Attachment and Caring

Attachment isn't caring - it's the opposite of it.

Related to this story.

Are attachment and caring the same?

It sometimes seems that way.

Take anger.

It’s said that it’s because you care about someone that you get angry with them.

And that isn’t wrong either.

Anger usually comes with a cost – energy, mental space, concentration.

To get angry you have to care about something or someone (even if it’s yourself).

Care enough to make the cost worth paying.

Or be short-sighted enough to get angry easily and pay that cost to anyone for the asking.

I noticed that I rarely got angry at people – and realized it was simply because I didn’t care about them.

They weren’t important enough to me for me to ruin my mental state over them.

Still, for a tiny handful, one sometimes snaps occasionally.

Perhaps it was simply ‘caring’.

Making an effort to ‘correct’ someone – an effort you wouldn’t bother with on someone you didn’t deem worth it.


And that’s what makes attachment and caring seem like close comrades.

But that’s not true.

To be attached is to want something or someone to be some way.

That’s why you’re literally ‘attached’ – now you’re tied to it. You have a stake in it.

You might think you want what’s ‘best for’ someone.

Whether it really is ‘best’ or not is irrelevant.

What’s relevant is that there is a particular way that person or thing needs to be – according to you.


Caring is not attachment.

Caring is defined not by the thing or creature that is the object of affection, but by the one that bestows the affection – by the feeling that that thing inspires in them.

In attachment, the focus is on whom you’re attached to – specifically, how you think it ought to be.

Caring is about what it makes you feel, just by its existence.

And what is that feeling of caring?

It’s hard to be precise; there’d be a hundred different answers and perhaps all equally subjective.

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s described best in The Little Prince – how, if you care about a single flower, all the stars look beautiful to you – because somewhere, on one of them, your flower resides.

Which is to say that – when you care enough about something, it makes everything- if not beautiful, then at least bearable.

Suffice it to say that the two aren’t the same thing.

When you get angry at those you care – it isn’t really because you care that you’re angry.

It’s because you’re attached.

Because you think they ought to be a particular way, and want to mould them that way – perhaps even against their will.

A Noose and Weight

Attachment is not the same as caring.

Attachment is neither necessary nor sufficient for caring.

It’s not sufficient, because there’s no dearth of those trying to mould and control others, without caring for them in the slightest.

And it’s not necessary because it’s not a prerequisite for caring.

Forget being the same thing – attachment isn’t even positively correlated to caring, though they may seem close comrades.

On the contrary, attachment is the biggest roadblock to caring.

Because it disguises itself as a good thing, the idea that ‘you only get angry because you care’.

Attachment is greed, the greed that something or someone should be the way you want it to be.

Attachment is need, dependence – the need for someone or something to be the way you think it ought to be.

It harms both the giver and the receiver.

Greed, the noose around the receiver’s neck.

The greed, the presumption that you have a claim over someone on how they ought to be.

Dependence, the weight on the giver’s back.

The need that someone has to be the way you want them to be.

If I really loved something, I wouldn’t chain it to my selfish desires.

I’d give it the freedom to be the way it wants to be – not constrain it to be the way I want it to be.

Both for my sake and its.

I don’t burden myself by pinning my hopes on it being a particular way.

Nor is it weighed down by the burden of living up to my expectations.

If you really care, you’ll love it even if it goes its own path – even if it’s a path that takes it away from you.

You wouldn’t force it to give up its true nature just to make you happy.

Nor do anything to tarnish that happiness.

You see the extreme consequences of the greed of attachment when you see how some people, mostly men, handle rejection.

Assault, physical violence, harassment.

That’s the greed of attachment.

No one who cared about another person would inflict that on them.

These are the actions of creatures whose greed overpowers all else in them.

Someone who cared about another would want them to be happy, even if that happiness meant removing themselves from that person’s life.

Giving up the need to control someone’s choices because that’s what they would want – removing the noose from their neck.

And because it benefits you – you’re no longer carrying a weight on your back.


Is caring ‘hands-off’?

Abandoning all responsibility, ceasing all attempts to influence – what you’d like to call ‘help’ – someone?

I don’t think so.

There’s a difference between providing information, offering assistance, and exerting control.

Control is attachment – a weight and a noose.

It’s a noose of attachment that tries to push someone towards a particular choice – the one you want them to make.

Physical coercion, emotional maneuvers, manipulating information – stratagems to prevent individual agency and distort the authentic choice of an individual.

It’s the weight of attachment that makes you feel affected by someone else’s choices.

Angry or disappointed when someone doesn’t do what you think is right, and does something ‘stupid’.

Or even just being ‘hurt’, feeling neglected, when someone doesn’t acknowledge you.

Sharing a video or blog, or going out of your way to help, and being ignored if not spurned.

The very sharing is done with a need for acknowledgment, a need for the recipient to respond.

Caring is the action that seeks to help, without the attachment that seeks to control.

Offering what you have – any information, any assistance, anything of value – and leaving it at that.

The same act, the same assistance – without the effort to manipulate or direct choice, without the sense of involvement, of being affected by their choice.

In that sense, caring doesn’t mean laissez-faire, leaving things to take their own course, making no effort at all.

Caring is making an effort, providing information, assistance – but leaving it to the individual to make their own choice, not imposing your choice on them.

Knowing that their choice is their own, their fate is their own – respecting it, and not taking the burden of it on yourself.

Neither Better nor Worse

None of this has anything to do with better or worse, though most will inevitably take away the conclusion ‘attachment bad, caring good’.

And the usual search for prescriptions on how to avoid attachment.

Or arguments that attachment isn’t bad, caring isn’t good, both are necessary, neither is avoidable, so on and so forth.

None of which is relevant; neither is better or worse,.

There is no prescription that one must avoid attachment, nor any tips to do that.

There are only consequences of any action, and attachment and caring come with their own consequences.

Attachment brings with it the burden of the weight you take up when you expect someone to abide by what you want.

If you agree to bear that weight, you get to exert some control over other people’s choices.

Detachment carries the price that people might do things their own way, which needn’t be your way.

But offers the lightness that is the prize of dropping the weight of attachment.

What consequences are acceptable to you is something you have to decide for yourself.