Practicing detachment seems to be on most people’s radars these days.
Slowly, we’re realizing that our urge to control circumstances is oftentimes futile. And though we do have control over certain matters, the chance of things turning upside down is pretty high.
Understanding that things might not always work out the way we plan and that attachment begets misery, many of us opt to detach.
But are we doing detachment right?
It took me years and a whole set of trials and errors to begin to understand what detachment is and how to practice it. Detaching can be an arduous process at first because we’re not familiar with it—we’re accustomed to grasping, clinging, and controlling.
Since detachment is so far out of our comfort zone, chances are that when we begin to practice, we end up taking it to extremes.
Here are four warning signs that you might be practicing detachment all wrong:
1. You become attached to detachment.
A few years ago, I was discussing attachment with a dear friend. At some point, he told me, “Elyane, I think you have become attached to the idea of detachment.” We burst into laughter because the idea seemed hilarious but it was actually true. You see, practicing detachment is tricky. If we’re not aware enough, we can turn detachment into another thing to which we become attached.
There’s a difference between remembering detachment as a mental concept and effortlessly practicing it. If we analyze it too much, we might obsess over it and get stuck in the meaning rather than the experience—and eventually get attached to the idea of not being attached.
2. You stop taking action.
Oftentimes, we confuse detachment with idleness. We might stop feeling passionate about things, stop embracing life, stop taking actions when necessary, or not immerse ourselves fully in a relationship. This can lead to feelings of dejection and hopelessness, which can result in us hurting ourselves or others.
Detachment isn’t about not taking action. We don’t detach from the action but from the outcome. Instead of applying force to open a closed door, we open our minds and eyes and realize that the door is already open for us—all we have to do is walk through.
3. You become arrogant.
Our ego normally kicks in when we start believing we’ve mastered something. If we feel like we’re nailing detachment, yet we also feel superior to others or judge them for being attached, then we’re doing it wrong. This is what’s known as “spiritual arrogance.”
Detachment with arrogance is dangerous because it causes us to be smug. Humility is an imperative part of detachment. When we see signs of attachment around us, we should lead by example while being patient and kind—not acting as if we’re superior.
4. You connect detachment to negativity.
This is the most dangerous part of misunderstanding detachment. I’ve met a few people who indirectly connect the idea of detachment to negativity. Before they know it, they become pessimists who can’t find goodness or value in the world.
For instance, instead of being kind to others without getting attached to expectations, they might stop all acts of kindness because they believe no one deserves it.
So how do we know we’re practicing detachment correctly? When it becomes a state of being, rather than a concept that we strive for. We remain involved in the world around us and take action when needed, but without attaching ourselves to the outcome. In other words, detachment is more mental than physical.
We know we have naturally detached when we accept—and anticipate—that things might not go our way. More importantly, we don’t allow things around us to dictate our state of mind. What happens is not who we are.
We don’t collapse after failure because we weren’t attached to the results to begin with. The art of detachment is to walk without expecting the road to be a certain way.
“Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.” ~ Ali bin Abi Talib
Author: Elyane Youssef
Image: Alexa Mazzarello/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman