Buddhist Attachments: A Loss of Clarity and Energy
Let's look at ways that we tend to develop distortions or 'attachments to distortions’ in how we experience life. The Buddhist concept of ‘Dependent Origination’ proposes eighteen theories of conditioning around how these distortions arise in our life, are related to each other and are passed on. The first of these theories of conditioning is called ‘Root Relations’. This theory supposes that, at times, we avoid natural responses to specific stresses through a cascade of changes in the way we identify, respond to, incorporate, remember and look at any stressful condition in our life. The energy meant to address this stress is subverted to the creation and growth of subsequent distortions.
Buddhist Attachments: Disrupted Communications between the Highest Centers of our Mind
These distortions take on three basic valences called ‘the three poisons’; greed, hate/anxiousness and delusion. In the poison called ‘Greed,’ the energy needed to deal with the stressful life event is subverted to alter our response favoring the left brain (Over-valuing of perception of something we like). In ‘Hate/Anxiousness’ we use this energy to favor the right brain (Over valuing our perception of something we fear). In delusion, we use the energy to develop a separate center within our highest mind to judge separately from all else, some aspect of our life.
Thus, when stressed we may eat too much, become excessively angry or fearful towards something in our life, or develop a prejudice about someone or something. All Buddhist attachments are addictive (not wholistic) and, as time goes by, may create a partial identity around these distortions such as “I am a fat person”, “I am a better person than you” or “I can’t help myself because I am crazy, lazy or stupid.” These distortions may serve the person in a dysfunctional way for a time and provide support from like-minded individuals. However, these distortions lack the support of a fully integrated frontal cortex and will likely lack the flexibility to deal with change in a wholistic manner.
As you may recall, the third poison, delusion, does have the support of a disconnected portion of the highest mind and thus is very difficult to recognize or change. In the end, such distortions can be used to generate enormous pain as there are no monitors on the consequences which go largely unrecognized e.g. “They got what they deserved, that will teach them to cross me.” (Loss of employment, health, life, home, family, friends, etc.)
The Objects of Our Attachments
Let's look at the second of the eighteen theories of conditioning called, ‘Object Relations.’ We all have something in our life that naturally causes us pain. Buddhist’s view this as the way life is as in, ‘Pain Exists’. We can deal with our pain directly. For example, we can ask someone why they are so angry with us. Or we can decide not to address our pain. This way we can avoid this discussion, walk around with this pent up energy until some object comes along that we can inappropriately attach this energy to.
When we distort our perception of and response to ‘an object’ (person, place or thing real or imagined), we use the energy generated by the pain to mistakenly attach a distorted meaning to something else. Buddhist literature promotes the awareness of how deeply everything is interconnected. Stress induced perceptual distortions lead to a distorted and less organic connection to our pain, the situation that led to our pain, our ‘attached’ perceptions and the objects to which these perceptions are attached.
So when someone talks about having attachments, what they are referring to is a tendency to not see or deal with their pain in a straight forward way. Instead they use this energy to create distortions and suffering in their lives and the lives of others. The object to which they are attached now is seen (labeled), ‘reacted to’, ‘incorporated into our memories’, ‘responded to’ and ‘looked for differently’ than before. This is called the Skandha process and the suffering induced is called samskara.
The emotional valence of this change depends on which of the three poisons is involved. For example, it is entirely normal when we lose someone to grieve and feel pain. If we, in place of working through these feelings become excessively preoccupied with alcohol, angry with family members or ‘convinced of the belief that death is no big deal and that others are just weak and should just get over it!’ The object in each of these is alcohol, family members and ‘others’. If we were to continue in any of these directions (greed, anger and delusion) we would not only fail to grieve our loss but now have these new distortions to deal with. Please notice that the objects chosen and their initial connection to the initiating pain could easily be forgotten or possibly never noticed. The first two will have a weakened ability to notice these changes real time while the third (‘Self or Others as weak’) has support from an ‘isolated’ portion of the highest mind and will likely unknowingly carry forward.
Seeking out the Objects of our Attachment
So, how are we to seek out these inappropriate Buddhist attachments born of avoidant greed, anger and delusion? In the Oneness Approach we reach into our relationship with our ‘spiritual source’ for both the ‘objects’ and the ‘emotional valence’ of such a search. Our mental, emotional and physical connections to our ‘spiritual source’ have created for us the potential to developing specific skills to discover and quiet such distortions. As we develop our abilities to recognize these flavors in ourselves and others we can follow our conscious and, with practice, unconscious strategies.
We can also use the love and compassion we share with others. When we surround ourselves with inspiring relationships, activities and efforts to help others we provide ourselves with many avenues of positive influence from our ‘spiritual source’. Verbally, nonverbally, we are raking the rocks from the gardens of our mind. Likely, a comment like, “Those people at the funeral were ridiculous. They were all showing their dirty underwear of weakness. Death is no big deal!” will raise a few eyebrows from our compassionate friends.
Pain is real. Our learning to deal with it can help us and those we love avoid unnecessary suffering. The Buddha’s four sights; sickness, old age, death and ascetics inspired him to look for new ways to deal with life’s pain so as to avoid suffering. This led to his ‘Four Noble Truths’ the first of which is, ‘Pain Exists’. The second speaks to our response to pain as the cause of our suffering through ‘attachments’. The third speaks to letting go of these attachments so that we can work through our pain. The fourth speaks to how we can live fully with the “Eight Fold Path”.