Updated: Jun 21
As a precursory caveat to this article, I must say that it is often hard to write on a phenomenon (such as detachment) that majorly exists within a highly subjective plane. That is to say, that the below musings are not an attempt at a specific definition on the phenomenon, but rather a reflection of my experience with the idea of detachment. I would vaguely articulate detachment as the practice of accepting what is, coupled with an expression of indifference to outcome - an uncoupling, a letting go.
We may often see the notion (of detachment) in a negative light - asking ourselves how we could possibly detach ourselves from those we love, be they human or otherwise. But it is precisely the notion of detachment that allows us to truly love those we become detached (in this sense) from, allowing them (the person/thing/emotion/situation) the freedom of full unconditional expression, without our explicit or hidden attempt to craft that very expression or outcome. Detachment allows us to view things soberly, rid of the distorted lens of emotion and desire. Far from rendering us into dull, emotionless robots, detachment births within us a capacity to truly utilise critical thought, allowing us the opportunity to select the highest (and often most reasoned) decision that benefits all involved. Detachment is not the ignoring of a certain situation or feeling, nor is it the suppression of that very thing - rather, it is a total embracing of whatever it is that may be presenting itself to us, whilst refraining from being aggressively towed by the mind’s commentary on the event, without spiralling down the vortex of strong emotion. In the stoic sense, detachment may manifest in the form of remaining calm during times of fervent emotional turbulence. This is achieved by relinquishing resistance to thought and feeling during (though not limited to) particularly rough times, drawing back from the chaos and acting out from a quiet spot which sees all the energetic interplay unfold within the plane of awareness. This feat renders one susceptible to making rational and reasoned decisions rather than reacting out of emotion in the attempt to rid or project felt internal sensations. Measured response rather than unconscious reaction.
I remember picking up a book years ago which first led me to my current ‘path’. The author frequently encouraged us, the reader, to employ a loving detachment wherever we could; often asking us to hold love in our hearts and indifference to outcome, almost as a kind of internal modus operandi. For this state to be achieved, we must employ detachment. Many religious and philosophical schools echoed the attitude of indifference and detachment as a means to equanimity and rationality. I feel the need to say that we must also instil a great deal of sobriety and honesty when looking at how well we are expressing that very sentiment (of detachment/indifference). It is the case that like many things, detachment too is easier said than done; and that there are a great many levels to it. Great spiritual teaches/sages/gurus frequently point out our deep attachments of our identity to body, mind/ego and even the world. It is one thing to claim that we are fully rid of these primal attachments, but another thing to truly embody the proclamation (I myself am far from such a spot). Again, I exercise caution in proclaiming that such levels of detachment have been reached within ourselves, lest we walk around in a self induced delusion (much more than we already are). I came to know this through fucking up, again and again and again. There are many extrinsic voices that will attest to this (my) folly. I learnt through attaching, clinging myself to any and every woman that showed affection to me. I learnt through stumbling upon my monumental desire to be seen a certain way, through a certain favourable lens. I learned as I always did - through trial by fire. So know that wherever you find yourself - is OK.
The discovered benefits we may find through persistent practice of detachment are plentiful and enriching, a true gift of growth and development. During conversation we may find ourselves listening and dare I say, understanding the other on a deeper, more empathetic level. We are no longer ardently trying to get our words or opinions in and across at every opportunity, we are no longer trying to win. There is nothing we are looking to gain or protect, nothing to fear losing. We will still hold all our beliefs and opinions, that’s how minds operate - we just will lose (or at least greatly weaken) the incessant force behind the desire to put them forth at any cost. On a more explicit scale, detachment may also help us refrain from the more extreme actions triggered by strong emotions. We may intervene before anger turns to violence, or halt the conversion of rising primal sexual urges to untoward advances onto unwilling individuals. One may draw comparisons between detachment and mindfulness, however, I view detachment as an operative mode of being rather than a meditative practice. It can be seen more as a principled expression rather than a transient routine. I welcome any comments and criticisms, all stories of your experience(s) with detachment.