“One day, while the eagle was flying over a field, he saw a fish emerge from the water of a pond. He dived quickly and with extraordinary dexterity managed to capture him. Then it took off again, with the fish in its beak.
“A band of ravens who had witnessed the scene rushed to the eagle to try to grab the prey. Usually the eagle is not afraid of crows, but this time there were many and their cries were frightening. The first crows were joined by others.
“The eagle tried to resume flight to escape, but the ravens prevented it. They attacked him relentlessly. At some point, the eagle realized that it was all due to the fact that it kept holding on to the fish. Then he opened his beak and dropped it.
“The ravens rushed to the fish and the eagle was finally able to take off again. Now she could fly free and light. Higher and higher. Without anything that could stop her. In peace".
This Indian fable points out that stubbornly grasping at things creates problems that we could solve simply by learning to let go of what hurts or hinders us.
In real life, however, it is not so easy to see which are the "fish" that prevent us from taking flight. In fact, many of these things probably weren't a problem at first, until they became a heavy burden that we don't want to get rid of.
The obsession with accumulating
In a society where success is measured in terms of "quantity", subtraction is underestimated. However, many times the problems come precisely because of the irrational obsession with accumulating. We can obsess about accumulating things, money, results, properties, experiences, people ...
Thus we end up leading a chaotic life, where things increasingly occupy our vital space, experiences leave less and less room for introspection and social commitments take away the possibility of being alone with ourselves. In this scenario, it is not difficult for some of the things we wish to accumulate become an obstacle that prevents us from taking flight.
The problem, however, is that we cling to them.
Duke University researchers, for example, asked a group of young people how much they would be willing to pay for a ticket to a major basketball game. They answered an average of $ 166. But after giving them the tickets, the youngsters demanded that they resell them for $ 2.411, a clearly exorbitant price. Because? Everyone succumbed to the "owner effect," a phenomenon whereby when something belongs to us we believe its value is greater simply because we have developed attachment.
Another psychological effect that keeps us tied to our bad decisions is the error of sunk costs. Psychologists at the University of Middlesex found that, in several scenarios, once we invest time, effort and / or money in something, we have a tendency to stay steadfast on that path, even if it means a greater investment or even harms us. because it is difficult to admit that you have made a mistake and to abandon the project.
Detachment: the key to learning to let go
In reality, it takes a lot more courage and strength to let go than to grab. When we cling to something or someone, we are simply following a pattern instilled in us since childhood. Letting go, on the contrary, requires a deeper and more mature analysis exercise in which we realize that there is no point in clinging to certain things or people, because in this way we are likely to harm them or do it to ourselves.
As Alan Watts said: "The hand that grasps the world is a noose around your neck, which grasps and kills the very life you so desire to achieve." When we clench our fist too much, water flows out. We can only drink if we keep our hand relaxed.
We must recognize that almost all of our struggles, from frustration to anxiety, from anger to sadness, from pain to worry, stem from the same thing: being too attached to something.
When we are too attached we become confused and cannot clearly see what is happening to us. Consequently, we cannot notice the chains that hold us back or the habits that cause us to repeatedly collide with the same obstacle.
The solution lies in detachment. Detachment, contrary to what many think, does not imply "being made of stone" or becoming indifferent, but rather developing an attitude whereby we do not block anything. We simply let the world run its course, without clinging to what needs to change.
“The art of living a 'difficult situation' does not consist, on the one hand, in drifting carelessly, nor, on the other, in clinging fearfully to the past and the known. It consists in being completely sensitive to each moment, in considering it as new and unique, in having an open and receptive mind, ”suggested Watts.
When we practice detachment, we understand that the solution is not to add, but to subtract. Letting go of what hurts us. Change course. Unload the ballast. Only then can we go back, this time without unnecessary ballast.