This Sunday, we celebrated our first attachment figure: Mom. Like it or not, we internalized her since we were conceived. I remember a New Yorker cartoon depicting a new mother holding her baby while talking with a friend. The caption read, “I know the voice she hears in her head at my age will be mine.”
We hear her praise, condemnation, tone of voice. We watched her, modeled after her, yelled at her, pleased her, failed to please her, wished she were different, wished she were there, wished she wasn’t there, missed her, judged her and needed her terribly. …and those first years when she was most stressed, especially if we were her first-born, we may have had trouble forming an attachment to her. Remember the Woody Allen film where the huge mother’s head was following him around Manhattan? A fine example of an attachment problem. Ours are more subtle; so subtle that we only encounter them when our needs are not met in relationships, especially at home and in the workplace.
Here are a few breadcrumbs from my attachment therapy folder that I carry through my day, whether working with patients or designing iconic and therapeutic jewelry that may help us in our journey to attach to something within ourselves so that we may detach from the people and outcomes of our world.
- Whenever you blame someone for disappointing or shaming you, use it. Ask yourself if you had this feeling when you were small and could not express it. Just be curious. This is not an exercise in condemnation.
- Imagine we may not have been loved and accepted for who we were but for how we fit into the family — or society — while creating the least amount of trouble or discomfort for those around us.
- Be curious about glitches and bumps in your own early attachment. No parent is perfect. The aim is to not re-enact any possible disruption in attachment over and over again. This is about our healing, not blaming.
- Contemplate: suffering is caused by desiring outcomes that we have no control over. See this as a reflection of how we felt as infants.
- Try meditation: seeking a greater Self within you, toward which the desire for attachment may be nourished. Try consistently. I know, it seems impossible. Suzuki Roshi said, “Life is impossible.” A student asked, “Then how do we do it?” “You do it every day,” he replied.
- Now, meet Jizo Bodhisattva, Buddhism’s “Earth Womb” who promised Buddha he would remain on earth until all souls were finished suffering. Imagine that the essence of this teacher resides within all of us. Call it the Holy Spirit, the unconscious, the Higher Power; it doesn’t matter what you call it, so long as you are willing to try calling it.
- Suspend disbelief for a moment and climb into Jizo’s arms, into his robes and being held warm and safe in the Earth Womb. Imagine that nothing outside of yourself is going to quell your anxiety as well as the internalization of a timeless being.
- Now, once this attachment has begun, you can begin the ultimate work of detaching. The gift of allowing the world its process; allowing yourself and loved ones the dignity of their choices, their words, their feelings. This is a loving detachment, not cutting off to avoid pain.
When we practice this, we allow ourselves to be re-Mothered, re-parented, awakened to our deepest nature. We may observe our old attachment to outcomes with humor; we may fill the world with our laughter.
With palms together, I bow to all those who try to give care without attachment.