What Happens When You Confuse Attachment For Love Brianna Wiest

It seems a bit oversimplified, but really, you can sum up why people suffer with one statement: they become unhealthfully attached to the things they have no control over.

People live two dimensionally — most lack the ability to step back and observe themselves objectively. Because of this, they assume what they feel is real, and what is real to them is real to everybody else (or should be), and what is real to everybody else is what matters.

The extent of our conditioning is so deeply ingrained in our psyche that we rarely even realize we have such notions and expectations set in place. Part of this conditioning is attachment to “right,” “wrong,” what “should be,” and what “needs to be.” A lot of this comes into play with one of the major things we all seem to struggle with: love. Romantic love, particularly. (It is funny how the thing designed to bring us the most joy brings the most pain, like the paradox of most wars being waged over religion.)

A thought is harmless unless we believe it. We have many thoughts throughout the day, not all of which are pleasant, but also not all of which stick with us.

Our attachment to an idea, once we have the passing thought, then creates the feeling. Unless we inquire further, we assume that what we feel is all that’s real. So it’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that serves as our subconscious basis for our feelings and opinions and, inevitably, suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true without asking where it came from, why it’s valid (or not) or if it actually serves you.

The thoughts we attach to continually become beliefs. And beliefs build our idea of who we are and what matters to us.

So let’s talk about the thing that people are most attached to, most unhealthfully: other people. Love. In the process of being conditioned, we started believing that love needs to be a certain way, feel a certain way — though feelings are hormonally and mentally stimulated and genuine love is deeper than chemical reactions. We inevitably started making love out to be something that is needed to fill a void or fix something.

This is why so many relationships end mid-life: people choose one another for nothing more than the summation of what they believed they wanted. Someone who was “perfect for them” was the someone who either filled their checklist or filled a sense of who they were as people.

The way we decide we want someone is how we imagine they will fit into our lives forever. We decide we want someone in the now based on how wethink they’re going to be in the future.

This is where (and how) we get attached: to an idea of what this person’s presence will make us. 

Of course, when these expectations aren’t met, there are issues. Rather than treating these significant others like the most intimate and important people in our lives, they become punching bags for all the things we couldn’t fix in ourselves.

The art of moving on is creating something new rather than trying to destroy something old. The art of moving on, then, is attaching ourselves to something new. If you find someone new to attach yourself to, you realize that the “love” you thought you had for someone else was nothing more than a desire to fill something that was unfilled within you, if someone else can take the spot just as easily.

What changes when you move on? Your attachment. Your IDEA that someone is right for you and needs to be with you. That’s where the “love” goes when it’s gone: to someone else. That’s how you know you didn’t really love someone. When their lack of presence renders them useless to you, and therefore, irrelevant.

The thing that every last one of us has to realize is that the only true love that can exist is the one that lives without expectation. One that flows freely in both directions. One that doesn’t get angered by petty things because it doesn’t expect petty things. One that exists even when they are gone, even when they are no longer “officially” something to you. The kind that exists just because you like the person, and can maintain that past your deep, insane need to be with them.

The people you really love are the ones you never detach from — because you were never attached in the first place. They are the ones to whom you are forever in love, but only just that — in love, with no expectations. It’s only from that place — not of necessity, not of on-your-knees pleading desperation — but of complete okayness whether they are there or not, that you can love them wholly and completely.

You can never really know what love is while you’re still attached to ideas about it, and another person, and what all of that needs to be. Because the things that cause us the most suffering are the ones that we get unhealthfully attached to, as though they are ours forever, when we have no control over them at all. 

To the man I love.

I need you not for the sake of not feeling alone, or sad. I want you because I love you, not solely on comfort or fear but I actually, really want you.