How Detachment Changed My Perspective On Life For The Better

By Kemi Bella. Photography by Eric Michael Ward.

Have you ever been so badly hurt by people in your past that you are scared to be embraced by a good person when they cross your path? Heartbreak can happen in all types of relationships. I am not just talking about romantic relationships, I am sure we have all been there. I am also talking about friendships as well. Friendships gone wrong can hurt just as bad, if not worse than romantic relationships.

I recently began to realize that I am traumatized by past hurtful relationships that I have had and that I did not know how to embrace the good people that came into my life. When genuinely great people came into my life I started overextending myself because I was trying to prove "look how good of a person I am, PLEASE DO NOT HURT ME!" 

Innately, I am a giving and caring person, however I started using these traits as a defense mechanism. A lot of people subscribe to the theory of "I hurt you before you hurt me," but I was subscribing to my own theory of "Let me kill you with kindness so you do not hurt me." This mentality ALWAYS lead to me getting hurt in the end because, expectation.

Recently I met someone I believed to be a great friend. I genuinely connected with her on all levels. However, I remember stopping myself and thinking this new friendship was too good to be true. I started pulling back and not reaching out as much, even in situations where I felt I wanted her opinion or advice on something. I started questioning her intentions. Is this person really being authentic? Is it really possible to connect this much with someone on a personal level? I did not want to invest time and energy in a friend just for the friendship to fizzle out or for us to eventually stop speaking. That's when I began to realize my issue was attachment. 

Once I became aware of this unhealthy way of thinking and reacting, I went into seclusion. I knew I had to sit alone and figure out how I could change my perspective and my way of thinking. I decided that I also needed to heal from past trauma so that I could stop subscribing to my theory of overextending myself out of the fear of hurt. In fact, the question that kept coming up in my isolation and reflection was "How do I embrace people without the fear of thinking they were going to hurt me, especially when I believe that everyone in this life will hurt you in some way, and vice versa?" My problem was I was getting attached to people (sometimes too soon) and then I was being disappointed (hurt) as soon as something did not go the way I expected. There goes that expectation word again.

During my time of solitude I came across a quote that changed my view on life and allowed me to embrace the concept of detachment.

"It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not." — Thich Nhat Hanh

After I saw this quote it led me to research the theory of detachment and I came across one of Buddha's Four Noble Truths: "The origin of suffering is attachment." I felt like this noble truth was exactly what I was experiencing for most of my life. I was suffering because I was attaching myself to temporary people and situations. When people would leave my life or situations would end, I would feel hurt. I once went through a two (2) year depression after breaking up with an ex-boyfriend. If that is not suffering, I am not sure what is. 

Detachment is essentially the art of letting go. Detachment does not mean that you will not be hurt or feel disappointment by others. It just assists with moving on without having to carry the baggage of hurt and disappointment. I still allow myself the time to go through emotions but I no longer suffer by being attached. Detachment and faith go hand and hand in that, if a situation doesn't work out, I let go and trust that something better is coming. 

These days when I meet new people and I start forming bonds and friendships, I am grateful for the experience. In fact, I have a friend that I have known for a while but we recently started bonding more. I started meeting her family and friends and I was so amazed by how warmly I was embraced that one day after spending the day with her, I thanked her for the experience. In that moment, I was extremely grateful for her friendship. There is a chance in the future that we may eventually grow apart, disappoint, or hurt each other. However, I am grateful for the time we spent and the lessons that came with the friendship. I am detached enough to let go and move on if needed.

Detachment doesn't mean that we stop loving someone or something; it only means we accept that there is nothing we can do to stop the transformation of life. Don Miguel Ruiz

Detachment forces you to live in the movement. It forces you to enjoy life's moments exactly as it happens. I now subscribe to the theory "everything in this life has a season." I have become happier by accepting things as they are. I no longer have expectations when it comes to people or experiences, I simply live in the moment and go with the flow of life each day. 

Kemi Bella is New York City based blogger. Her go-to self-love practice is travel! She can be found online at @Bella.Wanders on Instagram and @bellawanders on Twitter. Contributing to BGIO was very important to Kemi because she thinks it is important for women of color to have a safe space to discuss mental health issues that are not often talked about in our childhood. It is important to see people like you going through the same things you are so that you do not feel alone.