Right in the midst of working with a young woman who has been struggling with how to accept the possibility that a new relationship might have to end (her boyfriend is still caught up in thoughts and feeling evoked by his ex, who sounds like the kind of intense woman who can easily trap a young man in a prolonged on and off kind of relationship), we received an email from Rick Hanson that is all about possessiveness in relationships, beliefs, and life and how it destroys life and love.
The post is called “Cling Less and Love More” and it talks about how we can examine this experience and perhaps change it.
Rick has this to say about that perpetual wish to control and how it destroys the very things it seeks to preserve –
Recognize the costs of clinging. It’s never relaxed and always has a sense of strain, ranging from subtly unpleasant to intensely uncomfortable. It sucks us into chasing problematic goals, like stressing out for success, getting rigid or argumentative with others, being hooked on food or drugs, or seeking rewards in relationships that will never come. It clenches and contracts rather than opens. And clinging today plants the seeds of clinging tomorrow.
We were reminded of the book “The Collector” by John Fowles. It is the story of a man obsessed with “collecting” people, things, relationships. In order to preserve these lively, beautiful, and ever changing things, he had to kill them.
We also recalled the writings of Eric Fromm, who talked about the impulse to control as ultimately destructive to all that we value in life, and most especially to love.
Rick wrote that –
Most fundamentally, clinging puts us at odds with the nature of existence, which is always changing. The American Buddhist teacher, Joseph Goldstein, likens the stream of consciousness to a rope running through your hands: if you cling to any bit of it, you get rope burn. But if you let it run free – if you let experiences come and go – you feel peaceful and happy. Your mind and body open, and love flows freely, the natural expression of the unclenched heart.
He had some interesting exercises to practice non-possessive love. Check out his post.