The Cling Before the Storm

May 30, 2015 by

“I jumped the gun, so sure you’d split and run. Ready for the worst before the damage was done. The storm never came – or it never was. Didn’t know getting lost in the blue, it meant I wound up losing you.”

Hurricane, MS MR


          “You only lose what you cling to,” Buddha apparently said. There’s some controversy over the exact origin. Regardless of who it came from, it’s a valuable lesson, one I learned the hard way a couple years ago – one I think needs to be re-learned every once in a while, every time we become too attached to someone, some idea, some expectation, some thing. Attachment makes way for loss. Without it, there would be nothing to lose. That’s not to encourage you to avoid making connections out of fear of loss. Rather, I advise not allowing yourself the option to fear loss in the first place by not letting yourself get to the point that your life without someone or something seems undoable. Fear of loss leads to clinginess, which ironically pushes away what you’re holding on to so tightly. That propels the fear, which intensifies the cling until the potential loss is real because you made it real.

          As someone who lost someone important, let me tell you something: the fear of loss can be worse than the loss itself. The loss hurts. I promise you, the loss hurts. But waiting fearfully for it to happen kills, and you might not even realize you’re dying until you’ve already lost yourself. You might be too scared of you without whatever you’ve incorrectly defined as everything. You might not see that everything is only “everything” because you shut everything else out. Once you actually lose, you can begin to cope. While expecting to lose, however, you’re just waiting for what you’re dreading to happen. The resultant pressure and stress is destructive.

          When we suspect loss, the instinctive response is to tighten our grip. The healthy and productive response is to loosen it. Doing so gives you space to realize that what you were afraid of, life without whatever you were clinging to, is doable. If what you were clinging to is a person, it gives both of you room to catch your breaths.

          I know not to cling now. I know not to stop people that want to go from walking. I know not to cross the line that separates trying and chasing. I know because, before The Happiness Experiment, I did all of that in attempt to avoid a loss that ultimately came. It was textbook self-fulfilling prophecy: I believed I’d lose, so I acted like I had already lost, which made the loss real. Without the fear of loss, I wouldn’t have clung, and thus I wouldn’t have lost. In other words, had I been secure enough in my own ability to thrive with or without the object of my attachment, I wouldn’t have had anything to fear.

          Don’t get me wrong; I’ve certainly had my desperate moments since learning my lesson. You can know all of this and still act like you don’t, if you let the fear get the best of you. But they’ve been just that: moments. There’s no reason to cling. If someone doesn’t want to be around, that person won’t be, whether you clutch or not, whether you’re afraid of his or her absence or not, whether you stress or not. So why hang on? Why be fearful? Why stress? Why not enjoy what you have while you have it and trust yourself to deal with the loss of it only if and when it ever comes?

Happiness Tip: Don’t cling.

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