Detachment – some spiritual dimensions

In Buddhism detachment is the holy grail: if you let go of attachments, you will never be sad, stressed or aggravated again.

On the other hand, attachment is thought to be a good thing in psychology. Well adjusted people (which isn’t the same as spiritually advanced people) are attached to their loved ones in a healthy way. It is completely normal to be sad when loosing a job, a loved one or a house. Why is this good: it means that healthy relationships get formed in which people give of themselves and at the same time allow others to be themselves.

I’m obviously simplifying both positions.

I’m bringing this up because yesterday the The Hague lodge of the Theosophical Society had a speaker who was specialized in the Helen Palmer variety of the Enneagram. She did more than just list the various personality types that the enneagram consists of – she showed us the underlying emotional dynamic of each type.

For instance the five, the observer or investigator (which is probably my type and also the predominant type among theosophists in general), has as it’s basic challenge (quoting wikipedia)

Challenges: They may also be too emotionally detached, and their sense of inner lack often leads to withdrawing from others, creating excessive boundaries, and to the illusion that energy is limited and must be (over)protected.

Note the part where it says: too emotionally detached. The point here isn’t that fives are really emotionally detached. It’s that our defense mechanism is to withdraw from the world. At the root it isn’t real equanimity, but fear which causes this.

I’m bringing this up because it struck me that the fake detachment of withdrawing from the world, not giving of yourself is a real seductive way to live – if you’re defense mechanism makes you do that anyhow. In other words: reading too much Buddhist material may make fives retreat into themselves more, instead of learning to let go – which is our real life purpose.

On a personal note: it’s a real five solution, this blogging of mine. I write about my personal spiritual stuff (which is good: fives should open up more) in an online platform that doesn’t intrude on my personal life too much. So I’m opening up and keeping myself emotionally safe all at the same time. At the same time I’m sharing information, which is the basic five contribution to the world.

I should add that according to the enneagram these personality types don’t change. The basic way we respond to the world get developed in childhood – are probably partly born into us – and even though a more advanced person will be less bound by their type, all of us are limited by them in one form or another.

Whether our personality type is moved by fear, anger or sadness (and all of them are moved by one of these predominantly) the thing to do isn’t to get rid of those emotions, but to face them and learn to make sure they don’t rule us.

2 thoughts on “Detachment – some spiritual dimensions”

  1. In Buddhism detachment is the holy grail . . . on the other hand, attachment is thought to be a good thing in psychology.

    What an interesting blog you have here. The Buddha’s mother died when he was one week old. I’ve sometimes wondered if that is why he came to the conclusion that attachment causes suffering.

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