That needy, panicky, desperate feeling you have around your partner isn’t a sign of being madly in love, you know. According to Buddhist nun Robina Courtin, it’s an indicator that you’re too attached to your other half, and that your thinking might need straightening out a little. Here she explains how to do just that…
First of all, we assume that love and attachment are the same thing. But the Buddhist way of understanding our emotions is that attachment is the neurotic, dissatisfied part of us that yearns for someone out there, believing that when we get him or her, we’ll be happy.
Love, on the other hand, is referring to an altruistic part of our being – a connection with others, wish that they be happy, and a delight in their well-being.
We can feel both attachment and love, of course,and it’s hard to see the difference. They’re like milk and water mixed together. If there’s any joy in our relationship, it’s because of love. If there’s anger and hurt and jealousy and the rest, it’s the result of attachment.
At the most fundamental level, attachment is that feeling of neediness deep inside us. It’s the belief that somehow I am not enough, I don’t have enough, and no matter what I do or what I get, it’s never enough. Then, of course, because we’re so convinced it’s true, we hanker after someone out there, and when we find the one who triggers our good feelings, we attach ourselves to getting them, convinced they’re the one who will fulfill our needs and make us truly happy and content.
This attachment is the source of all our other unhappy emotions. Because it’s desperate to get what it wants, the minute it doesn’t – the moment he or she doesn’t ring, or comes home late, or looks at someone else – panic arises and immediately turns to anger and then jealousy or low-self esteem.
Stage 1 Believing you can do it
The fact is attachment, anger, jealousy or any other painful emotion is not set in stone – they’re all just old habits. The first step is to be confident that by knowing your mind, you can learn to distinguish between the various emotions inside and gradually learn to change them. The first challenge involves truly believing you can accomplish this. And that alone is huge – without it, you’re stuck.
Stage 2 Look at your thoughts
Then you need to step back from all the endless chatter in your head. A really simple way to do this is to sit down for just a few minutes every morning and focus on something. The breath is a good start. With determination, you can decide to pay attention to the breath – the sensation at your nostrils as you breathe in and out. The moment your mind wanders, bring your focus back to the breath. The goal is not to make the thoughts go away; but to not get involved in them, and learn to let them come and go.
The long-term result of a technique like this is a super-focused mind, and that’ll take time. But the almost immediate benefit will be that, as you attempt to step back from the stories in your head, you will begin to be objective about them and slowly start to unravel, deconstruct and eventually change them.
About the author
Australian-born Tibetan Buddhist nun Robina Courtin travels the world teaching Buddhist psychology and philosophy and helping those in need. Robina’s life and work is the subject of Amiel Courtin- Wilson’s award-winning film Chasing Buddha.