3. Thought Attachment
Perhaps the most insidious of all, thought attachment can destroy physical, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal well-being in the blink of an eye.
When we attach ourselves to a belief, expectation, preconceived notion, or idea – especially if these are negative or harmful – we in a sense walk around with a loaded gun. Eventually, we end up shooting ourselves, and others, with our thought attachments: it’s practically inevitable.
When we attach ourselves to a thought, we do so because they bring us either comfort, ego justification, or a sense of order and security. For instance, many of us possess thought attachments like: “I’m always like this. I can never change”, “Those people are all a bunch of idiots/thugs/thief’s/liars, etc.,” “I have found the truth! I’m right and they’re all wrong,” “My life should be like this _________,” “It will always be this way. It will never change.”
Those who are strongly attached to their thoughts tend to use extremist language, canceling out all other perspectives or possibilities and creating psychological and emotional tension, harm, and limited perception. The vocabulary usually includes words and phrases like “should,” “right/wrong,” “good/evil,” “always,” “never,” “forever,” “they are all,” “you are all,” “I am always,” “they are always,” “you are never,” “they are never,” and so forth.
Thought non-attachment, on the other hand, observes a thought, but does not identify with it, and therefore does not attach to the thought. This experience is usually developed by quieting the mind, such as in the practice of meditation, where one learns the true nature of thought: that all thought arises spontaneously and we do not control our thoughts. Because we do not control our thoughts, we are not our thoughts, we are the space behind them (also known as Consciousness). Therefore, why should we take them so seriously?
Thought non-attachment allows us to be liberated from the narrow cycles of the mind that we become trapped in, to a more expansive and open-minded perception of the world.
If you struggle with thought attachment you:
- Tend to try and “figure everything out” all the time.
- Believe certain cultures or groups of people are all alike.
- Are quite hard and judgmental towards yourself, and thus are hard and judgmental towards others.
- Stereotype people easily.
- Believe people and situations are either entirely good, entirely bad, entirely right, or entirely wrong.
- Tend to see the world in black and white, e.g., something or someone is always like this, or never does that.
- Often get lost in your head: your thoughts seem to possess you.
- Feel controlled by your thoughts: they can easily make you extremely sad, bitter, angry, jealous, etc.
Don’t feel dismayed if you can relate to one (or all) forms of attachment. We are all imperfect, we are all human, and that’s perfectly okay. Simply being aware of these forms of attachment, however, will help give us that extra centimeter of space between our True Nature and our false attachments.
How To Stop Being Attached To Thoughts, Feelings, People, And Circumstances
Non-attachment is usually the byproduct of spiritual practices such as self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-love. Here are some useful ways to begin letting go of habits, desires, and thought patterns that no longer serve you:
1. Stop looking for happiness in external things.
When we chase happiness by believing that someone or something outside of ourselves can make us happy, we suffer. In fact, the pursuit of happiness is the greatest form of attachment there is in society.
Instead, try to direct your attention inwards. At first, seeking happiness from within (involution) can be extremely difficult as we’ve been conditioned to find “happiness” in material things, accomplishments, titles, and people. But with practice, you will start to find the peaceful center within you known as your soul. Regularly setting aside time to be quiet and still with yourself can help you tune into this inner space.