Attachment

There’s a meditation practice in which you start by extending compassion to those you love (easy), then to those who are “neutral” aka the average person, and finally to those you hate (oh hell no).

That last step feels so counterintuitive and every part of me rages against it. Why should I send good energy to bad people? Isn’t that a chump move?

For most of my life I’ve built up a vehement disgust for injustice. This has calcified the feelings of anger, bitterness, and “righteous” indignation about people (from politicians to exes) that have done wrong, especially if they “got away with it” without significant consequences. I’ve judged and defined these people by their actions, and by hardening my heart towards them I’ve sealed off any crack where compassion could slip through.

This has also been a survival tactic over the years, to keep me safe from people who do harm. I’ve conditioned myself to think this way about wrongdoers, and the programming is deeply entrenched – I’ve invested so much into this mindset that the compassion practice feels utterly alien and unrealistic.

I know this is my ego holding on with gripped talons and refusing to let go. We usually equate attachment to what we desire… but we’re also attached to what we despise.

In my case, attachment makes me defend my narratives to the death, which I know is a fear-based attempt to control the present and future. If you got hurt once, you wouldn’t want to get hurt again, right? So by condemning the person and cementing them into the narrative that they’re the villain and the enemy, I can fortify myself against the threat of them causing more harm.

What really messes me up is admitting that my attachment is actually built on shaky ground. I’ve created mental images and constructed stories that are biased and not entirely true – they conveniently leave out the other person’s side of things, and the nuances that make them human (including flaws that I also possess), as well as freezing them in the past as a one-dimensional character who did shitty things and couldn’t possibly also have good qualities or could have learned, grown, and changed over time. So I’m fixated on an illusion that casts people in the light I need them to be in to justify my judgment and condemnation. Maybe that is the real chump move.

How can I untangle myself? I can start by keeping my ego in check when it revs up the old storylines. I’ll work on loosening the white-knuckle grip on my narrative and the inaccurate characterizations I’ve created. I will practice letting go of my attachment to thoughts that don’t truly serve me; dropping the critical judgment and shifting to intentional empathy. It’s hard, constant work – but it’s better than carrying around the baggage of aversion and resentment.

What do you think?

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