How To Escape From Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and Limiting Patterns?


by Jayaram V

Have you ever wondered what could be the most important cause of all your problems? Why do certain things greatly concern you or bother you while you may not care for other things? Why are you excessively attracted to some objects and people in your life while you may not feel the same towards others? Some people spend their lives defending or working for a cause which to others may look a mere waste of time.

Many people worship wealth and pursue materialistic goals as if having status and recognition in society is more important than anything else. In contrast you may come across people who go to the most difficult and dangerous places in the world to work for the poor and the helpless. What motivates an ascetic person go the Himalayas or a village boy become an industrial tycoon? Why do people become caught in repetitive patterns of behavior and habitual thinking, which seem to shape their lives and destinies and from which they may find it difficult to escape?

Thousands of years ago the philosophers and spiritual masters of India suggested that human behavior was motivated by attachments. By attachment we mean any strong attraction or aversion that you may feel towards particular things. It is an invisible, physical or mental bond (bandha or pasa) between you and the object of your attachment, also known as clinging, which influences your thinking, behavior and actions. Whether you have emotional issues, problems in your profession, or difficulties in your relationships, you can trace them all to your attachments. They determine the general direction of your life, and how you perceive the world and relate to it. Each person is caught in a web of such attachments and live their lives according to their dictates.

Your attachments grow with you. In the early days of your life you may have fewer attachments, like attachment to comfort, your parents, mother's breast, milk, or food, and pleasant sounds, but as you grow they multiply in proportion to the experiences you go through and the objects that you deal with. You may be aware of some of them, but many remain hidden and unknown but influence your thinking and actions, which manifest in your life as habits, relationships, likes and dislikes, daily routines, rigid behavior, belief system, and cultural or religious preferences.

Many social problems of today such as regionalism, racism, religious fanaticism, and nationalism can be traced to the attachments people form to their group identities or collective ego. Some attachments that are positive are conducive to self-growth. For example, attachment to religious duty, virtue, spiritual practices, truth, excellence and the like inculcates righteous conduct and helps individuals to grow spiritually. On the contrary, attachment to sexual pleasure, material comforts, power, wealth, status, and the like results in materialism, vice, aggression, violence, selfishness, egoism, and vanity. For a person seeking liberation (moksha or nirvana), all attachments are harmful because they lead to karma, bondage, and suffering.

Attachments drive you towards your goals or keep you safe from those that you want to avoid. However, as you are caught between the duality of attraction and aversion to things, your attachments also limit your freedom to be yourself or live your life according to your will and full potential. Whether you are rich or poor, and whether you lead a disciplined life or not, your attachments are the prime driving forces in your life. What you do and experience in your life are largely in their hands. Some of the attachments are so deeply hidden and natural to your behavior that you may not even know that you are manifesting your destiny and self-fulfilling prophecies under their influence, while you may be conveniently blaming others for your problems and shortcomings.

Your attachments are real. To know them, you do not have to believe in religion, karma, or rebirth. With some effort and analysis you can see their play in your life and how they limit your ability to live freely or act spontaneously according to the situation rather than according to your fears, desires, or expectations. Your attachments are responsible for many afflictions and emotions of your mind. They not only limit your choices but also influence your attitude and expectations, and thereby prevent you from taking risks or being objective and effective.

Because of them you may also feel vulnerable to certain situations, emotions, people, and relationships and fail to act effectively. They create in your mind many emotional states, habits, daily routines, beliefs, habitual thoughts, attitudes, preferences, prejudices and expectations towards specific ideas, concepts, ideologies, tasks, tastes, people, names and forms, values, and belief systems, which may potentially excite you, disturb you, upset you, or emotionally make you vulnerable to certain objects, events and situations.

For example, if anyone makes a negative remark about you, it may disturb you for long, and the feeling may persist even if you try to forget it. In some cases it may lead to restlessness, loss of sleep, worry, or anxiety. If you carefully examine, you will realize that it happens mostly because that remark touched something that you deeply value. It may be your attachment to the notion of who you are, your ability, esteem, or why others should appreciate you or respect you. It may be because of your attachment to a past memory or an old belief.

Every habit that you cultivate is the result of one or more attachments only. Your love or dislike for a nation, norm, ideology, political system, religion, or value also arises from your attraction or aversion the things in your life. Once you develop them and harbor them in your mind, they control your life and destiny. As time goes by, they gain strength and leave strong impressions in your mind, which over a lifetime morph into latent impressions (samskaras). According to our scriptures you next life is shaped by the latent impressions that you carry with you into your next life.

It is therefore necessary to become aware of your attachments and deal with them. If you are having emotional problems, or if you are stuck in daily routine and unable to make progress in your life, you must pay attention to your attachments and reduce their influence. For example, you might have noticed that success and mobility are interrelated. Successful people tend to be adventurous and are not afraid to move from one job to another, one place to another, or migrate to another country. They are successful because their mobility gives them an opportunity to break free from their attachments, daily routines and mental habits as they adapt to the new challenges and the new environment. They may not be able to overcome all their attachments, but at least they are more flexible in their choices and preferences.

The root cause of your attachments is the desire for something or the other. If you want to get rid of your attachments you must examine your desires and how they are influencing you by creating in you attraction and aversion towards certain objects. Once you identify the objects that are responsible for your attachments and the feelings and sensations they generate, you can work on them to reduce their influence. You can also cultivate detachment as an antidote to overcome your attachment or cultivate a strong will.

Therefore, pay attention to your attachments and how they shape your life. By understanding them, you can free yourself from the limiting factors of your life and extend your personal space as well as freedom. You can learn to be independent, objective, open, focused, flexible, creative, and spontaneous, free from habitual thought patterns, irrational beliefs, prejudices, hidden agendas, negative emotions, and strong likes and dislikes. You can improve your effectiveness and efficiency by freeing yourself from the fears and concerns that prevent you from exercising your will or pursuing your goals. You can become unstuck by freeing yourself from whatever that has been holding you back and preventing you to be yourself or use your full potential and creativity, and get on with your life.

Finally, remember that anything that worries your or upsets you is because of your attachments. If you want to stay in control and be free from them, you must weaken their hold upon you.

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