Of all the principles that must be learned by any practising Jedi Realist, Detachment is probably one of the most essential to appropriate practise, serving both as a psychological aid to the Jedi themselves and also to those to whom we would offer our assistance and services. The state of Detachment, tautologically-speaking, is one by which one seeks to liberate themselves from the constraints of Attachment. In order to explain the nature of this methodology (and, indeed, how to obtain it), I should first explain a little about attachments themselves, and also why they create issues that require a solution.
Attachment is the system whereby a person forms a bond between themselves and the object of that attachment – and this can be virtually anything. One can become attached to their own feelings, to materials things, to people, and so on. Indeed, when we refer to attachment, we also tend to have to observe that such a relationship necessitates some sort of dependency by either the object of the attachment, the one attached to that object, or in some cases, both by the person and the object to which they are attached.
These bonds are formed, primarily, by two things – firstly, by necessity and, secondly, by desire. Attachments formed by necessity include attachment to eating, sleeping etc – all the things without which it would impossible for you to survive, at least over a prolonged period of time. Consequently, the necessary attachments tend to be subconsciously formed (and with good reason), usually to the point where they become compulsive and lacking in emotional context – hence, regardless of your conscious thoughts on the matter, you are definitely aware of the need to eat, or to sleep, and you consequently react on this knowledge with the appropriate response: failure to do so having some very negative penalties which exist only when a person fails to act based on their own survival instincts. Were you to consider animals, the majority of actions they perform are motivated by necessary attachments acting as instinctive compulsions.
It should be noted, however, that many attachments formed through necessity often have desires combined with them – if you are thirsty, you might desire a glass of cold water, for example. Your body subconsciously initiates this attachment (since you need water to survive), and this is thus expressed through conscious desire – reinforcing the need to obtain the object of this attachment (the cold water). The reason we differentiate between necessity- and desire-based attachments, then, is primarily because one needs to be aware of the motive force behind the attachment before they have the opportunity to let go of it. Attachments formed from necessity are far more difficult to detach from than those formed by desire – were it a simple thing to detach from those things which you require to survive, you would not likely live very long. Desire-based attachments are easier to detach from, because the motive force for such tends to be consciously formed.
Desire-based attachments are the main type of attachment that we tend to focus on with regards to becoming detached. Usually, these bonds are formed consciously or occasionally via subconscious desire (think of falling in love, for example), though such things usually possess an outward conscious expression of some sort – or at the very least, a conscious realisation of a subconsciously-generated desire. As observed earlier, these attachments can be with many things – to traits of oneself, to your emotions, to material objects, to people, etc. An attachment of such a type is literally formed by a desire for something – the will to possess something not currently in your custody or control. Generally, this is not something that will diminish upon obtaining the object of this desire, since that emotion remains invoked as long as interest in the focus of that attachment remains.
At this point, there is but one question which, logically, you might find yourself asking: why would we seek detachment when forming attachments are both natural and often subconsciously performed? The answer to this inevitably lies in the nature of attachments themselves.
The primary difficulty comes in that the object of an attachment will, regardless of intent (or lack thereof), inevitably exert some form of influence over the person attached to it (especially so when we’re talking about a person as the object of that attachment). This is primarily the result of the desire for the object of that attachment: if you wish to have something, you will act in a manner that will help you to obtain it. This would be the influence exerted by attachment to material things, primarily. The influences exerted by people to whom you may form attachments are significantly more complicated (although the root motivation remains the same nonetheless).
The primary influences exerted by people as objects of attachment are with regards to emotional influences. With material objects, all influences resulting from attachments are self-imposed (whether consciously or subconsciously). With people, this works slightly differently. Imagine any relationship into which you might enter: can you visualise any points whereby influence might be exerted? One of the most obvious examples stems from the application of expectations. Parents, for example, have particular expectations for their children with regards to their education, hobbies, choice of career etc. What sorts of pressures do you think this might place upon their child? What happens when the child fails to meet these expectations? Is this not possibly harmful to the child?
An alternative approach, one which stems from the notion of detachment, is essentially for the parent to step away from their own expectations – perhaps to maintain them inwardly, if it becomes impossible to banish such expectations completely. In essence, these would not find expression in the interaction between parent and child, thus freeing the child of the burdens of trying to live up to expectations of which they are consciously aware. A more effective method, using this approach, is to work directly with the child to foster their particular talents based on their wishes – hence, acting based on what they feel is best for themselves, rather than based on the expectations of the parent. Inevitably, the function of the parent under such circumstances is to serve as a moderating influence, to help the child learn which of their ideas is viable and which are not, and to give them practical advice on how to proceed with those things which are both possible and practical. Thus, the parent still has influence over the child, but it is consensual, not compulsive.
Think of another situation: imagine your best friend, someone you’ve known since you were both children, gets involved in an argument with someone else. Being a practising Jedi, you step in to mediate the situation and help diffuse tensions. The pressures of an attachment can easily be observed here: were you to fail to find in favour of your friend, they might be angry with you, disappointed etc – inevitably, this might make you feel guilty, or perhaps would compromise your friendship. Given these possibilities, how can you act objectively, and thus act in concordance with your ethical principles (which require objectivity, if you’re following Jedi ethical codes, of course)?
This, of course, is tremendously problematic for the majority of Jedi Realists. We become attached to many things in our lives as a matter of course – it is human nature to do so, since many of our early attachments are based on necessity. As we develop and learn to become independent and self-sufficient, most of our attachments become desire-based. In order to allow ourselves to practice objectivity and, for that matter, to allow ourselves to reach the desired emotional state of serenity, it becomes necessary to release ourselves from our attachments, insofar as it is possible.
The trick of this, however, is not to become so detached as to isolate everyone around you through emotional aloofness generated by the desire to remain detached at all times in order to keep your judgment clear. Indeed, it is an oft-repeated fallacy observed amongst newly-practising Jedi Realists that one becomes attached by not forming connections to begin with. The oft-cited argument is that because you are detached, it is not possible for you to have friends or intimate relationships simply because the bond formed between you would essentially compromised your detachment. Hence, you are either detached (and therefore emotionally aloof - not forming attachments to anyone or anything) or you cannot be detached.
This school of thought represents a significant misunderstanding over the nature of detachment. When we teach the practice of Detachment, we are not teaching people to be free of their bonds, relationships or desires – we are teaching them to liberate themselves from the influence of such attachments. If you engage in a relationship with another and allow yourself to become attached, you inevitably give that person a measure of control over you. That may sound dramatic, but the second of the earlier examples demonstrates the point clearly enough – your friend expected you to side with them during an argument because the attachment formed between you, which inevitably placed pressure on you to do so, lest you (in their eyes) betray the friendship and the bond formed between you. In order to become detached, this control element must be broken – would you be so inclined to allow someone to control your decision-making process through intimidation, perhaps? It is unlikely that you would. Attachment control is much more subtle, especially since it is often true that neither party within a given relationship realise the form of control they are exerting upon the other person.
This is especially true of relationships wherein a person looks at another and sees them in a particular light – they ignore some of the negative aspects about that person because they have locked onto the positive aspects that they like or consider ideal about that person. Having formed a relationship with that individual, much of the control exerted between the two is spent by trying to unconsciously push that person into becoming the person you think or desire them to be, as opposed to letting the person be who they are. How many of you have engaged in romantic relationships where your partner expected you to act in a particular way? How many have seen parents do something similar to their children, restraining perfectly normal behaviour because they deemed it undesirable, even when the child has done nothing socially inappropriate or destructive? Like as not, you see it all the time. This is inevitably the reason for many relationships of either form – friendly or romantic – breaking down. One or both of the people involved in the relationship are exerting too much pressure upon the other person’s personality, and thus, neither of them can truly express themselves in the way that they would like for themselves. Expectations are generally considered to be the most destructive attachment influence in this regard.
Were the parties involved in the relationship detached, the relationship would inevitably be far more stable and beneficial for both, since the pressurised influence would be gone, but the bond between the two would remain. It allows them to live without either one exerting unnecessary conscious or subconscious control over the emotions and actions of the other, allowing them to both freely express themselves, as is only appropriate. This is not, however, to suggest that the relationship has lost something positive in this regard – it simply means that those within the confines of that relationship have to accept each other for who they are, rather than what they wish the other person to be.
Another benefit of detachment in this regard is also to force the other person to accept the personal responsibility for their actions – they cannot move to say that they were led into performing an action because of an emotional attachment or dependency upon you, because the detachment between you allows for this not to be the case. This is the inevitable price of free action, since a person cannot truly express themselves freely until all their actions are theirs to determine consciously by choice. It is a fallacy to say that one had no choice but to perform an action – rather, the consequences of performing an action other than the one in which they engaged were not palatable to them. Among Jedi Realists, this is an absolutely key concept, since our entire methodology is based upon the notion of free action and personal responsibility. To live ethically, we have to take responsibility for our actions in order that we can consider the consequences of our actions beforehand and thus, never act without giving the matter prior thought.
Thus, when we engage in relationships whereby we remove the control element as a result of detachment, this also allows the other parties involved to exercise free action of their own conscious will. So, in a sense, by liberating ourselves from the constraints of attachment, we also liberate the others around us from the control elements that would otherwise be involved in engaging in a relationship with us. However, this obviously carries the added price of having to take responsibility for one’s actions – it no longer becomes possible for them to place the blame of their actions upon you. The person must act based on the potential consequences to themselves and to others, simply because they can no longer act upon your emotional influence, and therein lead you to rescue them from a situation at a later time: “I did this because I didn’t want you to be disappointed, but it got me into this (positive/negative) situation – it’s only fair you help me get out of it”. Detachment allows you to become utterly responsible for your own emotional states and requires the other person to do the same – hence, a person cannot act because they wanted to prevent you feeling a certain way, because that suggests that they are responsible for how you feel, which isn’t the case.
This brings us to the next aspect of Detachment which is fundamental to Jedi Realism: understanding that one’s emotions are entirely their own purview. As you will no doubt discover through application of Mindfulness (see the relevant section), the way you think, feel and act is inevitably your own purview – you choose to feel a certain way, or to act in a particular manner. Things can influence that, but the combination of mindfulness and detachment allows you to a) realise the nature of these influences, b) to understand their effect upon you and c) to liberate yourself from them and make the conscious choice as to how to react. Let’s use an example. Imagine, for a moment, that you have just accidentally been tripped over by someone (note, the accident indicates a lack of malicious intent). Of course, you automatically feel angry and/or embarrassed as a result of having been tripped. So you stand up and express that anger towards the other person, perhaps by shouting at them, maybe even by lashing out physically. If you gave it a moment’s thought, however, you would understand that there is the possibility that it was an accident, which would mean that the other person was only responsible for the fall itself, but had no malicious intent directed towards you. Is anger therefore appropriate? No. However, since anger has already been inwardly provoked, through your misunderstanding of the situation, this needs to be dealt with. Hence, the appropriate method is to detach yourself from that anger, understand how it was generated, then let go it of completely.
Thus far I’ve discussed the reasons for becoming detached, but I have yet to offer any techniques by which this can be achieved. There are, simply put, countless possible ways in which this can be achieved, and it would be both impractical and frankly wasteful to list them all. Consequently, it would be more appropriate to convey one of the more common methodological methods of detaching oneself. The first step, as always, is in realising that you are attached to a person, an object, a feeling or a thought, or invariably realising the things to which you could become attached (which allows for pre-emptive detachment). Knowledge is always the first step in dealing with such things – a person cannot treat an illness if they do not know what ails them, nor come up with a solution to a problem they that they do not realise exists. For this purpose, we often use the methodology of Mindfulness, since this allows us to critically consider the various factors involved in a given situation, but also enables us to examine those forces that might be working upon our psyche at any given time.
Detaching is, if you will, simply a state of ‘letting go’ of something – which we have all done at one time or another. We let go of a painful memory, for example, because it causes us harm that we could live better without. Detachment requires a conscious choice to do just that – to look at something and to be able to (literally or figuratively) step back from it. For our purposes, we often start with the Calming Breath technique (which you should already be familiar with from the previous section) in order to relax our minds and remove any excess emotional energy from ourselves, to allow us to make an objective decision. Add that to the understanding gained through the use of Mindfulness, with regards to the influence exerted upon you by an attachment, and you therefore have the ability to make a conscious decision regarding that which influences you.
This is literally what Detachment comes down to: a conscious choice. It is the choice to release oneself of your own burdens, to put aside things which adversely influence you or are adversely influencing other people because your attachment to them or to something else has inevitably resulted in such harm. Sometimes this can be pre-emptive, whereby you understand the potential influence of having an attachment with another, so you make a deliberate conscious effort to avoid engaging their emotions until you feel you can do so without being adversely affected or, perhaps until you can do so without adversely affecting the other party. You take a step back in order to allow yourself a moment to determine, rationally, whether or not you wish to permit the influence of the attachment to affect you. If you engage within the relationship and thus, are already feeling the possible influences, detachment allows you to remove yourself from them simply by choice. It is, therefore, really the understanding of the attachment which allows you to liberate yourself from it.
Of course, becoming detached is not without downsides. It naturally requires that you take responsibility for yourself and your deeds, since the state of free action is entirely dependent upon this. It becomes, therefore, simply a question of what you want more: the ability to be yourself under all circumstances, or to possess the ability to deny your responsibilities. I should note that having that latter ability does not mean that you are not the one responsible, it simply means that you are subject to the influences of an attachment and, therefore, have the possibility of being able to blame such a thing if need be. I also ought to note that such is behaviour no effectively-practising Jedi Realist would ever demonstrate, so if you prefer the latter ability to the former, you should probably cease your attempts to study our ideology. If, however, you can accept the former, you’re already well on your way to learning this particular aspect of the methodology we apply.