Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.

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If you are suffering, it’s worth asking what am I so attached to that I simply can’t let go? What’s difficult is convincing yourself that you CAN let go.

You may wish that you could live in a universe where there is no suffering, but that simply isn’t possible. Even a very rich person who doesn’t need to worry about the things we all worry about—having money to pay bills, having job security, even being thin is something you can buy if rich enough, but even that rich person will likely care about someone at some time who will die. Even that person will have someone grow old and need care.

Most of the time elderly mothers are cared for by their daughters not their sons. What if you are one of those daughters and your mother is making you miserable, causing you untold grief, shaming you and generally making you suffer? You are trying to let go of attachment. What does that even mean? How would you let go of the attachment? Does that mean moving your mother out of the house onto the street? Into a home? What does letting go entail in the real world.

In concept, letting go of attachment sounds good, but how do you do it?

I don’t have a clear answer, but here’s the one I’m working with. I have no advice for someone taking care of their elderly parent as that isn’t my life. But I have held on to dreams, ideas, people and felt that my attachment was the only way toward happiness. When in fact, the only way toward happiness was to let go.

Things change. I’m working to simply accept that. Sometimes people love you and you want that to continue, but then sometimes it doesn’t. Someone needs a break from you or maybe a permanent break from you and you say to yourself, I can’t let go, I can’t live without him. But attachment causes suffering. When it is time to let go, I let go. If the person is meant to come back to me, they will come around the dark side of the moon and come back. The hard part is the long amount it takes for a person to come around the moon and during that time, you feel that you cannot breathe, that your ship is going down. But your ship is afloat. It’s just stormy weather and you cannot see the sky or the stars.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thích Nhat Hanh


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  1. TNH also writes, in his most recent book The Art of Communicating:

    “You may even understand that the reason that [a] person suffers so much is because he or she doesn’t know how to handle the suffering. His suffering spills out, and you are its victim. Maybe he doesn’t want to make you to suffer, but he doesn’t know another way. He can’t understand and transform his suffering, and so he makes the people around him suffer too, even when that is not his intention. Because he suffers, you suffer too. He doesn’t need punishment, he needs help.”

    A more elaborate way of saying essentially the same thing. Seeds of wisdom.

  2. It seems to me that suffering to please those who are pleased by your suffering might be a workable defintion of insanity.

    People who imagine they owe their parents suffering are the victims of abuse, children never ask to be brought here and if brought from peace to suffer isn’t grounds enough to free ourselves from the wretched leeches who impose agony for life, then what would they have to do to make us realise that our mothers owed us? Mammal offspring owe their mothers nothing in return. Children are helpless and we were owed everything to enable us to march towards independence. We needed truth, protection from suffering, danger and needless pain. We were subjected to violence, shame, lies and betrayal instead.

    I laugh at people who complain their mothers are making their lives miserable. It’s amazing that people can endure so much evil from one liar who was supposed to be a mammal mother, repay her debt to offspring who are supposed to be unattached and living their own lives from an early age of independence, free from filial slavery and lies of obligation.

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