Relationships in the absence of attachment

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by 17th Karmapa

The wish to pull in or push away what we perceive around us is a big force in our relationships. Rather than relaxing and appreciating the other person, we engage in a constant struggle to get what we want from them, and to avoid getting what we do not want. For that reason, in order to build healthy relationships we need to deal with our attachment as well as our aversion.

It might be useful to start by looking at our assumptions about attachment and also about non attachment. Conventional wisdom leads many people to question whether or not relationships are even possible without attachment. I have heard people say that if there were no attachment, they would have no close relationships. People try to induce attachment in others as a basis for starting a relationship with them. They wield a attachment like a hook, trying to pull people towards them and literally get them hooked.

If you find it hard to imagine how a warm and healthy relationship could exist in the absence of attachment, this indicates confusion between being detached and being free of attachment. Detachment is very different from non attachment. Detachment suggests an unfeeling indifference. By contrast, when there is an absence of attachment, healthy feelings have ample room to blossom. This is because attachment causes you to be totally consumed by something or someone.


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