The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over. – Steve Maraboli
A few subtle issues we face in life reflect a more significant problem and are the causes of so many other shortcomings. Attachment to people is one of them. So, how to not get attached to people?
Many don’t even acknowledge that this is a problem, and for those who do, it is merely a minor inconvenience that means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Why do We Get Attached to People?
Some believe that humans are naturally conditioned to attach themselves to people who respond with kindness and affection but also have a strong attachment with our caregivers or parents. This theory suggests that we learn the value of relationships and love from those who take care of us as we grow up.
Others believe that our attachments stem from our need for social connection and acceptance given the uncertainty and unpredictability of life.
○ Attachment Due to Anxiety
In the 1950s and 1960s, psychologist John Bowlby proposed an attachment theory to explain how our bonds with our caregivers since infancy tend to affect attachment.
According to this research, emotional attachment due to anxiety arises from the failure to constantly meet our caregivers’ needs. This leads to a lack of trust, first in our caregivers, then in the world, then in ourselves.
Ultimately this leads to a feeling of clinginess, insecurity, and exaggerated distress just to court attention. Those who suffer from anxiety attachment are usually angry, needy, and distrustful.
○ Attachment for Security
Those who suffer from security attachment always ensure they are never alone. In a large gathering, they must find themselves in a group for protection.
This form of emotional attachment is quite popular because, well, being alone is scary. We feel vulnerable when alone, and we realize that there is an immense sense of safety in a group.
It doesn’t matter that everyone in the group is weak and only there for a sense of safety.
The problem with attachment for security, though, is that there will always come a time when we have to be alone and stand up for ourselves. When such a time comes in future relationships, people with this form of attachment problem usually falter and suffer hugely as a result.
○ Avoidant Attachment
Lastly, avoidant attachment is found in those who have accepted, right from childhood, that their emotional needs can never be met while on their own.
So they constantly search for approval, love, and joy from the ones closest to them, which during childhood, is their caregivers. But as time goes on and they move on with life, this attachment persists.
Now instead of seeking emotional satisfaction on their own or through their caregivers, they do so by attaching themselves to one particular person, which could be a friend, acquaintance, coworker, and in some cases, even strangers.
Those who suffer from avoidant emotional attachment find it difficult to understand their own emotions enough to express them. They only seek dependent relationships and not intimate ones.
10 Actionable Tips on How to Not Get Attached to People
At its fundamental level, attachment to others is usually a result of self-inadequacy. While this can almost always be traced to something in childhood or infancy, it can still be corrected even as an adult.
Below are ten ways you can reclaim your self-belief and get rid of harmful attachment to others.
1. Recognize Your Worth & Power
The very first step to getting rid of attachment to other people is to focus on ourselves. By focusing on ourselves, we reclaim our self-belief and eliminate dependence on others for emotional satisfaction or security.
○ Claiming Your Worth
The goal here is to see the great sides of ourselves that have been hidden deep beneath our subconscious for some reason or another. We are capable of taking care of ourselves because we are strong, worthy, and powerful – if we choose to be.
The truth is, no matter how much power you have buried deep down within, it is all useless if you don’t CHOOSE to acknowledge it and claim it.
Add this to the fact that most of the people we attach ourselves to, either for protection and emotional satisfaction, are not even worth it in the first place.
The truth is, most of them are not only weak, but they are also in it for the same reasons as us. The best way to go, really, is spending time to recognize our worth to eliminate these unnatural dependencies.
2. Invest in Yourself
It is a bitter fact to acknowledge, but it is at the same time an undeniable truth in life that most of the people we meet will disappoint us at some point in our lives.
Self-sufficient people can deal with this better. They understand their self-worth and can move on quite fast. However, those who suffer from excessive attachment will get broken once this happens and suffer a great collapse from which they may never recover.
Instead of attachment, we should invest in ourselves. Learn new skills, travel, buy books, and make ourselves better. By doing this, we put ourselves in a better position to defend ourselves against anxiety instead of running to people who will eventually disappoint.
3. Avoid Excessive Dependency
Many can tell from past experiences that dependency tends to escalate into unhealthy emotional attachment. Sure, there can be a healthy form of dependency.
No man is an island entire of itself. – John Donne
Yet, in far too many cases, dependency turns into attachment and thus becomes the same thing. We must always be conscious of this and make sure to stop it before it becomes too much.
Let go of the idea that people will always be there for you because they are the right person. They will not. The only one who can always be there for you is you.
4. Separate Friendship from Attachment
In your attempt to get rid of unhealthy, obsessive attachment, you must be able to tell what is genuine friendship and what is attachment. The three questions below are good places to start.
○ Can You Be Alone Without Them?
If you find yourself sad and emotionally unstable when away from one person, it is safe to assume that you are in a toxic relationship.
Yes, it is okay to feel happier when we’re friends, but there must also be a level of detachment that has to occur. Without this balance, the relationship becomes dangerous and unhealthy.
○ Can You Make Decisions Without Them?
It is indeed possible to be in an unhealthy relationship even with best friends.
Those who are in a friendship whereby they always have to depend on somebody else to make crucial decisions on their behalf, sometimes without them even having any input on the matter, have to consider the possibility that they may already be in an unhealthy attachment.
○ Do You Get Constantly Hurt & In Pain After Minor Disagreement?
Lastly, if a minor disagreement in a friendship always leaves you sad and in pain, so much so that you don’t feel better until the problem has been resolved, the relationship is one of unhealthy attachment.
People in this form of attachment may even find themselves making dangerous concessions to keep the friendship going.
Self-sufficiency is a form of self-care. To master self-sufficiency, we must always be conscious of making sure we never allow our friendships to turn into obsessions.
5. Don’t Be Afraid of Change
Change is the only constant in life. While not everyone is comfortable with this, self-sufficient people recognize the fact, and learn the art of accepting change. People who suffer from excessive attachment, though, are never ready for it.
They find themselves clinging so hard to other people that when the time comes for them to separate, ineffable pain sets in for one reason or another.
6. Don’t Take People’s Actions Personally
The tendency to take people’s actions too close to heart leads us to shrink from our self-belief. It makes us feel vulnerable, therefore running to others for security.
This is why, to learn self-sufficiency and get rid of attachment, we must first master the art of brushing aside hurtful actions. Many people do this through discipline and recognition.
○ Dealing With Hurtful Actions
The art of brushing aside people’s hurtful actions is not an easy one by any means. Yet it is an all too important one. A perfect way to learn this is by discipline.
Another way is always to realize that most of the time, people do hurtful things out of their own insecurities. They do it because they are scared, weak, and want to get to us.
By reacting to this, we give them more power over us. By letting it roll off our backs, we take back power and create a solid path towards self-sufficiency.
7. Learn How to Walk Away
To get rid of emotional attachment, we must learn how to walk away from relationships that have become unhealthy. We do this by realizing that people will come into our lives and go away from them with time.
The same applies to us, too. We will meet new people, make new friends, and discover new things. This is what makes life fun and worth living. Those who develop severe attachment tendencies never get to enjoy this feeling.
The ability to sense this and walk away when things get too obsessive is what separates healthy relationships from unhealthy ones.
8. Learn How to Say No
A popular sign of excessive attachment is a tendency to always say yes to everything. This happens because those who find themselves in these relationships would usually do anything to maintain them.
They would sometimes agree to things that hurt them to ensure that they do not break this emotional connection, no matter how toxic.
To master self-sufficiency, we must learn the subtle art of saying no.
9. Cognitive Distortions that Cause Attachments
Our self-inadequacies have a way of leading to cognitive distortions that ultimately lead to obsessive attachments. Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that lead us to view things more negatively than they are.
○ Examples of Cognitive Distortions
Below are a few examples of cognitive distortions, particularly as it pertains to attachment tendencies.
- Tendency to think in extremes. Things are either completely black or completely white in the world.
- Tendency to focus on the bad sides of everything no matter how many good sides there are.
- Tendency to jump into negative conclusions regardless of evidence to the contrary.
- Tendency to judge and exaggerate our inadequacies based on one singular mistake.
○ Dealing With Cognitive Distortions
As seen above, cognitive distortions are a breeding ground for unhealthy emotional attachment. To deal with them and cultivate good qualities, we must first be aware of them. It is only then that we can begin to take actionable steps in getting rid of them.
Some of these steps include spending our free time analyzing our thoughts, engaging in self-soothing exercises, and most importantly, meditation and mindfulness practices.
10. Meditate & Practice Mindfulness
Lastly, in our quests to get rid of emotional attachment and master self-love, we must learn how to meditate consistently and practice mindfulness.
Why is this important, you might ask? Well, meditation helps us stay in the moment. It helps us disengage our minds from noise and distractions.
While this is in itself a great thing, it gets even better once we realize that most of the problems associated with attachment, such as cognitive distortions, emotional insecurities, and so on, can all be sorted by being in the moment.
Once we’re present and mindful, we become a new person, more adept at realizing what’s real and what’s not, we become more confident in ourselves, and consequently, we become self-sufficient.
No matter the underlying cause, attachment to other people is a condition that tends to have more negative consequences than positive ones.
Understanding the difference between attachment and a healthy relationship is the first step to breaking the vicious cycle of pain and depression that arises from the latter.
Only then can we move on to taking actions that free us from these obsessive attachments, and as usual, investing in ourselves and understanding our self-worth goes a long way in fixing a lot of problems.
Ultimately, attachment remains a disease that begins at an early age but is never too late to be cured. As long as we recognize it as an illness to our self-esteem and stay committed to curing ourselves of it, we will always have a chance for happiness and a healthy lifestyle of self-sufficiency.