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Attachment and Non-Attachment

What is attachment?

The concepts of attachment in spirituality can refer to either the Buddhist concept of attachment and its correlation with impermanence and suffering, or the concept of attachment theory in relationship psychology.

In Buddhism, attachment has to do with an individual’s desire for and clinging to the material world. Through this attachment, one becomes dependent upon the material world for comfort, but the material world is impermanent, and as such, the things we are attached to are also impermanent. Buddhism teaches a philosophy of non-attachment to help individuals recognize and release desire and attachment to the material world, and alleviate suffering caused by that attachment.

The Psychological Concept of Attachment

In psychology, attachment refers to the interpersonal emotional bonds created and experienced between individuals or groups of people. Human beings are social animals and require healthy bonds of attachment to remain mentally and emotionally well. Healthy interdependence is the ideal state.

When an individual exhibits unhealthy attachment behavior, it can manifest across a broad spectrum as codependency and control issues in one extreme (anxious attachment), and narcissism and extreme independence/avoidance in the other extreme (detachment/avoidant attachment).

What is non-attachment?

Non-attachment is the practice of finding a healthy middle ground between attachment and detachment.

Non-attachment is not to be conflated with detachment. Detachment lacks compassion, and healthy non-attachment is full of compassion. Detachment leads to emotional and spiritual bypassing. Non-attachment accepts all emotional responses as valid and a necessary part of the human experience.

The spiritual concept of non-attachment, when applied to interpersonal relationships, is synonymous with the psychological concept of healthy interdependence.


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