Commitment is emotional investment, attachment is emotional dependence

During the course of our relationship with our loved ones, we may get the question: How can we be committed without being attached? 

By being emotionally invested, not emotionally dependent. 

Consider the relationship between a doctor and a patient. The doctor needs to care for the patient’s feelings — if the patient has an injury at a normal injection point, the doctor needs to inject elsewhere whenever possible. Still, the doctor can’t care so much for the patient’s feelings as to flinch from giving a necessary injection. In deciding how to treat, the doctor needs to consider the patient’s feelings, but not depend solely on them. 

A similar dynamic applies to our relationships. If we are apathetically detached, not caring for the feelings of our loved ones, we will ruin our relationship with them. But if we are so attached as to shirk from opposing them even when they are about to do something terribly unwise, we will end up hurting them and hurting ourselves too. 

Significantly, the Bhagavad-gita (13.10), while listing the twenty characteristics of knowledge, groups detachment from our loved ones with steady devotion to Krishna. What may this grouping signify? That bhakti can protect us from both extremes of emotional obsession and emotional alienation. 

How can bhakti protect us from obsession? By reminding us that Krishna is everyone’s ultimate well-wisher (05.29); he will take care of our loved ones even if we can’t — we needn’t be obsessed with them. How can bhakti protect us from alienation? By reminding us that because we are Krishna’s parts, we need to do a part of his will by acting as the well-wishers of our loved ones — we need to care for them. 

Thus, when we care holistically for our loved ones — for both their feelings and their future — then we can be committed without being attached. 

Think it over:

  • When relating to our loved ones, what two extremes do we need to avoid? Explain with an example. 
  • How can bhakti protect us from both obsession with our loved ones and alienation from them?
  • How can you move your key relationships from emotional dependence to emotional investment?

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