Alan Watts explains why attachments cause suffering

image of Alan Watts

Attachment, clinging, desiring…These are terms you’ve probably heard of if you’ve studied Eastern philosophy before.

In the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, it says that suffering is due to attachment. This is the desire to have and control things.

As philosopher Alan Watts mentions in the below video, this could be a craving of sensual pleasure, the desire for fame or the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations.

Buddha also says that the mind experiences complete freedom when it lets go of desire and craving.

So the question is, what does it truly mean to let go of attachment and desiring?

It’s a big topic but as I understand it, letting go of attachment basically means that you don’t grasp onto things around you in an attempt to find comfort or happiness from them, and realize that true peace and happiness comes from letting go of those things.

Check out this amazing video of the philosopher Alan Watts describing what letting go of attachment means and how it can help you live a more meaningful life.

Detachment does not lead people to become detached robots

letting go of attachment does not mean "detached" like a robot

As Alan Watts says, true non-attachment and letting go involve living amidst everything in life such as your emotions, your relationships and your material possessions where you realize the fundamental truths of those things, such as impermanence and interbeing.

I believe that this means that you’re able to exist in this world without grasping onto things with a sense of dependency.

So, what are some examples of unhealthy attachment? In my opinion, these are 3 examples of unhealthy attachment:

1. A relationship where two people’s image of one another is more important the person themselves.

2. The idea that you need a material item to be happy.

3. Desiring a result, such as the idea that getting a promotion at work will solve all your problems.

Why do these attachments lead to suffering?

The reason desiring causes suffering is that attachments are transient and loss is inevitable.

Buddhism says that the only constant in the universe is change, and by desiring you are trying to control and make something fixed, which is going against the forces of the Universe.

And I believe that this can lead to negative emotions like stress and anxiety.

I also believe that adopting this mindset of non-attachment won’t make you an emotionless robot, but can actually help you embrace life fully and openly.


Because you understand that change is the only constant in the universe and that any joyful or happy moments are fleeting and need to be cherished. You can also realize that any difficult times won’t last forever.

When you’re in a relationship, you can let that person be free and at peace because you don’t need them to be in a fixed state that you depend on. You simply love them for all that they are and all that they become.

You can enjoy riding your car without your happiness being dependent on it. If it breaks down tomorrow, you won’t be affected by it (besides the fact that you’ll need to find another way to get to work!).

You can work towards goals without your happiness dependent on the outcome.

The true source of happiness

model joyfully letting go of attachment

The true source of peace and happiness exists inside us, beyond any attachments and desires. The only person that can realize this is yourself.

Making this your mindset takes work and effort, and yet most of us will put countless hours of effort into earning more money and to holding onto a relationship in the hope that we’ll be “happy one day”. It will never happen.

Take action and prioritize your peace and happiness now. It’s the only way.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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