The Chaplain's Notebook

Retreating from Anger: Releasing Attachments

Attachment means “I cannot do without it,” or, in the case of human relationships, “I cannot do without you.” Attachment may lead to dependence, craving, clinging, fear of loss or change, or anxiety leading one to attempt to possess, control or have dominance of our beliefs over another human being. Attachment can create a path to loss of one’s peace of heart or mind. If you can drop your attachments, you may find peace.

When we find ourselves emotionally involved in an argument, we may feel like we are losing control of how we feel and that our emotions have taken on lives of their own. When we have some awareness that this is happening, taking a deep breath can sometimes help us step back from the situation. Once we can separate ourselves from the heat of the moment, we may realize that the emotional trigger that led to the argument has little to do with the present situation. Such awareness may provide an understanding of what we’re attached to. Understanding and looking honestly at what caused our reaction may allow us to consciously respond more appropriately to a situation and help us make the better choices.

We can make agreements with our partners and those closest to us so that asking questions can help us discover the source of an attachment. The shared awareness can result in finding simple solutions to a given situation. Maybe we are taking ourselves too seriously and just need to laugh sometimes. We need to learn to let go of excess baggage — i.e., attachments — that have in some cases been carried for years. We may also discover that perhaps we are attached to the excitement that drama brings and the chemicals that our body releases when we get angry. But it is also possible that there may be deeper issues that require discussion, understanding and patience. Regardless, the more we allow ourselves to step back and examine our attachments, the more of a chance we have to allow real feelings to surface that may guide us toward solutions that improve our lives. All of us are invited to live our lives not, as it were, at 50 or 60 percent of our potential, but at 100 percent: to live life with fullness. What might that look like for us today versus who we were five or 10 years ago? What are we attached to that hurts and gives rise to our pain when it shows its masterful face? Those are the questions begging attention.

Moving into a space where we can become more clear about our attachments, what we embrace, our feelings, our intentions, and communicate them clearly gives us a better opportunity of getting what we want. Not doing so is more likely to result in losing control or allowing our subconscious minds to manipulate our behavior. We might take our frustrations out on the people closest to us because we feel safe and comfortable with them. After all, we may assume that they should know what we want and they should understand! But misplaced anger can cause harm. Arguing for what we truly believe can empower us and help direct our passions toward greater life experiences. Truly knowing what our attachments are can enable us to grow emotionally in ways that will affect our whole being in healthier ways.

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.