ArticlePDF Available

Growing by Letting Go: Nonattachment and Mindfulness as Qualities of Advanced Psychological Development


Abstract and Figures

Psychological development continues throughout adulthood, with some individuals reaching advanced levels of adult psychological development. A focus of the present study was to investigate the Buddhist construct of nonattachment in relation to three elements of advanced psychological development: wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. The possibility that nonattachment mediates the relationship of mindfulness to these aspects of optimal psychological development was also investigated. Results from 348 university students supported expectations that nonattachment was positively related to wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence and confirmed similar positive relationships for mindfulness. In addition, nonattachment was found to act as a partial mediator of mindfulness for all three aspects of advanced adult psychological development. Interestingly, an alternate mediational pathway was discovered as mindfulness was shown to mediate the relationship of nonattachment to measures of advanced psychological development. The results have implications for understanding the different pathways towards developing wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence and provide insight into the possible mechanisms of mindfulness and nonattachment that help to explain their positive impact. Full text can be accessed at:
Content may be subject to copyright.
This is a pre-print of an article accepted for publication in the Journal of Adult
Development (doi: 10.1007/s10804-018-09326-5).
The final authenticated version is directly available with no paywall online at
Growing by letting go: Nonattachment and mindfulness as qualities of advanced
psychological development.
Richard Whitehead*1, Glen Bates1 and Bradley Elphinstone1.
1Department of Psychology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
*Richard Whitehead is the corresponding author. Please contact at (ph. +61 415918719)
Conflict of interest: The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.
Psychological development continues throughout adulthood, with some individuals reaching
advanced levels of adult psychological development. A focus of the present study was to
investigate the Buddhist construct of nonattachment in relation to three elements of advanced
psychological development: wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. The
possibility that nonattachment mediates the relationship of mindfulness to these aspects of
optimal psychological development was also investigated. Results from 348 university
students supported expectations that nonattachment was positively related to wisdom, self-
actualisation and self-transcendence and confirmed similar positive relationships for
mindfulness. In addition, nonattachment was found to act as a partial mediator of mindfulness
for all three aspects of advanced adult psychological development. Interestingly, an alternate
mediational pathway was discovered as mindfulness was shown to mediate the relationship of
nonattachment to measures of advanced psychological development. The results have
implications for understanding the different pathways towards developing wisdom, self-
actualisation and self-transcendence and provide insight into the possible mechanisms of
mindfulness and nonattachment that help to explain their positive impact.
A number of theories of adult development propose that people can continue growing
and developing across a range of areas of psychological functioning well into adult life
(Cook-Greuter, 2000; Levenson, Aldwin & Cupertino, 2001; Loevinger, 1976). The higher
stages of adult psychological development are believed to involve, “increasing flexibility,
conceptual complexity, and tolerance for ambiguity; recognition and acceptance of internal
contradictions; a broader and more complex understanding of the self, others, and the self in
relation to others” (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008 p.3). These qualities accord with three well-
studied components of advanced psychological development; wisdom (Ardelt, 2008; Gluck,
Bluck, Baron & McAdams, 2005; Thomas, Bangen, Ardelt, Jeste, 2017), self-actualisation
(Maslow, 1962; Rogers, 1961) and self-transcendence (Levenson et al. 2001; Levenson,
Jennings, Aldwin & Shiraishi, 2005; Loevinger, 1976). Recent research suggests certain
practices aligned with Buddhist psychology may assist people in reaching such advanced
stages of growth and development (Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008). The present study
investigated two constructs within Buddhist psychology, nonattachment and mindfulness, in
terms of their alignment with the higher stages of psychological development. The present
study is the first to investigate whether nonattachment relates to wisdom, self-actualisation,
and self-transcendence. Further, as recent research suggests nonattachment may be a
mechanism of mindfulness (Sahdra, Ciarrochi & Parker, 2016), the present study also
investigated whether nonattachment mediates the impact of mindfulness on these indicators
of advanced psychological development.
Nonattachment, mindfulness and advanced psychological development
To understand the construct of nonattachment, it is important to define ‘attachment’,
as the term has different meanings in different disciplines. In psychology, attachment often
refers to attachment style, referencing a child’s attachment to the caregiver (see Bowlby,
1969; Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall, 1978) or the quality and safety of a person’s
relationships as an adult (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). However, in the context of nonattachment,
attachment refers to the energy involved in clinging to experiences perceived as positive and
the avoidance of experiences perceived as negative (Altobello, 2009; Agarwal, 1992; Sahdra
et al., 2010). Nonattachment, therefore, involves an interaction with experience without
fixation or needing to control it though clinging or avoidance (Sahdra et al., 2010). The
quality of nonattachment is at the core of the Buddhist teachings (Gammage, 2006; Hanh,
1999; Thubten, 2009), is identified as an ideal quality to possess (Banth & Talwar, 2012;
Upadhyay & Vashishtha, 2014) and is associated with greater presence and maturity (Sahdra
et al., 2010).
In contrast, mindfulness results from an open, nonjudging awareness towards what is
unfolding in the field of consciousness as it occurs moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003)
and represents one of the stages on the noble eight-fold path that is central to Buddhist
teachings (Dalai Lama, 1997). Some preliminary evidence suggests mindfulness is positively
associated with the optimal qualities of self-actualization (Beitel et al., 2014), wisdom
(Beaumont, 2011) and self-transcendence (Vago & Silbersweig, 2012), however, the precise
mechanisms of this relationship are unclear. Buddhist theory suggests that greater
mindfulness can allow an individual to develop greater insight into the transient nature of
reality and the futility of trying to control the ever-changing flow of experience, which in turn
builds nonattachment and reduces the negative impact that attachments have on an
individual’s quality of life (Dalai Lama, 1997, 2001). Accordingly, nonattachment has been
shown to mediate the positive impact of mindfulness in relation to life satisfaction, life
effectiveness (Sahdra et al., 2016) and ‘flourishing’ (Coffey, Fredrickson & Hartman, 2010).
Nonattachment and mindfulness are qualities developed over time that are both likely
to create the conditions that foster advanced psychological development. Although empirical
evidence exists for mindfulness in relation to advanced psychological development, no such
empirical evidence exists for nonattachment. Potentially, the more an individual learns,
grows and develops throughout their adult life and encounters major life experiences (e.g.,
losing a job, the break-up of a relationship), the more they learn the futility of attachments
aimed at trying to control experience (Sahdra et al.,2010). Letting go of impeding
attachments may facilitate a freedom and thriving in life, allowing individuals develop at
advanced levels. This is likely to include the development of wisdom, self-actualisation, and
Wisdom is a multifaceted construct (Ardelt, 2003; Clayton & Birren, 1980; Le, 2008)
seen as a sign of optimal development across all cultures and religions, despite its various
definitions and conceptualisations (Le, 2008, 2011). Within Buddhism, wisdom involves
understanding the interdependent nature of reality, the transience of all experience, and
understanding there is no way to truly hold on to any fixed experience (Dalai Lama, 2001;
Hanh, 1999, 2006). Within Western psychology, Ardelt (2003) conceptualised wisdom as a
developmental quality encapsulating three dimensions of: affective, cognitive and reflective
wisdom. These dimensions capture a selflessness and compassion for others (Ardelt, 2008);
a comprehension of life with deep meaning and significance, especially intra and
interpersonal matters (Ardelt, 2003; Thomas et al., 2017); and an unbiased, decentered view
of reality which acknowledges the existence of multiple perspectives (Thomas et al., 2017).
Wisdom develops across the lifespan (Ardelt, 2003; 2007; Bluck & Gluck, 2005;
Staudinger, 1999) by growing from life experiences (Bluck & Gluck, 2005; Mansfield,
McLean, & Lilgendahl, 2010). Learning from experience through careful reflexivity and an
ability to challenge one’s subjectivity and take on multiple perspectives, is believed to
produce wisdom and a greater understanding of the ambiguity and paradoxes in life (Ardelt,
2011). Wisdom is associated with greater emotional complexity, less emotional reactivity
and a greater propensity to see things from the bigger picture (Grossman, Gerlach, &
Denissen, 2016).
Within Buddhist literature, mindfulness is important in the development of wisdom
(Anālayo, 2010; Buchheld, 2001; Purser & Milillo, 2014). Mindfulness assists an individual
to witness experience without attaching to the apparent independent nature of existence and
develop wisdom into the ever-changing nature of things (Hanh, 1999). Accordingly,
Beaumont (2011) found that people with higher levels of mindfulness also had higher levels
of wisdom. Mindfulness was also positively associated with all three dimensions of Ardelt’s
(2003) three-dimensional wisdom scale (3D-WS); cognitive, affective and reflective wisdom.
Individuals with an open, present-centred awareness tended to understand the complexities
and ambiguities of experience (reflective wisdom), understand experience on a deeper level
(cognitive wisdom), and were less self-focused and more compassionate towards others
(affective wisdom).
Nonattachment may also be strongly related to wisdom and may represent a
mechanism through which mindfulness impacts the development of wisdom. Nonattachment
involves an engagement with experience without fixation on specific beliefs and opinions that
may limit knowledge and understanding of the complexities and ambiguities in life. This is
highlighted in a speech by the Dalai Lama (2011):
“I am a Buddhist but I should not develop attachment to Buddhism, because once you
develop attachment to your faith, then your mind will become biased; then you can’t
see the value of other traditions.
Letting go of attachment to certain views allows an individual to be open to other
perspectives and thus promotes greater understanding and wisdom.
The cognitive and reflective factors of wisdom highlight an individual’s ability to
engage with multiple perspectives and to understand life more deeply by building greater
self-awareness and self-insight (Ardelt, 2003, 2008). In contrast, being attached to
experience involves narrow fixation on experience being a specific way, and thus limits
awareness or insight beyond that which is fixated on. Wisdom arises when an individual can
be mindfully aware of the flow of experience without attachment (Hartman & Zimberoff,
2009). Nonattachment also appears to be related to the affective aspect of interpersonal
wisdom. Being more nonattached is associated with being more present in life and less
impacted by the fixation on self-related thoughts and feelings (Sahdra et al., 2010) which may
theoretically create a greater space for understanding and empathising with others (Sahdra et
al., 2015). Accordingly, nonattachment has been associated with greater empathy, peer-rated
kindness, and helpfulness (Sahdra et al., 2015), and greater relational harmony cultivated
through compassion (Wang et al., 2015). Theoretically, living without attachment allows a
flow of experience in which individuals can develop insight into the ambiguous and complex
nature of experience, contributing to a deeper understanding of life and greater understanding
and compassion towards others.
Self-actualisation is perhaps one of the most prominent theories of optimal adult
development (Bauer, Shwab & McAdams, 2011). Following the achievement of basic needs,
self-actualisation is defined as achievement of a person’s highest potential (Beaumont, 2009;
Jones & Crandall, 1986) and a movement from self-fixation towards selflessness and altruism
(D’Souza & Gurin, 2016). Maslow (1968) described self-actualizing individuals as having a
strong propensity to deeply understand and experience the self and others as existing
interdependently. Self-actualisers also display resistance to enculturation and engage with
ethical issues from multiple perspectives (Bauer et al., 2011; Maslow, 1970).
Some evidence suggests being more mindful is associated with greater self-
actualisation. Brown and Ryan (2003) found higher levels of mindfulness captured by an
open, present centred awareness, related to higher levels of self actualisation. measured by
the Measure of Actualization of Potential (MAP; Lefrancois, Leclerc, Dube, Hebert &
Gaulin, 1997). In a more comprehensive investigation, Beitel et al. (2014) reported that
higher mindfulness was associated with greater self-actualisation measured by the Short
Index of Self-Actualization (SISA; Jones & Crandall, 1986). They also found self-
actualisation to be related to three facets of mindfulness; acting with awareness, acting
without judgement, and describing, but not observing. These findings highlight that
mindfully attending to experience with concentration and acceptance are qualities aligned
with self-actualisation (Maslow, 1971). The specific mechanisms through which mindfulness
impacts self-actualisation may also be explained by the facilitation of nonattachment.
Nonattachment appears conceptually aligned with self-actualisation. Maslow (1954)
proposed that self-actualised people are autonomous, have a deep acceptance of reality and
are motivated by personal growth. They also demonstrate a potential to live in the moment
and to gain their sense of satisfaction from their own self, without being impacted by
unnecessary mental patterns such as guilt, shame and regret (see also Beitel et al., 2014).
Similarly, being highly nonattached can be characterised as radical acceptance, with guilt,
shame, and regrets being clear examples of attachments characterised by wanting experience
to be other than it is (Whitehead, Bates, Elphinstone, Yang & Murray, 2018). Both self-
actualised and nonattached individuals also display an ability to gain satisfaction internally,
rather than relying on outside circumstances. The well-being of nonattached individuals is
not contingent on the nature of their experiences or how they interact with their environment
(Coffey et al., 2010; Sahdra et al., 2010). It is therefore likely that individuals who have
attained higher levels of self-actualisation will also be more nonattached.
Self-transcendence is a core component in theories of advanced psychological
development (Ardelt, 2008; Bauer & Wayment, 2008; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Frankl, 1966;
Hartmann & Zimberoff, 2008; Manners & Durkin, 2000) and refers to moving beyond the
concerns of the individual self. People high in self-transcendence are less focused on self-
interest, have a more flexible self-construct, are less fixed on their own perspectives, and
have greater concern for others and life in general (Cook-Greuter, 2000; Levenson et al.,
2005). Similar to wisdom and self-actualisation, self-transcendence involves a greater
understanding of one’s own, and others’ implicit biases and the ability to act without the
influence of conditioned and unconscious tendencies (Le, 2011). Although originally
measured as a trait, Maslow (1971) saw self-transcendence as the highest stage of
development. To Maslow, it represented a quality that separated self-actualisers who focused
on fulfilling their own potential, from those who moved beyond the fulfillment of their own
self-focused needs and potentials (Koltko-Rivera, 2006). Frankl (1966) also argued that, in
addition to self-actualizing and fulfilling one’s sense of meaning, people also have the
potential to transcend the concerns of an individual self.
Mindfulness and meditation have been identified as important factors in the pathway
towards self-transcendence (Cook-Greuter, 2000). Theoretically, being mindful of the flow
of experience assists the witnessing of the self from an objective space, allowing for insight
into the biases and egoic nature of the self, which can be a transcendent process (Epstein,
1988; Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008). In developing the Adult Self-Transcendence Inventory,
Levenson et al. (2005) found adult self-transcendence to be positively associated with
meditation experience. Individuals who meditated displayed higher levels of self
transcendence than non-meditators.
There is also neuroscientific evidence that mindfulness and mindfulness meditation
can affect levels of self-transcendence. Farb et al. (2007) found mindfulness-based
interventions could significantly reduce activity in areas of the brain associated with self-
reference. They discovered that those who had undergone training in mindfulness-based
stress reduction (MBSR) showed reduced activity in the brain during a self-referencing
exercise relative to those who had not undergone the course. Thus, exhibiting mindfulness
towards experience may indeed assist in uncovering the self-biases in unconscious thoughts
and actions (Anālayo, 2010; Vago & Sibersweig, 2014). The practice of mindfulness appears
to reduce self-focus and promote meta-awareness which in turn enables disengagement from
the self-referential narrative present in daily life (Holzel et al., 2014; Vago & Sibersweig,
2014). Through the reduction of self-referential processing and a more objective view of the
self (Holzel et al., 2011), increased mindfulness may facilitate a movement away from self-
focus and towards self-transcendence. It is also important to investigate the mechanisms of
this relationship and potentially, whether nonattachment is a mechanism through which
mindfulness allows an individual to move away from self-focus.
Although the relationship between nonattachment and self-transcendence has not been
investigated, the two show conceptual overlap. In Levenson et al.’s (2001) model of adult
development, the self is discussed as existing relative to attachments that can be transcended
through nonattachment and a greater understanding of the self (Ardelt, 2008; Levenson et al.,
2001). For self-transcenders, there is a movement away from a self-focus towards an other-
or universal-focus (Cook-Greuter, 2000; Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008; Vago & Silbersweig,
2012). The transcendence of self-focus through understanding the self and the unconscious
biases that impact experience (Le, 2011), allude to the importance of nonattachment in this
process of becoming aware of one’s own states and the workings of the ego. As the self is at
the centre of attachments (Chan, 2008; Levenson et al., 2001), letting go of attachments to
one’s self-serving biases allows transcendence by engendering a life not governed by self-
interest or self-focus. Nonattachment, therefore represents a process of letting go of
attachment to the separate static self (Hanh, 2006). Reducing the need for experience to be
one way or other also lessens the need to fixate on the self as being of utmost importance, or
being any way in particular. Without the self-fixation associated with attachment, an
individual can be more present and other-focused (Sahdra et al., 2015).
The present study
The present study investigated the relationships among mindfulness, nonattachment,
and the constructs of wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. As nonattachment
has been shown to mediate the positive impact of mindfulness on a range of variables (e.g.,
Sahdra et al., 2016; Whitehead et al., 2018), mediational analyses were also conducted. It
was hypothesised that nonattachment and mindfulness would be positively correlated to
wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence (Hypothesis 1) and that nonattachment
would at least partially mediate the relationships of mindfulness with each of wisdom, self-
actualization, and self-transcendence (Hypothesis 2).
Participants and procedure
The sample comprised 348 respondents (270 women & 78 men) ranging from 18 to
64 years (M = 34.29 SD = 11.33). The respondents predominantly identified as Anglo-
European (83.1%), followed by Asian (6.8%), Indian and sub-continent (2.5%), Middle
Eastern (2%), African (1.7%), New Zealander or Pacific Islander (1.7%) or other (2.2%).
Most respondents did not state any religious or spiritual affiliation (50.8%) or identified as
Christian (24.6%); 13.3% identified with a general, nonreligious spirituality, while 5.1%
identified with a contemplative tradition (i.e., Buddhism, Vedanta), 1.7% identified as
Muslim, 1% identified as Hindu and 3.1% other.
Participants were undergraduate psychology students at a mid-sized metropolitan
university in Australia who completed the study in exchange for course credit. It is also
important to note that the majority of participants were mature age, studying psychology
online, which increased the mean age in the sample. Students accessed an online
questionnaire and could complete the questionnaire in their own time. Data was collected
over a six-month period. All research conducted adhered to ethical guidelines and received
ethics clearance through the appropriate ethics committee.
Nonattachment. The 7-item Nonattachment Scale (NAS-7; Elphinstone, Sahdra, &
Ciarrochi, 2015; Sahdra et al., 2016) was taken from the larger 30-item nonattachment scale
(NAS; Sahdra et al., 2010). The seven items (e.g., I can let go of regrets and feelings of
dissatisfaction about the past) are rated on a 7-point Likert scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree)
to 7 (Strongly Agree). The NAS-7 shows good reliability and validity when compared with
the original 30-item scale (Sahdra et al., 2016).
Mindfulness. The 20-item Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ; Baer et
al., 2006; Tran, Gluck & Nader, 2013) was used as it is considered to be the most
comprehensive measure of mindfulness (Sahdra et al., 2016). The five factors present in the
FFMQ are Observe, Awareness, Describe, Nonreactivity, and Nonjudgment. Items (e.g.,
When I do things, my mind wanders off and I'm easily distracted”) are rated on a Likert
scale from 1 (Never or Very Rarely True) to 5 (Very Often or Always True).
Self-actualisation. The Short Index of Self-actualization (SISA; Jones & Crandall,
1986) is a 15-item widely used self-report measure derived from Shostrom’s (1964) Personal
Orientation Inventory. Items (e.g., “I believe that people are essentially good and can be
trusted”) are rated on a 4-point Likert Scale from 1(Agree) to 4 (Disagree).
Wisdom. The 12-Item Three-Dimensional Wisdom Scale (3D-WS-12; Thomas et al.,
2017) is a recently developed abbreviated version of the larger three-dimensional wisdom
scale (3D-WS; Ardelt, 2003). The 3D-WS-12 has 12 items (e.g., “I can be comfortable with
all kinds of people”) rated on a scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). The
3D-WS-12 and has shown good reliability and validity when measuring a higher order single
factor of wisdom (Thomas et al., 2017).
Self-transcendence. The self-transcendence subscale from the Adult Self-
Transcendence Inventory (ASTI; Levenson et al., 2005) is a 9-item measure of self-
transcendence. Items (e.g., I do not become angry as easily) are rated on a Likert scale from
1 (Disagree Strongly) to 4 (Agree Strongly). The ATSI is a well-established reliable and
valid measure of self-transcendence when assessing the construct as a process of adult
development (Le, 2011; Levenson et al., 2005).
The means, standard deviations, and internal consistency coefficients for all measures
are presented in Table 1. All means were within expected parameters and were normally
distributed. Although Cronbach’s Alpha was lower than ideal (< .80) for some measures,
Alphas were all .70 or above and determined to be good given the short length of the scales.
Table 1.
Means, Standard Deviations and Internal Reliability for Nonattachment, Mindfulness and
Wisdom, Self-actualisation and Self-transcendence.
N = 348, FFMQ = Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire
Relationships among the variables are shown in Table 2. As hypothesised
(Hypothesis 1), nonattachment and mindfulness were positively correlated with all measures
of optimal psychological development; wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence.
These correlations were all moderate-to-strong, with nonattachment and mindfulness also
showing a moderate positive correlation.
Table 2.
Intercorrelation among Nonattachment, Mindfulness, Wisdom, Self-actualisation and Self-
transcendence and Age.
N = 348, All relationships are significant at the p<.001 except 1 = significant at p<.05 and 2 = nonsignificant.
Mediation analyses were conducted using the ‘Process’ SPSS macro developed by
Preacher and Hayes (2013). All variables in the analyses were converted to z values to obtain
standardised effect sizes in which relative contributions can be compared. In each mediation
analysis greater mindfulness was associated with increased nonattachment (a path). The
results for the direct relationships between nonattachment and each advanced psychological
development variable (i.e., b path), the initial relationship between mindfulness and each
advanced psychological development (i.e., c path), and after the inclusion of nonattachment
(c’ path) are shown in Figure 1. To test the significance of the mediation, a nonparametric
bootstrapping method (see Preacher & Hayes, 2004) with 5000 resamples (Shrout & Bolger,
2002) was used to derive a 95% confidence interval for the impact of nonattachment. The
indirect effect is significant (p < .05) if the upper and lower bounds of the 95% Confidence
Interval (CI) do not include zero. Three separate analyses were conducted, with wisdom, self-
actualization, and self-transcendence entered in each separate analysis as the dependent
variable. Mindfulness was entered as the independent variable and nonattachment as the
mediator in each analysis. As age is known to play a role in the development of
nonattachment (Sahdra et al., 2010), age was entered as a covariate to limit the effect of age
on the dependent variables (see Sahdra et al., 2016). When entered as a covariate, in each
mediation analyses, age ceased to be a significant predictor.
Figure 1. Path diagram depicting nonattachment as the mediator of mindfulness on the
outcome variables of wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. Note. The
coefficients in parenthesis represent the c path where the mediator was excluded from the
analysis. **p < .001
Bootstrapping estimated the indirect effect of nonattachment on wisdom was
estimated to lie between .10 and .24. The indirect effect of nonattachment on self-
actualisation was estimated to lie between .16 and .30, while the indirect effect of
nonattachment on self-transcendence was estimated to lie between .18 and .33, indicating that
the mediating effect of nonattachment in each analysis was significant. Therefore, as the c’
paths were also significant in each case, greater nonattachment was found to partially mediate
the relationships between increased mindfulness and higher levels of wisdom, self-
actualisation, and self-transcendence.
Alternate mediational model
Although the results for mediation support the hypotheses, when testing for
mediation, in addition to having a strong theoretical basis, it is also important that
nonequivalent mediation models are not found to be statistically equivalent (Little, Card,
Bovaird, Preacher & Crandall, 2007). There is a strong theoretical and empirical basis for
nonattachment as a proposed mediator of mindfulness (Dhiravamsa, 1975; Montero-Marin et
al., 2016; Sahdra et al., 2016 Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006). However, it has
previously been discussed that nonattachment is not only cultivated through mindfulness, and
other experiences that foster self-reflection may also facilitate the development of
nonattachment (Sahdra et al., 2010). Therefore, it is possible that building greater
nonattachment, through self-reflection, may foster greater mindfulness, and thus, greater
wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence.
To test this, and rule out alternative mediation models, further bootstrapping analyses
were conducted to test whether mindfulness mediates the relationship of nonattachment to
wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. All variables were converted to z values
and age was entered as a covariate. Results showed the 95% confidence interval for the
indirect effect of mindfulness on wisdom was estimated to lie between .18 and .32, between
.16 and .29 for self-actualisation, and between .10 and .23 for self-transcendence. As none of
the estimations contained zero, the mediating effect of nonattachment in each analysis was
significant. The results indicate that even though Hypothesis 2 was supported, multiple
pathways may exist to building nonattachment and mindfulness which can in turn lead to
greater wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence.
The current study examined mindfulness and nonattachment in relation to three
measures indicative of advanced psychological development. Findings were as hypothesised,
with greater levels of nonattachment and mindfulness being positively correlated with higher
levels of wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. This establishes the proposed
positive relationship of nonattachment to advanced psychological development and replicates
previous findings for the relationship of mindfulness and wisdom (Beaumont, 2011), self-
actualisation (Beitel et al., 2014), and self-transcendence (e.g., Farb et al., 2007; Vago &
Sibersweig, 2014). Also as hypothesised, nonattachment partially mediated the relationship
of mindfulness with each of wisdom, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. This extends
previous research on well-being and ill-being and demonstrates that the role of nonattachment
as a mediator of mindfulness extends to the three indicators of advanced psychological
development. However, further analyses revealed an alternate mediation pathway indicating
mindfulness mediates the relationship of nonattachment to advanced psychological
development. This suggests that nonattachment and mindfulness can both facilitate each
other, and that there may be multiple pathways to building nonattachment.
The findings for nonattachment emphasize the importance of letting go of control of
experience in creating the conditions for advanced psychological development. Consistent
with theoretical propositions, this indicates that as individuals develop greater wisdom and
grow towards actualisation of the self, they lessen attempts to control experience and become
less fixated on it unfolding any particular way. The data also support the contention that
some of the most highly developed people in society display nonattachment (Huxley, 1947)
and an equanimous engagement with experience (Astin & Keen, 2006). Being nonattached
reduces the impact of implicit self-serving biases through building insight into them, rather
than engaging in them. This promotes reflexivity and greater understanding of the self, and
creates a flexibility and openness to life without expectation that allows an individual to
freely take opportunities as they arise, propelling them towards achieving their potential.
In addition to wisdom and self-actualisation, the more an individual can let go of the
need to control their experience, the more likely they are to transcend their own self-focus.
Being nonattached provides a space for individuals to witness the egoic nature of the self
(Epstein, 1988; Hartman & Zimberoff, 2008). Letting go of attachment appears to be a
letting go of the fixation on self (Sahdra et al., 2015). Living a life in which attachments are
prominent would appear to limit development beyond a self-focus. Letting go of attachment
may provide the optimal conditions for a developmental growth process from self-focus to a
more selfless, and self-transcendent focus.
Another unique finding of the present study was the identification of nonattachment
as a partial mediator of the relationship of mindfulness with the measures of advanced
psychological development. This provides further evidence that nonattachment is an
important mechanism of mindfulness and helps to explain the positive impact mindfulness
can have. While taking a mindful stance towards experience can assist in developing
wisdom (Ardelt, 2003; Bluck & Gluck, 2004), the optimal conditions for the development of
wisdom and a deeper understanding of life appears also to involve a letting go of attachment
to what is occurring in one’s field of consciousness. Similarly, while self-actualization is
related to open, mindful engagement in ideas and other people (Maslow, 1968), the present
findings highlight that freedom from attachment to these ideas and thoughts helps to explain
this relationship.
Interestingly, the mediating role of nonattachment was strongest for mindfulness and
self-transcendence. Theoretically, this can be attributed to the egoic self being intertwined
with attachments (Chan, 2008) and the intrinsic self-transcendent nature of nonattachment
(Epstein, 1988). The results indicate that when mindfully engaging with experience as it
occurs moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003), it is the individual’s ability to let go of
controlling that experience that has the greatest impact on transcending self-focus and self-
fixation. This suggests that it is through the engagement of mindfulness that one can let go of
the heavy attachment to self which partly contributes to a more inclusive engagement with
experience that stretches beyond the individual self-focus.
The present findings have a number of implications for future research. In addition to
being an important factor for increased well-being (Sahdra et al., 2010), nonattachment
represents an important quality aligned with the later stages of the psychological
developmental process. Through increased self-awareness and insight into experience
(Sahdra et al., 2015), nonattachment appears to provide the ideal conditions for optimal
psychological development, and the presence (or not) of nonattachment may help explain
why some individuals reach these developmental levels and others do not. This indicates the
importance of studying nonattachment, both as a stand-alone quality and as a mechanism that
helps to explain the positive impact of mindfulness.
It is also noteworthy that nonattachment is not solely cultivated through mindfulness
and meditation (Sahdra et al., 2010). In addition to being mindful, nonattachment may be
developed through self-reflection and developing understanding into the subjective nature of
experience and that all experience is transient (Hanh, 1999; Sahdra et al., 2010). This is
highlighted by the findings suggesting mindfulness also mediates the relationship of
nonattachment to each of wisdom, self-actualisation, and self-transcendence. This result
indicates the multiple pathways to building nonattachment. Perhaps, nonattachment that is
cultivated through pathways other than mindfulness (e.g., psychotherapy, post-traumatic
growth), may also promote mindfulness which can assist in the psychological development
process. This has implications for the development and delivery of psychological
interventions. Although mindfulness and nonattachment are similarly beneficial (Sahdra et
al., 2016) there has been a major focus on interventions designed to promote mindfulness
rather than interventions designed to promote nonattachment. For individuals who may not
find the experiential nature of mindfulness-based practices beneficial (e.g., Chambers et al.,
2016), interventions designed to build insight into the subjective and transient nature of
experience and thus, greater nonattachment, may be of great benefit. For individuals wishing
to facilitate their own, or others’ psychological development process, understanding the
specific pathways to nonattachment may provide insight into the development of greater
wisdom, self-actualisation, and transcendence of self-focus.
There are a number of methodological considerations in the present study. One
limitation was that the participants were all university students and may not have captured a
sample representative of the general population. Also, there were more women than men in
the sample which raises the possibility of gender bias; however, Sahdra et al. (2010) observed
no significant gender difference in scores on nonattachment. Additionally, all respondents
were residing in Australia which further limits the generalisability of the findings. Future
studies are needed with a more diverse and representative sample to determine the
generalisability of the findings. Further, the results are cross-sectional and causality cannot be
determined. Although, the results support previous theory that nonattachment is believed to
emanate from mindfulness (Sahdra et al., 2016), the results of the current cross-sectional
study suggest that the causal pathways may be more complex. It is likely that nonattachment
may assists individuals to be more mindful, and that qualities such as wisdom and self-
transcendence could also facilitate greater instances of mindfulness and nonattachment.
Future longitudinal research comparing the mechanisms and outcomes of mindfulness and
nonattachment-based interventions may help elucidate the specific causal pathways to
wisdom, self-actualisation and self-transcendence. A longitudinal study would also be
valuable to investigate changes in optimal psychological development over time.
In conclusion, the present findings are the first to show nonattachment is related to
advanced psychological development and is a significant partial mediator of the relationship
between mindfulness and wisdom, self-actualisation, and self-transcendence. However, the
results also indicate there may be multiple pathways to building nonattachment and
mindfulness that may are beneficial for psychological development. These findings support
the need for further research on nonattachment, support the benefits of mindfulness, and have
implications for interventions designed specifically to promote nonattachment.
Agarwal, M. M. (1982). Philosophy of non-attachment: the way to spiritual freedom in
Indian thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.
Ainsworth, M. D., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment:
Assessed in the strange situation at home. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Alispahic, S. &
Hasanbegovic-Anic, E. (2017) Mindfulness: Age and gender differences on a
Bosnian sample. Psychological Thought, 10(1), 155-166. doi:10.5964/psyct.v10i1.224
Altobello, R. (2009) Meditation from Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist perspectives. New York:
Peter Lang Publishing.
Anālayo. (2010). Satipaţţhāna: The direct path to realization. Birmingham, UK: Windhorse
Astin, A. & Keen, J. (2006). Equanimity and spirituality, Religion and Education, 33(2), 39-
46. doi: 10.1080/15507394.2006.10012375
Ardelt, M. (2003). Empirical assessment of a three-dimensional wisdom scale. Research on
Aging, 25(3), 275324. doi: 10.1177/0164027503251764
Ardelt, M. (2008). Self-development through selflessness: the paradoxical process of growing
wiser. In H. A. Wayment & J. J. Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest:
Psychological explorations of the quiet ego, pp. 221-233. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Ardelt, M. (2011). The measurement of wisdom: A commentary on Taylor, Bates, and
Webster’s comparison of the SAWS and 3D-WS. Experimental Aging Research, 37,
241-255. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2011.554509
Banth, S. & Talwar, C. (2012). Anasakti, the Hindu ideal, and its relationship to well-being
and orientations to happiness, Journal of Religion and Health, 51(3), 934-946.
doi: 10.1007/s10943-010-9402-3
Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Krietemeyer, J., Toney, L. (2006). Using self-report
assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness. Assessment, 13(1), 2745.
Bauer, J., Schwab, J., & McAdams, D. (2011). Self-actualizing: where ego development
finally feels good. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39(2), 121-136.
Bauer, J. J., & Wayment, H. A. (2008). The psychology of the quiet ego. In J. Bauer and H.
Wayment (Eds.), Transcending Self-Interest: Psychological Explorations of the Quiet
Ego. Washington: American Psychological Association
Beaumont, S. (2009). Identity processing and personal wisdom: an information-oriented
identity style predicts self-actualization and self-transcendence. Identity: An
International Journal of Theory, 9, 95-115. doi:10.1080/15283480802669101
Beaumont, S. (2011). Identity styles and wisdom during emerging adulthood: relationships
with mindfulness and savouring. Identity: An International Journal of Theory, 11,
155-180. doi: 10.1080/15283488.2011.557298
Beitel, M., Bogus, S., Hutz, A., Green, D., Cecero, J. J., & Barry, T. (2014). Stillness and
motion: An empirical investigation of mindfulness and self- actualization. Person-
Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 13(3), 187-202. doi:
Bluck, S. & Glück, J. (2005). Making things better and learning a lesson: Experiencing
wisdom across the lifespan. Journal of Personality, 732(3), 543-572. doi:
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss Volume 1. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role
in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822-
848. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822
Buchheld, N., Grossman, P., & Wallach, H. (2001). Measuring mindfulness in insight
meditation (Vipassana) and meditation- based psychotherapy: the development of the
Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI). Journal for Meditation and Meditation
Research, 1, 1134. doi: 10.2307/1411318
Chambers, S. K., Occhipinti, S., Foley, E., Clutton, S., Legg, M., Berry, M.,…Smith, D. P.
(2016). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in advanced prostate cancer: a
randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 35(3) 291-297.
Chan, W. (2008). Psychological attachment, no-self and Chan Buddhist mind therapy.
Contemporary Buddhism, 9(2), 253-264. doi:10.1080/14639940802556586
Clayton, V. P., & Birren, J. E. (1980). The development of wisdom across the lifespan: A re-
examination of an ancient topic. In P. B. Baltes & O. G. Brim Jr. (Eds.), Life-span
development and behaviour (pp. 103135). New York: Academic Press.
Coffey, K. & Hartman, M. (2008). Mechanisms of action in the inverse relationship between
mindfulness and psychological distress. Complimentary Health Practice Review,
13(2), 79-91. doi: 10.1177/1533210108316307
Coffey, K., Hartman, M., & Fredrickson, B. (2010). Deconstructing mindfulness and
constructing mental health: Understanding mindfulness and its mechanisms.
Mindfulness, 1, 235-253. doi: 10.1007/s12671-010-0033-227
Cook-Greuter, S. (2000). Mature ego development: a gateway to ego transcendence? Journal
of Adult Development, 7, 227-240. doi: 10.1023/A:1009511411421
Dalai Lama (2011) 'The Power of Forgiveness' talk at the University of Limerick, Ireland.
April 14th. Accessed June 25, 2017 at
Dalai Lama (2001). An open heart: practicing compassion in everyday life. NY, Hachette
Book Group.
Dalai Lama. (1997). The Four Noble Truths: fundamentals of Buddhist teachings (translated
by G. T. Jinpa, edited by D. Side). London: Harper Collins.
Desbordes, G., Gard, T., Hoge, E. A., Hölzel, B. K., Kerr, C., Lazar, S. W., et al. (2014).
Moving beyond mindfulness: defining equanimity as an outcome measure in
meditation and contemplative research, Mindfulness, 6, 2, 356-372. doi:
Dhiravamsa. (1975). The way of non-attachment: The practice of insight meditation. London:
D’Souza, J. & Guring, M. (2016). The universal significance of Maslow’s concept of self-
actualization. The Humanistic Psychologist, 44(2), 210-214. doi:
Elphinstone, B., Sahdra, B. K., & Ciarrochi, J. (2015). Living well by letting go: Reliability
and validity of a brief measure of nonattachment. Unpublished Manuscript.
Epstein, M. (1988). The deconstruction of the self: ego and “egolessness” in Buddhist insight
meditation. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20(1), 61-69.
Farb, N. A., Segal, Z. V., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., Fatima, Z., et al. (2007).
Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-
reference. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 2, 313322.
Feldman G, Hayes A, Kumar S, Greeson J, & Laurenceau J. (2007). Mindfulness and
emotion regulation: the development and initial validation of the Cognitive and
Affective Mindfulness ScaleRevised (CAMS-R). Journal of Psychopathology
Behavioral Assessment, 29, 177-190. doi: 10.1007/s10862-006-9035-8.
Frankl, V. E. (1966). Self-Transcendence as a Human Phenomenon. Journal of Humanistic
Psychology, 6(2), 97106. doi:10.1177/002216786600600201
Gammage, D. (2006). From Bowlby to Buddha an initial exploration of the meaning of
attachment and non-attachment and their implication for dramatherapy.
Dramatherapy, 28, 8-14. doi: 10.1080/02630672.2006.9689691
Glück, J., Bluck, S., Baron, J., & McAdams, D. P. (2005). The wisdom of experience:
Autobiographical narratives across adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral
Development, 29, 197208. .1177/01650250444000504
Grossbaum, M. F., & Bates, G. W. (2002) Correlates of psychological well-being at midlife:
the role of generativity, agency and communion, and narrative themes. International
Journal of Behavioural Development, 26(2), 120-127.
Grossman, I., Gerlach, T. M., & Denissen, J. J. (2016). Wise reasoning in the face of
everyday life challenges. Social Psychological and Personality Research, 7(7), 611-
622. doi: 10.1177/1948550616652206
Hanh, T. N. (2008). History of engaged Buddhism: a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Journal of the Sociology of Self-knowledge, 3, 29-36.
Hanh, T. N. (1999). The heart of the Buddha’s teachings. New York: Harmony Books.
Hanh, T. (2006). Transformation and healing: Sutra of the four establishments of
mindfulness, Berkley, CA, Parallax Press. Hanley,
Hartman, D. & Zimberoff, D. (2008). Higher stages of human development, Journal of Heart
Centered Therapies, 11, 3-95.
Hayes, A. F. (2013). The PROCESS macro for SPSS and SAS. Accessed March 30, 2016
Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011).
How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a
conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 537-
559. doi:10.1177/1745691611419671
Huxley, A. (1937). Ends and Means: an inquiry into the nature of ideals and into the
methods employed for their realization. London: Chatto and Windus.
Jones, A. & Crandall, R. (1986). Validation of a short index of self-actualization. Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12(1), 63-73. doi: 10.1177/0146167286121007
Ju, S. J., & Lee, W. K. (2015). Mindfulness, non-attachment, and emotional well-being in
Korean adults. Advanced Science and Technology Letters, 87, 6872.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: Past, present, and future.
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 144156. doi: 10.1093/clipsy.bpg016
Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s
hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and
unification. Review of General Psychology 10(4), 302-317. doi: 10.1037/1089-
Lamis, D. A. & Dvorak, R. D. (2013). Mindfulness, nonattachment, and suicide rumination
in college students: the mediating role of depressive symptoms. Mindfulness, 5(5), 487-
496. doi: 10.1007/s12671-013-0203-0
Le, T. N. (2008). Age differences in spirituality, mystical experiences and wisdom. Ageing
and Society, 28(3), 383-411. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X0700685X
Le, T. N. (2011). Life satisfaction, openness value, self-transcendence, and wisdom. Journal
of Happiness Studies, 12, 171-182. doi: 10.1007/s10902-010-9182-1
Lefrancois, R., Leclerc, G., Dube, M., Hebert, R., & Gaulin, P. (1997). The
development and validation of a self-report measure of self- actualization. Social
Behavior and Personality, 25, 353365. doi: 10.2224/sbp.1997.25.4.353
Levenson, M. R., Aldwin, C. M., & Cupertino, A. P. (2001). Transcending the self:
Towards a liberative model of adult development. In A. L. Neri (Ed.), Maturidade &
Velhice: Um enfoque multidisciplinar (pp. 99-115). Sao Paulo, BR: Papirus.
Levenson, M. R., Jennings, P. A., Aldwin, C. M., & Shiraishi, R. W. (2005). Self-
transcendence: Conceptualizations and measurements. International Journal of Aging
and Human Development, 60, 127143. doi:10.2190/XRXM-FYRA-7U0X-GRC0
Little, T. D., Card, N. A., Bovaird, J. A., Preacher, K. J., & Crandall, C. S. (2007). Structural
equation modelling of mediation and moderation with contextual factors. In T. Little,
J. Bovaird, N. Card NA (Eds.), Modeling contextual effects in longitudinal studies
(pp. 207-230). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Loevinger, J. (1976). Ego development: Conceptions and theories. San Francisco: Jossey-
Manners, J., & Durkin, K. (2000). Processes involved in adult ego development: A
conceptual framework. Developmental Review, 20(4), 475513.
Mansfield, C. D., McLean, K. C., & Lilgendahl, J. P. (2010). Narrating traumas and
transgressions: links between narrative processing, wisdom, and well-being. Narrative
Inquiry, 20(2), 246-273. doi: 10.1075/ni.20.2.02man
Maslow, A. (1965). Self-actualization and beyond. Conference of the training of counselors
adults. 1-27. New England Board of Higher Education. Winchester: Massacheusetts
Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.
Maslow, A. (1968). Towards a psychology of being., New York: Van Nostrand.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect
effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and
Computers, 36, 717-731. doi: 10.3758/BF03206553
Purser, R. E. & Milillo, J. (2015). Mindfulness revisited: a Buddhist-based conceptualization.
Journal of Management Inquiry, 24(1), 3-24. doi: 10.1177/1056492614532315
Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston,
MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Sahdra, B., Ciarrochi, J., & Parker, P. (2016). Nonattachment and mindfulness: related but
distinct constructs. Psychological Assessment, 7, 819-829. doi: 10.1037/pas0000264
Sahdra, B., Ciarrochi, J., Parker, P, Marshall, S., & Heaven, P. (2015). Empathy and
nonattachment independently predict peer nominations of prosocial behaviour of
adolescents. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1-12. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00263
Sahdra, B., Shaver, P., & Brown, K. (2010) A scale to measure nonattachment: a Buddhist
complement to Western research on attachment and adaptive functioning. Journal of
Personality Assessment, 92(2), 116-127. doi 10.1080/00223890903425960
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of
mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 373-386. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20237
Shone, R. (1991). First steps to freedom: Achieving non-attachment in everyday life. London:
Aquarian Press.
Shrout, P. E. & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies:
new procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7(4), 422-445. doi:
10.1037//1082-989X.7.4.422. 422
Staudinger, U. M. (1999). Social cognition and a psychological approach to an art of life. In
F. Blanchard-Fields & T. Hess (Eds.), Social cognition, adult development and aging
(pp. 343375). New York: Academic Press.
Thomas, M. L., Bangen, K. J., Ardelt, M., & Jeste, D. V. (2017). Development of the a 12-
item abbreviated three-dimensional wisdom scale (3D-WS-12): item selection and
psychometric properties. Assessment, 24(1), 71-82. doi: 10.1177/1073191115595714
Thubten, A. (2009) No self, no problem: awakening to our true nature. Boston, USA:
Tran, U. S., Gluck, T. M., & Nader, I. W. (2013). Investigating the Five Facet Mindfulness
Questionnaire (FFMQ): construction of a short form and evidence of a two-factor
higher order structure of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(9), 951-965.
doi: 10.1002/jclp.21996
Upadhyay, P. P.& Vashishtha, A. C. (2014). Effect of anasakti and level of post job
satisfaction on employees. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 2(1), 100-
Vago, D. R. & Silbersweig, D. A. (2012). Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-
transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological
mechanisms of mindfulness. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 6, 298, 1-30.
Wang, S., Wong, Y., & Yeh, K. (2015). Relationship harmony, dialectical coping, and
nonattachment: Chinese indigenous well-being and mental health, The Counselling
Psychologist, 44(1), 78-108. doi; 10.1177/001100001561646
Whitehead, R. & Bates, G. (2016) The transformational processing of peak and nadir
experiences and their relationship to eudaimonic and hedonic well-being. Journal of
Happiness Studies, 17(4), 1577-1598. doi: 10.1007/s10902-015-9660-6
Whitehead, R., Bates, G., Elphinstone, B., Yang, Y., & Murray, G. (Submitted for
Publication). Nonattachment mediates the relationships of mindfulness to
psychological well-being, subjective well-being, depression, anxiety and stress.
... Although positive belief towards humanity and life has not been empirically examined in nonattachment research, past research showed that nonattachment is positively related to wisdom, self-actualization, and self-transcendence (Whitehead et al., 2020). Thus, nonattached individuals may be more likely to have an unbiased and decentered view of reality beyond self-interests, and their well-being is less likely to be contingent on their own experiences. ...
... These findings implied that during the COVID-19 pandemic, nonattached individuals may be less likely to be self-focused and fixated on difficult experiences and dire circumstances and more likely to continue to maintain positive beliefs without the fear of loss or grasping of gain (Sahdra et al., 2016). Nonattachment is protective of individuals' well-being and enables individuals to appreciate the transience of their life circumstances by letting go of their mental fixations (Whitehead et al., 2020). Such non-clinging mind states may enable individuals to transcend challenges by appreciating the fundamental nature of humanity and the world and experiencing them with hope and positivity that is conducive to their hedonic and eudaimonic well-being and protective from psychological distress. ...
... In another sample of students in Hong Kong, nonattachment was positively correlated with peace of mind, psychological well-being, social well-being, and emotional well-being while negatively correlated with stress, depression, and anxiety (Chio et al., 2018). Furthermore, nonattachment was demonstrated to be a mediator between the relationships of mindfulness and a range of well-being outcomes (Ho et al., 2022;Tran et al., 2014;Whitehead et al., 2019Whitehead et al., , 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to investigate how nonattachment may foster positive beliefs towards humanity and life during difficult and uncertain times, which may help to explain the beneficial effects of nonattachment on well-being. ...
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted individuals’ well-being across the globe. Despite increased mental health risks due to local and global uncertainties during the pandemic, nonattachment may mitigate these deleterious effects by fostering a positive belief in humanity and life in the face of this unprecedented adversity. The aim of the study was to examine the sequential relationships of nonattachment to positive belief in humanity and life during the pandemic, which may potentially mediate the association between nonattachment and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic over the course of 6 months. A total of 336 Chinese participants aged 18 to 38 years old completed questionnaires measuring nonattachment, positive belief in humanity and life during COVID-19 pandemic, eudaimonic well-being, hedonic well-being, and psychological distress at baseline, 3-month, and 6-month follow-ups. Findings from structural equation modeling showed that higher levels of nonattachment at baseline were associated with stronger positive belief in humanity and life during the pandemic 3 months later, which in turn was positively associated with hedonic and eudaimonic well-being and negatively associated with psychological distress another 3 months later. The study provides some insights on how nonattachment may be conducive to well-being through association with positive belief in humanity and life under unprecedented life circumstances. This study is not preregistered.
... Both mindfulness (Beitel et al., 2014;Brown & Ryan, 2003;Whitehead et al., 2020) and general nonattachment (Whitehead et al., 2020) have been positively associated with self-actualization in general populations. Interestingly, Whitehead et al. (2020) found support for the commonly theorized model, i.e., "mindfulness → general nonattachment → self-actualization," and an alternative model, i.e., "general nonattachment → mindfulness → self-actualization." ...
... Both mindfulness (Beitel et al., 2014;Brown & Ryan, 2003;Whitehead et al., 2020) and general nonattachment (Whitehead et al., 2020) have been positively associated with self-actualization in general populations. Interestingly, Whitehead et al. (2020) found support for the commonly theorized model, i.e., "mindfulness → general nonattachment → self-actualization," and an alternative model, i.e., "general nonattachment → mindfulness → self-actualization." ...
... Both mindfulness (Beitel et al., 2014;Brown & Ryan, 2003;Whitehead et al., 2020) and general nonattachment (Whitehead et al., 2020) have been positively associated with self-actualization in general populations. Interestingly, Whitehead et al. (2020) found support for the commonly theorized model, i.e., "mindfulness → general nonattachment → self-actualization," and an alternative model, i.e., "general nonattachment → mindfulness → self-actualization." These findings suggest that, just as mindfulness may promote nonattachment, the self-reflective properties of general nonattachment may promote mindfulness (Sahdra et al., 2010). ...
Full-text available
Objectives Many athletes seek to embody a mindful state when competing. However, amidst competitive pressures and demands to perform at their best, athletes report similar or even higher levels of psychological distress than community norms. Despite the widespread use of mindfulness as a sport performance strategy, few studies have examined the mechanisms behind mindfulness, and the role egoic fixation plays, in athlete well-being. The current study aimed to explore the role of mindfulness and nonattachment-to-self (NTS) in athlete well-being and self-actualization. Methods An online survey was administered to 223 athletes (53.8% men), predominantly from Australia and New Zealand. Two-thirds of the sample were elite athletes. We used structural equation modeling to test a hypothesized model whereby NTS mediates the relationship between mindfulness and both well-being and self-actualization. We also tested an alternative model that positioned mindfulness as the mediator between NTS as the predictor, and well-being and self-actualisation as outcomes. Results Both models exhibited similar fit to the data, although the alternative model displayed slightly better fit than the hypothesized model. Partial mediation was found for the hypothesized and alternative models, highlighting both as plausible pathways. Interestingly, NTS was found to exhibit a stronger effect on well-being and self-actualization than mindfulness, suggesting it may play a central role in athlete well-being. Conclusion The findings highlight the need for researchers to consider mindfulness and NTS in tandem, acknowledging the role that egoic fixation plays in athlete mental health—especially when designing mindful-based interventions for athletes.
... Nonattachment helps individuals create effective relationships with their experiences by avoiding clinging to desirable experiences while eluding undesirable ones (Sahdra et al., 2016). The association between mindfulness, non-attachment, and subjective well-being has been researched in from various perspectives studies from identification of the mechanisms of nonattachment and clarity about one's internal life by which dispositional mindfulness might influence psychological distress and mental health (Coffey et al. 2010;Beaumont (2011), Beitel et al. (2014 to a positive association between non-attachment and progressive psychological growth and confirmed that non-attachment acts as a mediator of mindfulness (Whitehead et al. 2020). ...
... 310 nonattachment can help in our culture in decreasing negative emotions as Sahdra et al (2010) suggested that mindfulness and meditation are not the only means by which one can develop nonattachment. On the other hand, Whitehead et al (2020) found that nonattachment can be achieved through self-reflection and recognizing that experience is subjective. Sahdra et al. (2010) noted that all knowledge is fleeting. ...
The study aims to explore the role of nonattachment in relation to mindfulness and subjective wellbeing and provides an insight into the imperatives nonattachment plays in achieving mindfulness. This quantitative study was conducted in a mid-size Pakistani university and the participants were faculty and students. 384 (141 men and 243 women) age group from 16 to above 40 years of age were contacted via email to complete online survey. The descriptive statistics analysis was done by using SPSS and Smart PLS. The Findings affirm that greater levels of mindfulness and nonattachment are correlated in a positive way contributing to greater life satisfaction furthermore; nonattachment has a positive influence on negative emotions. The study is in line with the existing research conducted on the association of nonattachment with subjective wellbeing and is a replication of the previous findings for the association of mindfulness and personal wellbeing. Result suggests that to achieve optimal psychological wellbeing conditions with significant increment in positive emotions and life satisfaction, connection of mindfulness to a wide variety of mental effects are partly decided with the aid of using nonattachment. The result findings offer perception into the effect of mindfulness on intellectual fitness and feature implications for improving and evaluating life satisfaction and emotional wellbeing.
... Originally from Buddhist meditation, mindfulness was introduced into clinical psychology in 1979 by Kabat-Zinn, who defined mindfulness as the objective perception of the present moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003), and that meditation is only a way to maintain and improve mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). In recent studies, mindfulness has been divided into trait mindfulness -a stable mindfulness with individual differences (Whitehead et al., 2020), and state mindfulness-an experience of entering a state of mindfulness at a given time (Hülsheger et al., 2018). ...
... Researchers of state mindfulness believe that mindfulness fluctuates from moment to moment and influences the next state. Researchers of trait mindfulness believe that mindfulness promotes wisdom, self-actualization and self-transcendence (Whitehead et al., 2020). Langer (1989) defined mindfulness as a flexible cognitive state that results from drawing novel distinctions about the situation and the environment. ...
Full-text available
Aesthetic preference has always been considered to be subjective and its influences have been studied for a long time. One of the most discussed is the relationship between individual traits and aesthetic preference. Although some traits have been proven to contribute to aesthetic preferences, the exact mechanism of their influence is unclear. The research on the relationship between trait mindfulness and traits has become more refined, and some of these traits, such as spatial perception and memory, have been shown to be related to aesthetic preferences. Thus, it seems feasible to improve trait levels through mindfulness training to influence aesthetic preference, which means that the relationship between trait mindfulness and aesthetic preference is worth studying.
... It is essential to clarify that non-attachment does not mean avoidance or detachment; rather, it represents a balanced way of relating to life events and experiences without excessive obsession or rumination. Extensive research studies have indicated non-attachment related to various psychological benefits, such as improved emotional regulation, enhanced well-being, and reduced depressive and anxiety symptoms (Sahdra et al., 2010;Sahdra et al., 2016;Whitehead et al., 2019). ...
Non-Attachment to Self (NAS), rooted in Eastern philosophy, promotes mental well-being by encouraging a mindful awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, and self-perception. NAS might positively influence relationship satisfaction by promoting emotional regulation and reducing ego-centric thinking. While mindfulness-closely related to NAS-has been widely studied, the specific role of NAS in relationship satisfaction remains underexplored. This study aimed to explore the mediating influence of NAS on the relationship between the Big Five Personality Traits and relationship satisfaction. The study, administered to a cohort of 96 participants, employed Mediation Analysis, t-tests, and correlational analyses to evaluate primary and additional variables, such as age, length of the relationship, and geographic proximity between partners. Contrary to expectations, NAS was found to have a direct, significant, and positive effect on relationship satisfaction but did not act as a mediating variable between personality traits and relationship satisfaction. Limitations of the study include a modest sample size, gender imbalances, and a cross-sectional design. Nonetheless, the research constitutes a pioneering integration of Eastern philosophical principles, like NAS, with Western empirical methodologies, like the Big Five Personality Traits. This integrative approach enhances the understanding of relationship dynamics and opens avenues for future interdisciplinary research. The study provides valuable insights into the field of the psychology of close relationships and introduces culturally nuanced, effective strategies for therapeutic intervention. As a robust foundational framework, the research aims to stimulate more comprehensive academic discourse and inspire meaningful societal changes.
... Sahdra et al. (2016) suggested that nonattachment may be an outcome of extended mindfulness practice and a mechanism through which mindfulness promotes well-being. Indeed, several studies have shown that nonattachment mediates the effect of mindfulness on psychological well-being (Ju & Lee, 2015;Moussa et al., 2022), depression (Tran et al., 2014), anxiety/stress , and the three elements of advanced psychological development (wisdom, self-transcendence, and self-actualization; Whitehead et al., 2020). Therefore, it is possible that nonattachment may play a similar mediating role on the relationship between self-compassion profile membership and psychological well-being. ...
Full-text available
Emerging research has shown that boys and girls may relate to compassionate and uncompassionate components of self-compassion differently and have distinct gender based self-compassion profiles. This study extended upon recent research by investigating gender based adolescent self-compassion profiles and their relationship with psychological well-being and the role of nonattachment in the link between self-compassion and well-being. A large cross-sectional sample of Australian Year 10 high school students (N = 1,944, Mage = 15.65 years, SDage = 0.43; 50% girls) completed measures of self-compassion, nonattachment, and well-being. Latent profile analysis identified distinct self-compassion profiles based on gender. Four profiles labelled ‘Low Self-Relating’, ‘Moderate Self-Relating’, ‘Compassionate’, and ‘Uncompassionate’ emerged for girls. Three profiles emerged for boys labelled ‘Low Self-Relating’, ‘Moderate Self-Relating, and ‘Compassionate’. ‘Low’ and ‘Moderate Self-Relating’ profiles involved low and moderate levels of both compassionate and uncompassionate self-relating. ‘Compassionate’ profiles involved high levels of compassionate and low levels of uncompassionate self-relating, and ‘Uncompassionate’ profiles involved the opposite. For both genders, ‘Compassionate’ profiles were associated with the highest psychological well-being and nonattachment and ‘Uncompassionate’ profiles with the lowest of both. ‘Low’ and ‘Moderate Self-Relating’ profiles showed no difference in psychological well-being or nonattachment. Mediation analysis indicated that nonattachment partially mediated the relationship between self-compassion profile and psychological well-being. These findings support recent research that illustrates adolescents relate to the components of self-compassion differently both between and within genders. It also highlights the crucial role nonattachment plays in the relationship between self-compassion and psychological well-being in adolescents.
... One possible reason for this finding is that nonattachment might enhance adaptive emotion regulation and thereby facilitate stigma coping (Sahdra et al., 2010). Indeed, prior studies have shown that nonattached individuals are better able to let go of their negative social experiences (Whitehead et al., 2018a(Whitehead et al., , b, 2020. Therefore, nonattached parents may be less likely to ruminate and worry about their exposure to societal discrimination, and thus suffer lower levels of distress and depression (Lamis & Dvorak, 2014). ...
Full-text available
Objectives Research shows that stigma has an adverse psychological impact on parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, there are very few studies examining the potential protective factors that may buffer the adverse impact. The present study investigated the longitudinal associations of experienced discrimination and anticipated discrimination with detrimental cognitive consequences (i.e., self-stigma content and self-stigma process) and affective consequences (i.e., parenting stress and depressive symptoms) for parents of children with ASD and tested whether these associations would be moderated by nonattachment. Methods At two time points separated by 24 months, 381 Hong Kong parents of children with ASD completed standardized questionnaires to provide data on experienced discrimination, anticipated discrimination, nonattachment, self-stigma content, self-stigma process, parenting stress, and depressive symptoms. Results Hierarchical regressions showed that experienced discrimination and anticipated discrimination had significant interactions with nonattachment at baseline in predicting adverse psychological consequences (i.e., self-stigma content, self-stigma process, parenting stress, and depressive symptoms) at follow-up. In addition, simple slope analyses showed that the associations of experienced discrimination and anticipated discrimination with the adverse psychological consequences were weaker in parents with high nonattachment than in parents with low nonattachment. Conclusions Our findings indicate the longitudinal associations of experienced discrimination and anticipated discrimination with detrimental cognitive consequences and affective consequences for parents of children with ASD, and highlight the protective effects of nonattachment against such associations. These findings suggest the importance of supporting parents of children with ASD to increase nonattachment in order to cope with discrimination and improve psychological well-being.
Full-text available
The Bhagavad Gita is a well-known and deeply respected ancient text from the Indian subcontinent. It is widely regarded as a storehouse of spiritual knowledge. This article explores the different ways in which psychologists have approached the study of the Gita and the extent to which it has been acknowledged as providing concepts that can contribute to the creation of mental well-being in modern times. It is important to understand the status accorded to the Gita within psychology and the contributions it can make to the growth of the psychological sciences. Psychology as we know it today developed largely within the academic institutions of Europe and North America and began its steep rise to recognition and fame largely in the first half of the 20th century. Western ‘scientific’ theories, concepts, and writings were carried to and widely disseminated in countries with diverse cultures. In this process indigenous, cultural and philosophical forms of knowledge that could have been incorporated into the evolving discipline were largely ignored or marginalized. The time has come to begin an exploration of such resources to assess how they can contribute to enhancing psychology’s acceptance in different parts of the world. Given psychology’s wide base of applications, it would be beneficial to explore its links with the message of the Bhagavad Gita. This study presents an analysis of 24 articles on the Bhagavad Gita that are of psychological significance and have been published in the last 10 years (2012–2022). Three themes addressing the ways in which this text has been approached by contemporary psychologists were elicited: (1) comparisons with modern psychotherapy, (2) preludes to modern psychological concepts and (3) potential for building well-being and resilience. In addition to this analysis, the article explores a powerful message contained in the Gita around seeking support for mental health issues, a message that has not been widely recognized to date.
The Psychology of Wisdom: An Introduction is the first comprehensive coursebook on wisdom, providing an engaging, balanced, and expert introduction to the psychology of wisdom. It provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the psychological science of wisdom, covering wide-ranging perspectives. Each chapter includes extensive pedagogy, including a summary, a glossary, bolded terms, practical applications, discussion questions, and a brief description of the authors' research. Topics include the philosophical foundations, folk conceptions, and psychological theories of wisdom; relations of wisdom to morality and ethics, to personality and well-being, to emotion; wisdom and leadership, wisdom and social policy. These topics are covered in a non-technical, bias-free, and student-friendly manner. Written by the most eminent experts in the field, this is the definitive coursebook for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interested professionals and researchers.
The Psychology of Wisdom: An Introduction is the first comprehensive coursebook on wisdom, providing an engaging, balanced, and expert introduction to the psychology of wisdom. It provides a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the psychological science of wisdom, covering wide-ranging perspectives. Each chapter includes extensive pedagogy, including a summary, a glossary, bolded terms, practical applications, discussion questions, and a brief description of the authors' research. Topics include the philosophical foundations, folk conceptions, and psychological theories of wisdom; relations of wisdom to morality and ethics, to personality and well-being, to emotion; wisdom and leadership, wisdom and social policy. These topics are covered in a non-technical, bias-free, and student-friendly manner. Written by the most eminent experts in the field, this is the definitive coursebook for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as interested professionals and researchers.
Full-text available
The Buddhist notion of nonattachment relates to an engagement with experience with flexibility and without fixation on achieving specified outcomes. The present study sought to define, create and validate a new measure of nonattachment as it applies to notions of the self. A new construct of "nonattachment to self" (NTS) was developed, defined the absence of fixation on self-related concepts, thoughts and feelings, and a capacity to flexibly interact with these concepts, thoughts and feelings without trying to control them. Two studies were conducted in the development of the new scale. With expert consultation, study 1 (n = 445) established a single factor, internally consistent 7-item scale via exploratory factor analysis. Study 2 (n = 388, n = 338) confirmed the factor structure of the new 7-item scale using confirmatory factor analyses. Study 2 also found the new scale to be internally consistent, with evidence supporting its test-retest reliability, criterion, and construct validity. Nonattachment to self-emerged as a unique way of relating to the self, distinct from general nonattachment, that aligned with higher levels of well-being and adaptive functioning.
Full-text available
The Buddhist construct of nonattachment is a related, yet distinct construct to mindfulness. Whereas mindfulness refers to an individual’s open, present-centred awareness of what is happening in their field of consciousness, nonattachment denotes an absence of attempts to control what is happening in their field of consciousness. The aim of the present research was to determine whether nonattachment is a mechanism of mindfulness that mediates its relationship to psychological and subjective well-being, depression, anxiety and stress. Two sequential studies were conducted. Study 1 (N = 516) established that nonattachment mediated the relationship of mindfulness to psychological and subjective well-being. Study 2 (N = 416) demonstrated that nonattachment also mediated the relationship of mindfulness to depression, anxiety and stress. In combination, these studies are the first to demonstrate that the relationship of mindfulness to a broad range of psychological outcomes is at least partially determined by nonattachment. These findings provide insight into how mindfulness impacts mental health and have implications for the development and assessment of mindfulness-based interventions.
Full-text available
The goal of this research was to examine age and gender differences in mindfulness on Bosnian general population. The study was conducted on a sample of 441 participants from the general population, from twelve cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a measure of mindfulness we used Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire. Results showed that older participants' scores were higher than for younger participants for all aspects of mindfulness. There was found a statistically significant difference between the three age groups on the subscales of Acting with awareness F(2, 435) = 7.39, p < .01 and of Non-judging of inner experience F(2, 428) = 5.67, p < .01. We found statistically significant difference for the Acting with awareness between 20-32 age group (M = 28.57, SD = 5.66) and 33-49 age group (M = 31.01, SD = 5.00, t(292) =-3.91, p < .001), and between 20-32 age group and 50+ group (M = 30.14, SD = 5,86, t(290) =-2.32, p < .05). Also, there was a significant difference for the Non-judging between 20-32 age group (M = 24.77, SD = 5.80) and 33-49 age group (M = 26.65, SD = 5.09, t(288) =-2.94, p < .01), and between 20-32 age group and 50+ group (M = 26.49, SD = 4.90, t(287) =-2,71, p < .05). According to the t-test results, there was statistically significant gender difference between the subscales Observing (t(432) =-2.259, p <. 05) and Acting with awareness (t(432) = 2.197, p < .05), women scored higher than men on the subscale Observing, while men exhibited higher scores on the subscale Acting with awareness. Results of this research showed that there were found significant age and gender differences for some aspects of mindfulness in the sample of Bosnian general population.
Full-text available
Background: There are few studies devoted to assessing the impact of meditation-intensive retreats on the well-being, positive psychology, and personality of experienced meditators. We aimed to assess whether a 1-month Vipassana retreat: (a) would increase mindfulness and well-being; (b) would increase prosocial personality traits; and (c) whether psychological changes would be mediated and/or moderated by non-attachment. Method: A controlled, non-randomized, pre-post-intervention trial was used. The intervention group was a convenience sample (n = 19) of experienced meditators who participated in a 1-month Vipassana meditation retreat. The control group (n = 19) comprised matched experienced meditators who did not take part in the retreat. During the retreat, the mean duration of daily practice was 8–9 h, the diet was vegetarian and silence was compulsory. The Experiences Questionnaire (EQ), Non-attachment Scale (NAS), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS), Temperament Character Inventory Revised (TCI-R-67), Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), Self-Other Four Immeasurables (SOFI) and the MINDSENS Composite Index were administered. ANCOVAs and linear regression models were used to assess pre-post changes and mediation/moderation effects. Results: Compared to controls, retreatants showed increases in non-attachment, observing, MINDSENS, positive-affect, balance-affect, and cooperativeness; and decreases in describing, negative-others, reward-dependence and self-directedness. Non-attachment had a mediating role in decentring, acting aware, non-reactivity, negative-affect, balance-affect and self-directedness; and a moderating role in describing and positive others, with both mediating and moderating effects on satisfaction with life. Conclusions: A 1-month Vipassana meditation retreat seems to yield improvements in mindfulness, well-being, and personality, even in experienced meditators. Non-attachment might facilitate psychological improvements of meditation, making it possible to overcome possible ceiling effects ascribed to non-intensive practices.
Full-text available
Abraham Maslow popularized the concept of self-actualization as a process an individual undergoes through life. He believed that most mentally healthy individuals follow a path called growth motivation that allowed them to self-actualize and realize their true potential as they grow older and mature. Maslow’s theory of self-actualization is synonymous with seminal psychological, philosophical, and religious theories that support the noble human transition from self-indulgence to selflessness and altruism. This article draws correlations between these theories to demonstrate the significance of Maslow’s theory and to develop a need-based activity chart that individuals can follow throughout their lifecycle on the path to self-actualization.
Full-text available
How stable vs. dynamic is wisdom in daily life? We conducted a daily diary study of wise reasoning (WR) by recording people’s reflections on daily challenges in terms of three facets: intellectual humility, self-transcendence, and consideration of others’ perspectives/compromise. We observed substantial and systematic intraindividual variability in WR, with wiser reasoning in the social versus nonsocial contexts. State-level WR variability was potent in predicting a bigger-picture construal of the event, more positive (vs. negative) emotions, greater emotional complexity, lower emotional reactivity, less thought suppression, and more reappraisal and forgiveness. In contrast, on the trait level, we observed only a few associations to emotional complexity and reappraisal. We discuss implications for conceptualization and measurement of wisdom-related thought.
The present study aims to study the effect of anasakti and level of post on job satisfaction of employees. The study was guided by the hypothesis that there will be no significant effect of anasakti and level of post on job satisfaction of employees. For this purpose sample was consisted of 120 employees were selected through quota random sampling. The data were collected through standardized tools from each subject individually. A 2X3 factorial design was employed to find out the effect of anasakti and level of post on job satisfaction. The obtained raw data were analyzed by Mean, SD, Newman-Kules and Analysis of variance (ANOVA).The results indicated that the anasakti and level of post was significantly affect the job satisfaction of employees.