a work in progress

detachment v. avoidance

notebook - stillmovingblog.com


First, let me apologize for not posting last Wednesday. Other projects are pulling my focus from still.moving, and I had to make the choice to publish a lousy post or publish nothing. So, I chose the latter. It was, after all, the easier option.

For the past month-or-so I’ve been rereading my old notebooks. The one I’ve enjoyed going through most is the notebook I carried with me during a month-long trip to India. One of the major ideas I pondered over the course of that trip was the Buddhist principle of attachment. This core belief states that in order to reach enlightenment we should not be reliant on any ideas, things, or even people. These attachments bound our minds and cause suffering.

So, let’s say I have an attachment to my physical discomfort. I’m speaking hypothetically; this does not at all resemble the actual situation. If this attachment was real, then having a higher than normal pain day would negatively impact my mood, my behaviors, and maybe even my view of the world.

And this would be one big attachment fail.

Allow me for a moment to pause and address every reader with a chronic health condition who is getting angrier with each word, thinking, Of course I’m in a bad mood when I’m in pain! What does this self-righteous Buddhist wannabe expect?

Take a breath, keep reading, and try to keep in mind that what I write is nothing more than expectations I hold for myself.

My ultimate goal in pain management is to notice my pain, make any adjustments to ameliorate it, then let it go. That’s detachment. Another method of dealing with physical discomfort would be noticing the pain, pretending it’s not there, and then complaining throughout the subsequent flair over the next three-ish days. That’s called avoidance, and I’m already really good at that.

The two are quite different, but sometimes might be difficult to tell apart. For example [and again, this is just a hypothetical situation and not one that I witness every day on social media], take the person whose post is nothing more than a rant disguised as an update with an “uplifting” message tacked on the end. It might read something like, My life is terrible and I hate everything and everyone, but I am stronger than this and it won’t get me down! This person is, most likely, avoiding the feeling that they are a helpless victim, and masking it as a hopeful Instagram post. Again, this is purely hypothetical.

As hard as it is to watch people kidding themselves, I know that a life of detachment is an extraordinarily tall order and not one that everyone will believe is worth pursuing. And that’s quite alright. It really sucks to sit with discomfort, whether it’s physical pain or negative emotions. You’d have to wholeheartedly believe that this is the way to go before putting yourself through that.

So, these are a few of my thoughts over the past two weeks. I’m looking back at the person I was on this trip in September 2010 and trying to figure out what’s different [if anything] about where I stand now. I feel like as long as I’m a little ahead of where I was then I’m doing okay.

Then again that goal may be a bit too easy.


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