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Attachment to Outcome

by Dr. Robert Glover on Apr 1st, 2012.     2 comments

sufferingIn my classes, groups, and workshops, I often speak of the suffering, anxiety, and paralysis that comes from an attachment to outcome. Most people initially have a difficult time understanding what attachment to outcome actually means.

The Buddha said that attachment is the cause of all suffering.

I add that attachment is also the cause of all anxiety. It can also be a slippery slope toward a loss of integrity.

Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” He is describing the suffering that comes from attachment. The same principle can easily be applied to most situations in life. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his need to manage his anxiety demands that he not understand it.”

I have refined my definition of “attachment” to the following, “An emotionalized attachment to a specific outcome.” In other words, having a big emotional investment in things turning out a certain way.

We are often unaware of what we are attached to. When I am working with someone who is feeling stuck, “confused”, (in quotes because I don’t believe in confusion), or resentful about something in life or in a personal relationship, I often ask, “What would you do if you had absolutely no attachment to outcome in this situation?”

They usually blurt a very simple, straightforward answer.

  • “I would break up with her.”

  • “I would tell the truth.”

  • “I would tell my boss ‘no’.”

  • “I would just ask her out.”

  • “I would do what I want.”

Our attachments distract us from the simple, elegant solutions in life. Our minds are often blinded to these solutions because of our desire for a particular outcome.

Paying attention to the items in the list below can help you become conscious of the things to which you are attached. Whenever you become aware of any of these dynamics, ask yourself What am I attached to? Be willing to receive answers that make you uncomfortable.

  • What you complain about.

  • What agitates you.

  • What makes you anxious.

  • What you try to control.

  • What you fear losing.

  • What you are afraid you won’t get enough of.

  • Where you keep getting stuck.

  • What makes you feel confused.

Here is an interesting irony:

Pain is an unavoidable part of life.

Most suffering comes from our attachment to not wanting to experience pain.

Once we accept that life is sometimes painful and difficult, we can then let go of our attachment to our desire to avoid feeling pain or struggle with difficult things. Life then actually begins to feel less painful or difficult.

Robert

Topics: Consciousness Facing Fear Living in The Now Personal Integration

2 Comments

Jim says ...
This is an important concept that could be very freeing. At the same time, it seems like it must be kept in some kind of context. Reacting too quickly could have some negative consequences, it would seem to me. I'd like to see more on this subject, examples of how this plays out in real life.
Francois says ...
I agree with the previous comment. As I read this post, I thought that breaking the law could be a result of not being attached to outcomes... so definitely, consequences are important to take into account before letting go of all attachments.

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