It felt both liberating and somehow odd to make a distinction between the limits of capacity and attachment. I’ve been thinking about that oddness and here’s an extra twist to the story.
The limits of attachment and capacity are interrelated. They are in this circular relationship that’s reminiscent of yin and yang. When I am struggling to grasp something or feel overwhelmed and generally experiencing the limit of capacity, it is usually the limit of attachment that is holding me back from gaining this capacity. Conversely, when I lash out in fear and frustration, trapped by my limit of attachment — it is usually the limit of capacity that prevents me from reframing and shifting my perspective to loosen my attachment.
Even more interestingly, the limit of attachment sometimes rises out of experiencing the limit of capacity, and vice versa. A few years back, I was the tech lead of a large team. As the team kept growing, I distinctly felt that I was losing track of everything that was going on. I was in over my head, hitting that limit of capacity. Meetings and syncs were overflowing my calendar, with the notes from that period of time turning increasingly terse and cryptic. One of the distinct fears — limit of attachment! — I remember from that time, was “I will fail to produce a coherent direction for the team.” I was holding too firmly onto a certain way of leading the team, and as I became more overwhelmed, I instinctively tried to hold it even firmer. So what did I do? I decided that the problem was somewhere else — it was the team that wasn’t organized right! I dove into drawing up plans for organizing teams and programs and all those other doc and chart artifacts that ultimately were not helpful — and likely the opposite. Experiencing the limit of capacity fed my limit of attachment — the fear of failing my team as their leader. Which in turn fed my limit of capacity with all the teamification work I created. The vicious cycle ended up being so horrific and traumatizing, I ended up leaving the team.
This story has a happy ending. This experience was also the eye-opening moment I needed, my first glimpse into the nature of complexity, being subject to some unknown force with increasing recognition of this force’s existence — my first conscious subject-object shift. It also helped me see that when folks around me bump into their limits to seeing, they are likely facing both the limit of capacity and the limit of attachment at the same time. And when they do, they are standing at the doorstep of vertical development.