The tighter you hold on, the less grasp you have

I used to hold on very tightly indeed to everything I thought I needed in my life, lest I lost it. I see now that this holding on was almost frantic…as well as counter-productive. I was so desperate not to feel alone, to feel complete…that I continually checked that I had everything in place around me to ‘make me happy’. I had no concept, then, that only I could make me happy.

Love was my Holy Grail; I thought that ‘love’ was synonymous with attachment, that the only way to love was with mutual intensity and all consuming need. I recognised, of course, that it was exhausting but I thought that was simply how love worked, how life worked. I thought that if one was in love, that this was all either partner needed, that everything else was superfluous; that every second of every minute of every day was to be given to each other. It had to be all or nothing; I had to be my partner’s whole world…and he had to mean the same to me. Other friendships, hobbies or anything else in our lives could only be, at best, extremely poor seconds to the special love we shared.

This intensity wasn’t purely reserved for lovers, it was sometimes as ‘meaningful’ with other relationships and even with possessions. We can be just as clingy in a friendship and equally obsessed with a belonging.

Please may I be excused?

Unfortunately, this rule that I had written for myself wasn’t always terribly practical, because of work commitments, family duties, social obligations and what have you; this meant that when my partner had to concentrate on anything other than me, I felt lonely, jealous, crushed, frightened and insecure. When I occasionally wanted to turn my mind, albeit temporarily away from him and our love, when I wanted to see a friend or go shopping maybe, my partner’s all consuming dependence on me, could make me feel trapped. I see now, as I’m sure you do, how dysfunctional this was. Yet it isn’t an unusual story at all, I often have clients with very similar ‘rules’, wondering why they’re still miserable. Some clients’ stories are even more impaired and unhealthy. You may even be able to see aspects of what I’ve said, in your own relationships. You might like to read Your relationship with you; love yourself and Enjoy the relationships you’ve always dreamed of; the perfect ones for more on this.

What I didn’t understand at the time, when I was desperate to be my lover’s everything, was that I was craving the love that only I could give myself… the nurturing…the acceptance. Because I didn’t know how to love myself or that happiness is only and always an inside job, I needed a relationship to ‘make me happy’. Nothing and no one can make us happy and Nothing and no one can ever hurt us.

He loves me, he loves me not

People who are needy, like I was, will not be able to have fulfilling relationships with anyone, especially with someone who accepts and loves themselves because that person will feel smothered by their attention craving.

A person who doesn’t love themselves can only really have a relationship with a person who also, incorrectly, believes that they need someone else to make them happy.

I couldn’t let myself understand this because the idea of detachment was very scary indeed to me. How could someone claim to love me without needing me? How could it be real love if it wasn’t passionate and overwhelming?

And then the magic happened

I can’t tell you how amazing it was when I finally understood that real love is accepting everything exactly the way it is, without wanting or needing to change it. Real love doesn’t need constant proving…constant checking. Real loves feels natural and comfortable; it offers and allows the freedom to be fulfilled within and outside the relationship. Real love is simple and beautiful.

I’d thought the rules I’d written for myself were fact and therefore unchangeable. Now I see clearly that they were just rules I’d written or appropriated; I realised that, as I had written the rules I had stuck fast to, I could choose to change them whenever I liked. Nowadays, this idea is seen very regularly on social media, television and so forth, but a few years ago when I had my epiphany, it was relatively unheard of…I tell you this to excuse the length of time it took me!

One step at a time

It will be easier for you, but if learning to feel the completeness, the fulfilment and the joy of love without attachment seems difficult to you, I found it can be done in stages.

We find it much easier to remain detached when we understand things wont last, when we see their temporary nature. As soon as there’s a possibility of permanence, we like to attach. We tend not to have too many issues with letting go of daylight, of summer, of weekends, of holidays, of flowers; we can usually love them without attachment because we are very used to them coming to an end. We could then extend that attachment-less love to our favourite pair of jeans, to places we love to shop or visit, to our cars and homes; we can learn to love but let go when our jeans finally fall apart, our beloved shops close or move away, our vehicles need replacing or we have to relocate, down or upsize our houses.

It always feels trickier to my clients to let go of attachment to their friends…to be comfortable with their BFFs having other friends and enjoying pastimes without them. Yet there is no real difference is there? Our friends love us because we are loveable and we’re more lovable when we give them space. They don’t need to be tethered to us, they have chosen and want to be our friend…of their own free will. I personally wouldn’t want any type of relationship with someone who was only there because they can’t face the consequences of leaving. Do you?

Once we can have meaningful and healthy friendships… isn’t such a big step to being happy with a lover who, as well as loving us, has and values their own friends and hobbies. A lover who enjoys lots of activities without us, but comes home to us. A lover who feels free within our relationship to grow and learn.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Anna Freud –

“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It Is there all the time”


Next time I’ll be talking about my understanding of thought and its role, and how that can give us our happy place, on demand. Until then, have a great time and let me know if you have any questions or comments, or would like me to coach you.

Catherine x

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