The Fourth of July commemorates our adoption of the Declaration of Independence, as the thirteen colonies took a stand to be treated as a new nation instead of part of the British Empire. People wanted to be free, and people continue to want to be free.
Independence means zero dependence?
Our human desire for freedom is at times mistreated or exaggerated in exchange for a healthy dependence. In other words, it’s somehow been determined at some point that freedom equals independence equals the means to happiness, fulfillment and success. And in many ways, that’s true; healthy independence—such as being able to pay your own bills, pursue your own passions, and choose your own community—is an endeavor that most of us work hard to achieve and maintain for our sense of fulfillment and joy in life. In other ways, however, our pursuit of autonomy may lead us to disown any measure of dependence within us.
In our Western society and our Los Angeles microcosm of it, independence is revered and pursued. We strive for emotional and intellectual independence, or financial independence, or artistic independence, and so on. So much so that it gets easy to forget what healthy dependence looks like.
So what is healthy dependence?
Dependence is not about being clingy or not self-sufficient or “co-dependent,” as it is sometimes called. Rather, healthy dependence actually denotes strength and faith. It means that we allow ourselves to rely on other people and that we have the capacity to trust.
For many of us, it isn’t such an easy capacity to develop. Many of us also struggle with truly recognizing other people’s dependence on us and with having the confidence in ourselves to have their backs. So it goes both ways. It could be quite a process for many of us to learn how to give and receive that trust.
It may be helpful to be reminded that we are born into dependence; as infants, we wholly depend on our caregivers for our survival. Later on, we—at our first chance, and second, and third—create friendships, communities, families, companies, and fellowships, which fundamentally require a good measure of dependence. And so, in making our way through life, we notice that independence as well as dependence are both essential for our psychic survival and thriving. We must be able to healthily depend on others in order to be fully independent and free. We depend on our partner to help us with doing the taxes on time and soothe our hearts after a difficult conversation with our mom. We depend on our co-workers to cover for us when we simply have to make it to an audition during our usual business hours. We are depended-on by our friends to sit with them in the dark when they can’t find any light and hope in their lives.
How can you expand your capacity for healthy dependence?
So if you notice yourself scoff at the concept of allowing your partner to take care of the dishes, consider that you depend on her for much larger things, so try trusting her with this task and see where it takes you. Or if you’re thoroughly convinced that you know better than your employee, consider that you depend on him for the smooth running of your company and can spare a moment to hear out an idea he’d been trying to suggest since March.
For a bonus feature, consider taking a moment to reflect on the people on whom you’ve been dependent throughout your life, and really allow yourself to let that dependence feeling sink in. Notice what comes up. How painful or relieving or terrifying or moving is the feeling in your heart or stomach? Why? What about it makes it so?
For a double bonus, do the same in reverse—allow yourself to sit with whatever comes up when you think of the people who depend on you. What sensations and thoughts does this fact bring out? What do you find alarming about it? What is delightful about being depended on?
So, in dedication to the 13 original colonies, whose desire to be independent from their past gave birth to the creation of a new dependence amongst themselves as the United States, we say “Happy Dependence Day!”
The WILA blog is brought to you by the heart and expert wordsmithing of our Blog Countess, Eva Patrick, PsyD. “My passion for blogging is tied to my appetite for practicing psychotherapy – they both allow me to surrender to the uncertainty of life, and to find my way out through words, stories and the discovery of new ideas for doing, being and telling these stories in the world.”