When I was a little girl, I had a fuzzy chocolate-brown teddy bear with oversized, expressive plastic eyes. I called him Luli and I slept with him every night, for years. Like many people, I was attached to the stuffed animal I had as a child.
If it’s not a stuffed animal for you, then maybe it’s an outfit you wore on a special occasion or the record collection you’ve had since your teens.
It’s no surprise that most people have something they are emotionally attached to, but it might surprise you to hear that it’s not about the stuffed animal, or the clothes, or the records – it’s not about the stuff at all.
What we are really attached to, what we are hanging on to for dear life, is what the item represents. For me, the stuffed animal meant safety and love. He never abandoned me. He was always there to cuddle with, even on the day my first boyfriend broke up with me. If it’s a special outfit for you, maybe it represents at time in your life when you felt really good about yourself, or your body, or your relationship. And that record collection, maybe it makes you relive the fun, carefree days of your youth. It’s different things to different people, but it’s never, ever, ever about the stuff – this I can promise you.
I share this truth with you because I believe that awareness is a powerful change agent. If there are items that you are particularly attached to and are ready to let go of (perhaps because you don’t have the space or want to let go of the past to make room for something new) I encourage you to try this exercise. It’s not scientific, and I’m not a psychologist, but I have found that it works for me and for hundreds of clients who have experimented with it.
Overcoming Emotional Attachment to Stuff:
Step One: Determine which item you are ready to let go of.
Step Two: Take a picture of it to preserve the memory (and make it easier to let go).
Step Three: Think back to when you used that item. Jot down how you felt when you used it, wore it, read it, etc. Focus on the emotions and the need it filled at the time.
Step Four: Ask yourself if it is possible for you to feel this emotion/get this need met without the item. For example, can you experience the fun of your youth by reconnecting with old friends and planning a night out (after all, that fun-loving person is still inside of you)? In other words, can you replace the item with an activity that elicits the same feelings and meets the same needs?
Step Five: Ask yourself if you are willing to let the item go.
The answer to Step Five may be ‘no’, and that’s okay, because it is a process and it does get easier. Keep working on it with various items that you want to detach yourself from. Once you are aware of the ‘why’, the ‘how’ reveals itself. You’ll soon recognize that emotional attachment to things from the past can tie you down and prevent you from moving forward in life. That’s not to say that you can’t keep a few mementos; but an excess amount can keep you anchored to the past. The memory is not the item; you don’t need the physical reminder because you can keep the memory in your head and heart – where it doesn’t take up space and you never have to dust it.
So what ever happened to my Luli? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that I don’t sleep with him anymore. Once I met my husband, I was able to experience that safety and love without needing to cuddle my bear. So I took a picture and let him go (the bear, not my husband!) And I’m happy to report that I haven’t missed Luli at all.
Please take a moment and use the comments section below to let me know what item(s) you are emotionally attached to and what you think it represents. This takes a lot of courage, but it’s the first step in letting go.