As you grow older and establish yourself as an adult, you accumulate a series of experiences that some get stored in your memory. The totality of your experiences create the “shell” person that you portray to the world. Your core essence, your prime existence is pure, and filled with loving kindness towards yourself and the world. You are at peace with yourself and the world – that’s the primary human nature.
As you accumulate these pleasant and unpleasant experiences in your life, and as you respond to some of these experiences with strong emotions, you develop a certain kind of preference to some experiences over the other, and to some emotions over the other. For example, you would want to feel joyful rather than sad, calm rather than hysterical… however, as you become accustomed to certain emotions and reactions during your early life growing up, some patterns start carving themselves in you. You become attached to certain reactions to thoughts, words, situations because either that’s all you know, or, it becomes a defense mechanism allowing you to repeat previous patterns so that you don’t have to dive deep into your experience and remain in the “child mode”.
What is the child mode? You go into the child mode when you see yourself complaining, objecting over something or someone. For example, you might have a higher pitch tone, you might feel that you are being treated unfairly, or you might experience situations happening now, that trigger feelings from childhood that were generated by different circumstances… You become irrational and unaware of your behavior and give in fully to the child mode in you.
Why does this happen? You are still in the process of healing your inner child or you are unaware that you have a wounded child in you. Attachment to your behavior as a child is a way for the child to express pain and hurt and ask for attention. The way out, is in – as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh summarizes it. The way to liberation from your suffering is to go in and investigate and explore the source of your suffering, otherwise, you will keep repeating your patterns.
What does this have to do with attachment? In Buddhism, one of the core topics discussed is Attachment or non-Attachment. Last evening as I was talking to a loved one, it became clearer to me that attachment doesn’t only expand to materialistic things, or people, but also thoughts, feelings and emotions.
As a result of your traumatic or unpleasant experiences from the past, you become attached to the reactions (or emotions) you generate because of these experiences. Memories are part of you. They will keep repeating themselves as you are still attached to them, yet, it is a choice to become aware of your emotion associated with these memories. For example, if you grew up in a poor family, facing financial difficulties as an adult will trigger this memory in you and also the emotion associated with it. Then you will feel down, unhappy or go into panic mode on what to do to fix the situation. Instead, if you become aware of this whole process, acknowledge the memory when it pops up or gets triggered and make a conscious decision not to engage with it emotionally, that too, shall pass – as the Buddha says. It’ll flow as water over pebbles. But, if you choose to engage with it emotionally, you are recreating a suffering from the past that doesn’t necessarily exist in the present moment.
Non-attachment to memories and feelings generated by these memories help you lead your life in a more conscious and aware manner when you start living in this present moment, rather than in the past, or in the future.