The Buddhist philosophy that non-attachment is important to well-being seems to contradict Western attachment theory’s notion that healthy attachment is a key to well-being. Nevertheless, the initial developmental paths of the two systems may overlap: Reliance on warm, responsive, and autonomy-supportive caregivers may promote felt security in both cases through the use of security inducing mental models (of the self, others, the world and life). However, the meditative path seems to involve development in another domain–non-conceptual awareness of the constructed nature of mental models, regardless of whether they are security or insecurity inducing. Such training is thought to promote non-attachment, i.e., freedom from mental constructions and the sense of separateness and grasping that accompanies them. In collaboration with my senior colleagues, Drs. Phillip Shaver and Kirk Brown, I designed the Non-Attachment Scale (NAS) based on historical and contemporary Buddhist scholarship. We evaluated its psychometric properties in various student samples and a large nationally representative American adult sample. We also found evidence consistent with Buddhist theory that non-attachment is psychologically and socially adaptive.

Baljinder Sahdra

University of California–Davis

Fellow, Grantee