You will have the inner security of knowing you are lovable, and therefore you will not fear the loss of love by the other person.

QUESTION: I agree with what you are saying. I am very afraid of being in any relationship at this time, because when I am in one and I don’t see the person every night, I’m upset. I’m just not myself anymore. This is the way I was and I feel I’m starting to leave this. I’m afraid to even move towards a relationship because of this great weakness I had in the past.

ANSWER: The moment you are aware in this way – that this need is suffocating another person, that you can no longer delude yourself that this is real love – you can explore the avenues further. Why is it that you make these demands? What is it that you doubt in yourself?

When you explore this further and answer the questions on this deeper level, you will see that a new strength will arise from you in which the self-respect that you have for risking this freedom, for allowing the other person to love you freely on his own, will make you more capable of believing in your own value.

This demand also has a lot to do with saying inside, “You must comply to my will, and I do not trust if my will is not fulfilled that I will get my needs fulfilled.” And this really means a distrust of the universe, of God, of the richness of life, and an exaggerated trust in your own willpower. For the inability to accept a frustration and to chaff under it, as it were, has very much to do with this.

You think if you have it all your way in this tight tenseness, then you will get your need fulfilled. But if you open your hand and let the bird fly away, you may find that the bird comes back. It is then a free giving which will be so much more valuable, and which will give you the conviction that you are lovable.

But this way, you will never have the conviction you’re lovable, because you will merely believe that what you receive is a compliance to your great willpower. You will play a power game that will not give you the conviction of your lovability at all. It will much rather make you more deluded into the powers of your will, which are very limited.

So when you approach this in your meditation you can say, “I make myself ready for a relationship in which I risk to open my hand and let free, and take the chance that what I need may eventually come to me freely, not clutchingly and controllingly, and maybe nothing quite the way I decide. But maybe the way it will come will be even much better and more meaningful.” If you can learn this inner gesture, my dear, you make yourself ready for real experience in which you will be freed from fear and free from the need to control.

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