There is a Tibetan word that denotes getting hooked. It is Shenpa and it is about attachment to our identity, possessions, views, opinions, knowledge, religion, political affiliations, ideals or anything else.
Pema Chodron says,” Here’s how shenpa shows up in everyday experiences. Somebody says a harsh word and something in you tightens: instantly you’re hooked. That tightness quickly spirals into blaming the person or denigrating yourself. The chain reaction of speaking or acting or obsessing happens fast.
Maybe, if you have strong addictions, you go right for your addiction to cover over the uncomfortable feelings. This is very personal. What was said gets to you—it triggers you. It might not bother someone else at all, but we’re talking about what touches your sore place—that sore place of shenpa.”
How do we know we’re attached to anything? If someone takes a stance different from ours and we feel anger rise, our throat tighten, a faster heartbeat or quickening breaths, we know we’re attached. When we think our belief is being threatened by what someone says or does and we’re ready to fight, we’re attached and we’ve been hooked.
There is nothing wrong with having our own belief system and opinions; it’s our attachment to them that gets us hooked and in trouble. It’s thinking something is wrong with anyone who does not share our belief. It’s may extend to calling others names, putting them down, physical fighting, ostracizing, and bullying because they dare to believe differently.
If you think you’re not attached to your beliefs watch how you respond when you’re around someone who has a different belief.
If you’re a Democrat and you spend time with a Republican who strongly believes their party is the only right one and they proceed to bash your party, notice how you feel. That anger and sometimes rage is shenpa. If you’re a Christian and you find yourself in the presence of someone who thinks christianity is stupid, watch how you respond. You may contain yourself without, but how are you feeling within?
I’ve been paying attention to the shenpa in my life and see clearly how attached I am to my routine, lifestyle, what I think I know, how I’m used to feeling, my identity, and my ideas of what’s acceptable.
Recently, due to an experience I had that involved technology, I’ve seen another side of shenpa and how it plays out in my life. Last Friday I decided to upgrade my blogsite and switch to a self hosted service. Because I know my mental limitations when it comes to computers, I paid to have someone at WordPress do the switch for me and give me two weeks support.
I turned my laptop on Saturday morning and saw the domain change had been made so I was good to go. I went to my list of blogs waiting in the queue and found the one I planned on posting that morning. I did what I always do but once it published it disappeared into space. When I went to the URL where my blog posts, the latest blog was not there. It had published but I could not find it.
Going back to my dashboard I realized everything on the screen was from before the domain change. I could not comprehend what happened to my new domain and I could not find it. I was extremely frustrated and near tears because I had no idea how to fix it. Feeling myself coming unglued I made one of the smartest decisions I’ve made recently. No, I did not chuck the laptop in the trash nor did I throw it through the window.
I decided to walk away and take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. While walking I noticed the negative script running through my head. It went like this. “I’m so dumb I can’t figure anything out, I’m too old to be fooling with computers, perhaps the universe is trying to tell me I need to give up blogging, and I’m too stupid to figure anything out.”
I saw how not being able to figure “simple, basic” technology hooks me. It captures me every time it happens. Once I’m hooked my attachment is to indulge in putting myself down and making myself wrong. It’s what I’ve always done and I know it is a result of being asked if I was stupid when I was younger and I couldn’t understand something.
As I continued to walk and look at what I was seeing I somehow had enough presence of mind to make a powerful decision to unhook myself. I told the critical parent living in my head to shut up and then I decided to let the computer thing go.
I chose to walk away from the blogsite until Monday morning when I could hopefully get in touch with someone who could help me. When I surrendered and let it go I felt the stress leave my body.
The lesson for me in this latest meltdown was seeing how shenpa is not just about attachments to ideas and beliefs, it’s also about my habitual response to being hooked. My attachment to not understanding technology is negative self-talk. This is a repetitive pattern that I’ve lived out of for most of my life.
Some are attached to cutting when they are stressed, some to pills, alcohol, shopping, busyness, etc. Unfortunately, I cut myself with words.
Once we can identify what hooks us and what our patterned response is, we can begin to loosen our attachment, the shenpa we have to our hot buttons. We can become familiar with our responses and choose to let go of our familiar way of acting out. We can choose to stop strengthening habits that bring pain to us and to others.
What are you attached to? What hooks you? What are your patterned responses? If you don’t know the answers to these questions pay close attention to your life and you’ll see your shenpa. We all have it, none are exempt.