The Double-Edged Sword Of Attachment

sword

Photo: Snake3yes

Several weeks ago, my now 15-month-old son developed a fever to 103.5 F.  Usually a champion sleeper, that night he woke several times with a frenetic look in his eyes and a jerkiness to his movements that frankly unnerved me.  The heat coming off his little febrile body almost made me start sweating myself.  He had no other symptoms to suggest the cause of his fevers, and even though our pediatrician had been reassuring when I’d called early in the day (“fevers in kids are a dime a dozen”), my doctor brain was kicking in full-blast with worry over it’s cause.

The fevers lasted five days and then ceased on the sixth, just as a diffuse rash broke out over his chest, neck, and arms.  “Roseola,” I told my wife after a quick bit of research, a benign viral infection that strikes children ages 1-3.  Our pediatrician confirmed the diagnosis and within two days he was back to normal.

WE ALL HAVE ATTACHMENTS

From the moment we’re born we face a troubling paradox:  life is made interesting, fun, and happy by the attachments we form, but the loss of these same attachments lies as the root cause of our worst pain in life.  Even when merely threatened with the loss of a beloved attachment—whether a person or a thing—we often suffer.  The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, referred to birth as the first of the four sufferings (old age, sickness, and death being the remaining three) to indicate that being born into this world inevitably destines us to suffer the pain of separation from our attachments.  These four sufferings are what led him to ask this most fundamental question:  how can we achieve any kind of meaningful, lasting happiness when every person and every thing to which we ever become attached will eventually be lost to us?

COMMON SOLUTIONS

There are many ways people throughout history have either consciously or unconsciously attempted to answer this question.  What follows are the strategies I’ve found to be the most common ones:

  1. Limit the number of external things upon which we base our happiness.  When we lose something we care about, this approach often leads us to remind ourselves things like, “At least I still have my health” or “As long as my children are okay, I’ll be all right…”  But two problems exist with this strategy:  one, we remain vulnerable to losing everything, including those few things we think we can’t lose and still remain happy; and two, whenever we do lose one of those key attachments, feeling grateful for not having lost something equally or even more precious rarely blunts the pain of it.
  2. Attach to nothing.  An unreachable goal many people attempt anyway.  Desire is ingrained in us psychologically, physiologically, probably even genetically if for no other reason than to ensure our survival.  How can you live without being attached to breathing, for example?  Further, human beings are intrinsically meaning-seeking creatures—but how could we create value if we weren’t attached to achieving goals?  How would it serve our friends, our spouses, or our children to limit the degree to which we care about them simply to be able to diminish the force of the blow that losing them might one day bring us?
  3. Attach to things but deny the pain of their loss.  Another common strategy doomed to produce more misery than it avoids.  As experience confirms, when we refuse to allow ourselves to experience legitimate grief, it remains somewhere within us, freezing our ability to recover from our loss.  Experiencing grief over loss is necessary to return to happiness.  Any pain we’re due that instead we bury will fester like a wound that never heals, often manifesting in surprising—and always damaging—ways.
APPREHEND THE TRUTH

How, then, can we be happy if our lives are destined to be filled with the pain of loss?  The answer, I believe, lies in breaking through two delusions:

  1. That our happiness is created out of any one particular attachment, no matter how precious it may be.  For me, this would mean giving up a belief that I couldn’t be happy if I lost my wife, my son, or my ability to write.  There was, of course, a time in my life before I had any of those things when I was nevertheless happy.  Why, then, if I lost them now do I believe such happiness would be impossible to regain?  The answer:  not because it actually would be, but because I believe it would be.  There are numerous reasons why I believe this—and if you’ve suffered a heartbreaking loss, you may be screaming out that you can’t be happy again even as you read this—but the truth is you can even if you don’t want to be.  As I wrote in a previous post, Letter To A Widow, having lost a loved one we sometimes become reluctant to fully surrender our grief even after it’s run its proper course, as if it were something precious in and of itself—perhaps believing the pain of loss is the only thing keeping us connected to our loved one, or that to feel happy again would be to diminish the significance of the relationship we once enjoyed.  But neither is true.  If I allowed the loss of my son to destroy me, it would only happen as a result of just exactly that:  my allowing it.
  2. That the pain of loss necessarily destroys happiness.  Pain, by definition, is aversive.  But viewing the pain of loss from an enlightened perspective can give it a purpose that mutes its aversiveness just as when a weightlifter embraces the perspective that “pain equals gain” (the pain of lifting a heavy weight is transformed into a survivable—even enjoyable—experience because of the result it produces, growth).  The Buddha’s solution to the inevitability of the suffering of birth was to connect to a source of happiness that relied on nothing external, a connection he was ultimately only able to attain by using the pain of being separated from his attachments as a springboard.  And having achieved that connection to the core truth about himself he was able to manifest a life-condition in which he could experience all of life joyfully—even while being at the same time sad, mad, hurt, or ill.  As I wrote in another previous post, Changing Poison Into Medicine, it’s precisely because we’re challenged with the pain of loss that we’re able to develop this lofty state of life.
IT’S EASY TO SAY…

…but quite another to believe such a state of life is possible.  And even quite another to actually manifest it.  And yet…I’ve experienced brief moments of what that kind of life-condition feels like.  And each time I’ve thought to myself:  if this experience can happen for a single moment, why couldn’t it happen for several moments?  Why couldn’t it happen for an hour?  A day?  A week?  Why, in fact, couldn’t it become my predominant life state?  And yours?

This would require, it seems to me, two things:  a great enough expectation that such a life state is indeed possible to motivate us to seek the second thing, a reliable method for manifesting it.  A method that, like weight lifting, if done correctly, would build not strength of muscle but strength of life force.

If such a life state isn’t possible, then we’re all doomed to have our happiness remain at the mercy of our changing environment, to gather to ourselves what external attachments we can and do our best to hide them from the purview of fate and circumstance, desperately hoping to avoid their loss even knowing eventually we will lose something critical to our happiness.

I know many people are resigned to believing this, but not me.  One reason is that I’ve encountered patients who’ve lost spouses and even children who, though still carrying their sadness with them, have managed somehow not to be destroyed by it; who’ve not only learned to be happy again but even, in once case, to radiate joy.  There’s something these people know that the rest of us don’t.  But if they can learn it, so can we.

There’s ample reason to try.  Each time my son has tripped and smashed his head on our maple wood floor, freezing my heart mid-beat, I’ve thought the same thing:  we’re all born into constant danger, both ourselves and our loved ones.  It may change its face as we age but never for one moment does it relax its grip.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could only develop a life state in which our worry over that danger ultimately became unimportant?

NEXT WEEK: How To Be A Leader

21 comments to The Double-Edged Sword Of Attachment

  • Like in the Alanis Morrisette song “You Learn,” everything is a lesson, and being biological creatures, change is undefferable. Some people tally up the good and bad and can become embittered; I prefer not to assign value to the events, and simply call them all lessons.

    Having agency in this way, therefore, makes me happy.

    I do like the idea of raising one’s life energy.

    Lisa: I couldn’t agree more with the notion of deferring the assignation of value to events. What appears at first to be a terrible thing could literally one day turn out to be the exact thing we needed at that time in our lives to advance. Easier said than done, though…

    Alex

  • rdp

    What a great post to start the day with!

    I love these essays in which you apply a scientific methodology to engaging with the world of feelings. So many of us grow up believing that feelings are like the ocean; we can be lifted up by them but as easily dashed down or even destroyed. As a result, most of us are passive in the face of what feels like an overwhelming force against puny and impotent us.

    As I have gotten older, I have come to see that our reality consists in what we are able to perceive, or the analogies we choose to describe what we see, not in some objective “truth” we apprehend perfectly through our senses. It takes an incredible amount of effort to imagine the possibility that emotions are NOT like the ocean, even if it feels exactly like that to us. But once we can admit this possibility (and I think of this like the movement from magical to scientific thinking) a world of options opens up. We get to choose how we are going to regard what we encounter, and we get to experiment to test whether the way we have chosen actually “works.”

    I wish I had gotten to this point a lot earlier in life! But I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggest that allowing oneself to feel pain (grief) is a necessary precondition to escaping the passive condition—though no guarantee you will be wise enough to use it as a springboard!

  • russds

    Interesting thoughts. My son is 14 months, and I can definitely relate to the scared feeling when you think they are sick, and not knowing what’s going on. It’s scary…also scary to see how much you care for them, and how much power they start to hold over you…in a good way.

  • Andrea

    I saw a transformation from horrific grief to a joyful acceptance. My brother died at thirty from acute myoblastic leukemia. My mother became clinically depressed. This was 1966 and their were no antidepressants, grief couseling, support groups, etc. She started living again after about a year but her anger and sadness remained. But then she did something that I’ve seen many people in her situation do: she volunteered at the cancer research hospital where my brother died. Doing something meaningful in the face of loss does seem to help turn many people around. Eventually there was a level you didn’t mention. As the years passed she thought of my brother with joy; somehow she came to the point of not just acceptance, but with gratitude that he’d been part of her life. My aunt found some photographs of my brother as a child with a friend and I wanted to give them to my mother. My aunt thought they’d bring back painful memories. I knew better: my mother was ninety-three then and in a nursing home. When she saw the photographs she smiled and told me a story about my brother and his friend. She truly was at peace with her loss. She didn’t believe in an afterlife; that didn’t enter into it. I’ve never seen anyone reach this level. It has helped me enormously with the losses I’ve had. I know that it is possible to be at peace and have joy surrounding a profound loss. One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given.

    Andrea: For me, too, it’s so encouraging to hear stories like this.

    Alex

  • Rodrian Roadeye

    I had an uncle who’s wife became sick. As he prayed and prayed outside her room he said that it suddenly hit him that prayer wasn’t the answer. God already knew what was going to happen, and so he prayed differently: “If it be Thy will please spare her, but not my will, but Thy will be done.” He was already mentally conditioning himself to let go if he had to. She lived, and a few years later he and his daughter were killed in a terrible plane crash. His wife remarried less than a year after that. I am sure that he taught her the necessity of grieving and moving on. They still left the legacy of a wonderful son who is now every bit as radiant as his parents. Pain and suffering are not noble. What matters is how you react to them. You can choose to become stronger and move on, which may sound “callous,” but that is what protects your life-force. If you sit festering and “blister” you will never heal and your old wounds will open up and drown your growth. Scars are the badges of life’s trials. Each one is a marker for a finished chapter of your life. All the rest is just window dressing, your book’s cover.

  • Marbles

    I don’t think you have to cling to happiness. Suffering is beautiful. I think it’s just another part of the spectrum. Another color in the rainbow.

  • Tony

    Alex…you crack me up. Roseola!!! The minute I read high fever then a rash my non-doctor brain—but father of four kids brain—told me Roseola. Fortunately for me, I don’t have a doctor’s brain. I let my pediatrician do what he’s paid for. Unfortunately for you…you know too much. I think you should have a few more kids. Double your pleasure…double your fun…half you sleep time. Hugs…Tony

  • malav

    I’ve read a little about Buddhism, suffering, and attachment. I’ve also read about Taoism and for me the Ying Yang of Taoism is easier to grasp, i.e., you will have happy times and sad times with a mixture of both in each. The overall point being that everything is in constant flux, happiness is never infinite nor is sadness, so just deal with whatever comes up and remember that it will soon pass. No point in trying to “transcend” anything. Another great point of Taoism is to go with the flow of the Tao, like a river running that winds and bends over rocks, sticks, etc. Perhaps achieving your goal isn’t a straight shot but a roundabout route. Accept it instead of fighting and bemoaning that fact that things aren’t working out exactly as you planned. Easy to say, difficult to practice.

  • Blind Panic

    Isn’t it a bit selfish to put your own happiness above everything else? It is sometimes necessary for me to suffer and sacrifice for those few people I care about.

  • Blind Panic

    It’s selfish to put your own NEEDS and your own COMFORT above everything else. Happiness is not something you can create or affect. You just have to let happiness look after itself; it usually comes through self-sacrifice anyway.

  • Blind Panic

    I think that it is silly to complain about the pain of attachment to a loved one. We are as lucky as gods if we are attached. It’s one of the greatest joys of human existence. If it makes me cry sometimes, I don’t mind. I even feel privileged when I’m in a painful floods of tears. What’s worse than having no one to cry over?

  • Tony LaPorta

    A Painful Flood of Tears

    Nothing grows without water.

  • jstele

    The answer to attachment is surrender. We just need to allow ourselves to feel the attachment, to not have what we want desperately, or not be what we want to be. That doesn’t mean we don’t pursue what has value to us, but we can do it with a sense of perspective. We can know that something has value without being consumed by it. Nothing is worth investing our whole power in. This is different from tolerance where we just submit to our fate. The reason we attach is due to fear. We think that clinging to what we want will help us get it or keep it. But what we are really looking for is a sense of security. Security can only come from the knowing that we can take care of ourselves.

    jstele: Agreed.

    Alex

  • Blind Panic

    This is my point of view.

    The pain I am talking about here is the emotional pain caused by the relationship with a friend or sweetheart, rather than by the death of a loved one or the break-up of your parents.

    I ask you, why are you not willing to pay what it costs for the joy of attachment to another human being? The price is always a certain amount of pain, as the one you love will never do exactly what you want or need 100 percent of the time, leaving you upset/in bits/suicidal every so often. The pain is there for a good reason—that things suck sometimes. If you think you can avoid it, you are barking up the wrong tree and in danger of screwing up a beautiful relationship. Just take the damn pain and be grateful that you’ve got to suffer it. It is a happy kind of pain. Imagine having no relationships and no pain of attachment—that is called living death. I can’t believe that Buddhists are afraid of submitting to this bittersweet emotional trauma. Are you really that spoiled for company and human relationships? You seem to have no idea of the value of attachment. Imagine what it would be like to be truly alone, destitute and broken. Then you would put up with a lot of crap in order to gain a friend. If you reject the pain of attachment, you reject life.

    Anyway guys, respect, thank you for submitting to my tongue-lashing. I welcome replies.

    Please leave my grammar alone.

    Blind Panic: Nowhere in my post did I state or even imply that Buddhists are afraid to submit to the “bittersweet emotional trauma” that is life. In fact, a famous Nichiren Buddhist quotation states: “Suffer what there is to suffer. Enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life…”

    And, sorry, I reserve the right to correct any and all glaring grammatical and spelling mistakes (though you happened not to have any). ;)

    Alex

  • anjela

    Having a sense of possible loss when your child was ill was one thing but had your child died not sure you’d be writing the same article and giving assessments to other people’s grief who have loved and lost. Yes we attach but we don’t attach with the prospect with losing always. I can only speak for myself. I think when one loves one’s child or spouse or partner or anyone with whom a person is truly close to, the grief can’t at that moment be just written off as “better days are ahead” or “chin up.” Grief should be respected and the lesson I have learned has been to love someone as much as you can for whatever time you have so that if in the event that something happens—be it an ending of any kind (not just death) then you can look back and think how you loved that person and have no regrets. Yes you may be happy again but forever there is a void—like looking at an old sepia photograph where people in the picture fade and life is like that, a continual blurring of places and people fading from the original picture.

    Angela: Just because some losses we suffer in the course of our lives are devastating and many don’t ever really recover doesn’t mean recovery isn’t possible. And then there’s the issue of what exactly it means to recover. You say, “Yes, you may be happy again but forever there is a void.” I wonder how that experience may differ from person to person. And I certainly didn’t mean to imply grief can effectively dealt with by saying simply, “Chin up.” But given that all things do end, doesn’t it make sense for us to search for a way to remain happy despite our losses—to use them even as a way to become happier?

    Alex

  • Jessica

    Two days after Hurricane Katrina left my two kids and I homeless, I got a big lesson in attachment…and from an unlikely source, my 5 year old daughter. We were walking through a store in Georgia, and I fought back tears as we tried to find a map so we could navigate across the country and somehow find the rest of my family that had been scattered in the evacuation. My daughter looked up at me from the grocery cart, wiped a tear from my cheek and said, “It’s okay, Mommy…you know you can’t buy a new ME at Wal-Mart.” Suddenly I realized that all the things I mourned for were just that, things. Replaceable things. And it was that idea that somehow gave me the courage to keep going and remake a life for all of us. Now, looking back, that storm was the best thing that ever happened to me. I now have an amazing husband, a new life in a great city, and more than I ever dreamed of having! I truly believe that while we have no control over things that happen to us or around us, we have absolute control over the way we react to them.

    Jessica: What a fantastic story! Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Alex

  • Blind Panic

    “Suffer what there is to suffer. Enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life…”

    I stand corrected.

  • Nia

    Thank you. I know I’m over something traumatic that happened to me. But sometimes, when I’m feeling a little bit lonely, I let it take a hold on me again, just because it’ll let this isolated moment of emptiness fit into a bigger theme…

  • [...] that’s exactly how it feels.  The reason is simply this:  as I wrote in a previous post, The Double-Edged Sword Of Attachment, the degree of attachment we feel for things has far less to do with the things themselves than [...]

  • Anne Tyler

    Interesting that I should read this today. Not because there is some deep hidden meaning that drew me here. Or perhaps it is deep but not hidden and so I was drawn to it by being “connected” somehow to where I am? Either way I guess it doesn’t matter. The facts are what matter.

    Let me ask you this. Or suggest it anyway for your consideration and whether or not you answer I hope you think about it. Yes, an answer would be “nice” but it would also be nice if I could say where I am to someone who thinks about this stuff on a deeper level. But if I may first say, it’s my thought straight off that the reason you have this belief that you can overcome losing an attachment is that otherwise you couldn’t move forward and that you will wait until its a “done deal” before you lose it. So you tell yourself now a fable meant to quell your uneasiness? NOT meaning that to be an insolent attack on your own reality or what you CHOOSE to perceive as reality. Just a statement for your consideration.

    I have only just the past 3 days discovered something that I had no desire to discover and would rather not. And it is perhaps not a double but a triple-edged sword. Because it involves the loss of both of my children. The possibility of being alienated from by older son has stirred up in me an old enemy—depression, a state I have achieved too many times in life beginning as a child of 7 and which more than likely has a great deal to do with the recurrence of same during various periods of my life. Actually its never gone—just the flames extinguished that other people MIGHT SEE even while the embers that serve as ignition to the flames smolder on.

    Anyway just suffice it to say that I have come to an uneasy half-acceptance that I am, like everyone else, getting older. Obviously from the day we are born we are all getting older and that much closer to death, it’s just that for quite some time there are no visible signs of deterioration. When we lose our baby teeth no real reason to mourn that—after all we have a new set coming in. But now, getting older, for example, if we lose THESE TEETH (and not due to benign neglect—okay miss brushing and flossing as much as we ought to but still not neglect—skimping maybe) then we will be forced to either get false teeth. I have not studied false teeth per se but if it works the same as most other things, its possible to get a sliding scale of quality-value, i.e. I imagine wealthy people and/or movie stars can afford to get a GOOD set of replacements that don’t SCREAM OUT from across the room FALSE TEETH. Those of us with more meager finances get anywhere from bargain basement (I understand George Washington had false teeth—wooden teeth—and assuming for the sake of argument that’s true, maybe they were state of the art “back then” but would certainly not even qualify for bargain basement today). So false teeth may be more of a “thing” to those of us who can’t afford top dollar false teeth. I’ve had my share of cavities that seems to have occurred—whether coincidence or not—when I became pregnant with my first child. But for a long time I was able to stave off further deterioration by vigorous and frequent brushing/flossing on a ritual basis. Now that I’ve lost my dental insurance—as these things seem to so often do once we have no recourse—I’ve had a “fast forward” sort of like an earthquake—a slip-strike earthquake—a quick catching up as it were with movement that should have taken place a while ago but didn’t until NOW. And finding my finances seriously limited by my lower income and loss of dental insurance—I’m faced with the fact that it is far cheaper to get false teeth than it is to get what I have fixed. One tooth can easily cost 3 or 4 thousand dollars what with root canals and crowns some of which don’t stand the test of time and need repeating. So I have considered that I might be FORCED to get false teeth not because I don’t care but in spite of it. But I would probably come to terms with it even though I do not want false teeth and still try to avoid them—though it would be an obvious sign that you’re on the downhill slide—no more natural replacements—only cheap fake ones.

    But as I was saying—the recurrence of my old enemy of SEVERE DEPRESSION that seems to have a staying power of its own. At times I have considered “wouldn’t it be easier…..” but my faith or rather my questions about it and a few other things have kept me from answering that question. But my most recent cause for depression is due to an alienation from my older son that he has not seen fit to explain. We used to have always with rare exception a very close connection even friendship. And I always tried to be there for him with words to help him face whatever adversity (such as ex-wives and their demands for retribution/revenge for not having stood the test of time). Now suddenly one-half of my REASON for wanting to stay connected (other than the religious aspect/questions) is threatened. And I have grieved the loss of him. It’s one thing to lose friends—they can sometimes be replaced—but children cannot and if you lose them because they have found you/me seriously flawed/at fault—that is a huge loss for you never plan when your children are little for the time when they will find you unacceptable and/or unforgivable.

    So I have been “tending” to depression and now the slip-strike effect of this unexplained alienation combined with a few other difficulties has me feeling that monster nipping at my heals. I feel the heat of the evil thing on my back trying to gain ground.

    Combine that with the fact that my younger son (the other-half of my interest in life) has had a major blow to his livelihood he did not anticipate which has left him devastated. And on a particularly bad day we both discovered that the other was contemplating “wouldn’t it be easier.” To make a long story short it was very disturbing to us both that we were thinking along those lines but even more so that we had each others company in that. The end result, skipping through all the “stuff” I’m sure you’d rather not know, we made a pact—a promise to each other NOT TO LEAVE but to stay and fight. Which is a good thing, yes?

    He was to come over today and was late by a fair length of time and having just remembered last night that he has “weapons” he could use against himself and which two long ago blood relatives did choose to use—I was “aware” of the possibility that he would not keep his end of the bargain. And if he did not, that, I think might very well do me in. Because if he did so in spite of our “agreement” it would be a loss on many levels and perhaps most profoundly—breaking a vow knowing it was made as a result of our mutual internal chaos—it would be the same as saying, IMO “you’re not as important—our promise is not enough to keep me here.”

    As painful as it has to be to lose a child—to lose one to such an act would be a serious threat to happiness for any parent I think—but then add in the other “part” of the equation—the promise—and the breaking of it—would force us to acknowledge with no chance for denial—that “I failed.” I wouldn’t have been enough reason for him to go on. And he would have chosen to leave me anyway knowing that it would be painful even more so because of the promise.

    Those things combined together—the alienation from one and the possible though I pray to whatever god or gods exists that it never become a reality—untimely end of the other—how could I go on? How could I recover not just the loss of my flesh and blood by his own hand but also the breaking of a promise we made on mutual discovery—a deal was struck—a bargain NOT TO, I assume in part and it seems at least partially in deference and out of love to the other.

    I cannot see your scenario—your belief holding true for me. I do not think I could do it. Much as you choose to live in denial—my own state of mind disallows me that resource—and I will say flat out I doubt very much I could pull it off. To stay when he chose to leave.

    Could you? That’s the question I said you didn’t have to answer and which of course you don’t have to even if I said that you did. But I ask you—think about that—could you? Stay in spite of what happened and the gravity and finality of the loss—could you stay? Would you stay?

    I saw a movie once that seemed about equally horrifying a plot. “Sophie’s Choice”—if you are familiar with it—was about a woman forced by the inhumane cruelty of one man—to choose which of her two children would die. What a diabolical mind to even come up with such an idea much less demand? Maybe she wasn’t the only one he forced to make that excruciating choice. She said “I can’t” and he said “If you don’t then they both die.” How could you live with yourself? How could you choose? She did not do so very well. The person who forced her to choose has to be one of the best definitions of cruelty and evil I can think of.

    I choose—like you I think—to deny in all but my weakest moment that my fear/uncertainty be realized. For I do not think I could survive or if I did it would be any any state other than abject total loss of joy in anything life might have to offer. NO. Do not please make me ever discover the answer. Like Sophie’s Choice its too cruel to contemplate. I doubt sometimes God’s existence. Surely God would not ask that of me would he? NO please do not. But isn’t my merely contemplating the question a betrayal. To doubt my son—to not have faith in him? My superstitions warn me “do not tempt fate.”

    Anne: Thank you for voicing what I’m sure are concerns may others have in their own lives. So much to respond to here, but I will focus on just two things. First, we’re all far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Studies show, surprisingly, that most people who suffer devastating losses, losses they believe they couldn’t possibly survive, in fact mostly go on to do just that. Not that we don’t suffer horribly. Not that it doesn’t often take what feels like an unbearably long time. And not that some of us truly never actually succeed. But most of us, it turns out, do find a way to recapture the same level of happiness (whatever it may have been) we had before we lost what we thought we couldn’t survive losing. This is substantiated by research on the set-point theory of happiness as well as a lot of Daniel Gilbert’s work. Second, the notion that your son’s decision to break his agreement with you would reflect his feeling that “you’re not as important” and your “promise isn’t enough to keep [him] here” is probably less accurate than the truth that the pain he would be feeling in the moment would be so great it would overwhelm all of his other concerns, as well as his good judgment. People who attempt and commit suicide are typically in a place where normal thinking and feeling are displaced by the disease of depression and don’t necessarily reflect another person’s true importance to them at all. Not easy or even comforting answers, I know, but I think accurate ones. I truly hope you find peace.

    Alex

  • Extraordinary post, Alex ! I really the reasoning behind why people try to cling to grief. As you mention, we just delude ourselves that if we have let grief run its course and we no longer feel sad we are diminishing the value of the relationship.

    Regards
    Ganesh

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