Last year around this time, I was obsessed with the idea of detaching myself from everything and everyone around me. To be clear, by ‘detaching’ I don’t mean in a physical sense, but rather in an emotional sense where I didn’t allow my feelings to be affected by things/people leaving my life.
The process was helpful in many ways – I purged all my stuff (both through donation and Kijiji), all the way down to 5 boxes that held all my stuff just before I took off for my adventure in late February; my relationships were formed around the idea “if you decide to leave, it won’t bother me,” which was absolutely necessary seeing as I was holding a one-way ticket to India; it also allowed me to focus on the idea of being present in every moment, which opened my eyes to incredible synchronicity of the Universe.
However, what I didn’t consider was the enormous, detrimental side-effect that came along with my approach. While learning to detach, I unintentionally began to numb myself from feeling. Basically, detaching myself from things/people meant ridding myself of my feelings for them. I used mind tricks and hacks (i.e. quickly shifting my perspective) to make sure no matter what happened, I wasn’t affected in way that held me back. In essence I was building this so called ‘mental toughness’ we’ve come to praise in our society, not realizing the danger involved in doing.
With no ability to properly explore feelings, not only do we lose awareness of ourselves, but we also lose our empathy of others. I still remember being with my most important friend at the time and at one point telling her that if she decided to leave in that moment, it wouldn’t bother me at all. I played it off as though I was understanding of the fact that she had the choice to do whatever she wanted and all I could do was respect that choice; but what I wasn’t acknowledging my lack of experiencing how it would truly make me feel. The same applied to things that contained a lot of meaning attached to them, and I either gave it away or sold it as though it no longer had an effect on me.
With my trip a mere months away, I was all the more motivated to just clean house since I knew in just a matter of time I would be starting a new life overseas.
However, it was in India when I first began to realize the flaws of my approach to detachment.
Emotions which I had suppressed for so long began to erupt. I desperately used my bag of mental tricks to keep me afloat, but as time passed I knew I was starting to sink. At that point, unbeknownst to me at the time, I began to attach and cling to anything and everything I was capable of. My possessions and people began the only thing that kept me from drowning.
Upon coming home, feeling even more lost than ever, the attachment increased even more. Not only was I drowning, but I had no idea how to swim again in these new waters. Losing myself to the instinct of survival I turned my whole sense of validation to the people and stuff around me. What they thought of me, was who I considered myself to be. I used my words and actions as weapons to hold onto the things that were keeping me afloat.
But as many of us know, on the path to self-awareness there’s only so long you can look outwards for ‘saving’ before you’re forced learn the hard way.
And that’s exactly what happened. Like a sharp knife cutting through a string, the things I became so attached to started to let me go.
“WTF!!!” I exclaimed, as without these lifelines, and no idea of how to swim again, there seemed to be no way out.
And there wasn’t. For the first time in my life, I had no capacity to tread any longer… to utilize the mind hacks or build up the walls to keep my emotions as bay. I finally reached a point where the only option was to allow myself to drown into my emotions. To experience, allow, accept how I feel in every moment, with my ego only being able to make sudden, short-term experiences before dying hard rather fast.
This process of emotional overwhelm still continues, but after a few weeks of it now I’m amazed at what is happening.
The more I allow myself to express and feel these suppressed emotions, the more familiar they become, and the less power they hold over me. It reminds me of this dream I had in South America a few years ago where I was in this really dark, scary place and out of nowhere light appeared and the darkness could no longer exist. In a similar light, as I go through these emotions that I’ve deflected for so long I’m beginning to learn to walk underwater. And as my emotional load decreases, I find myself naturally floating back to the top without any effort required to swim.
By no means am I at that point yet, but I have felt the sweet tastes of progress. The more I allow myself to feel, the more aware I become of myself as a whole. The less ‘mental toughness’ I build, the less ‘toughness’ I need to get through life. Day in and day out, as I allow all my emotions to become an equal part of me, the more I become the whole person I know I was designed to be. The more I dive into how my attachments make me feel, the less attached I feel to them.
It’s these strange contradictions that keep me in awe of personal development. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, you’re forced to get out of what you figured. Over and over again, the vast realm of perspectives open themselves up for you to witness what lies beyond our unconscious patterns, sneakily controlling us from the dark like puppets.
I’ve been told I analyze this mind stuff too much, but I’m starting to realize maybe we’ve confused analyzing with understanding. Maybe Socrates wasn’t kidding when he said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
To all of you who relentlessly pursue a greater understanding of yourself – Keep going and don’t be dissuaded. For what you find with will be greater than any distraction without can give you.