As The United States celebrates its Independence Day, I thought it fitting to consider various forms of dependency.
Dependence is defined as the state of needing something or someone else.
Like it or not, we are dependent on each other for all kinds of things. We need acceptance, love and affection from others because we are social beings. A newborn child left alone without touch will die. We are dependent on each other to follow socially accepted behavior like stopping at red lights and contributing to common things like roads and schools.
In relationships, we are dependent on each other to be there to share the workload, make a meaningful contribution and live up to our commitments. Healthy dependence is a really, really positive thing.
Independence is freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
When the 13 American colonies were no longer satisfied with British rule (and taxation without representation), they sought a divorce. It’s not unlike the recent decision by Britain to pull out of the European Union to preserve its sovereignty.
It’s not unlike states in human development. Two that come to mind are the terrible twos.
I think the twos are called terrible because children seek independence from their parents and other caretakers because they are coming into their own. They are clumsy and awkward, but they are determined to get around! Unfortunately, they don’t yet recognize the limits of social and character boundaries, so tend to severely test those around them.
The other significant stage of finding independence IS, of course, during the teenage years. Children are transitioning to adulthood with changing bodies, increased responsibilities and fewer apron strings. Yet their raging hormones and lack of fully developed prefrontal cortexes (decision-making that fully grasps consequences) make them a real pain in the ass to deal with.
But there are other times in our lives when we need to consider independence. These might be escaping from a dead-end job or life-draining marriage (or any relationship).
Another is being “people” instead of “sheeple.” Doing things because everyone else does them or just to be accepted does not exhibit healthy independence. It’s better to learn to think critically than to be engaged in too much “groupthink.”
Codependence is a relationship in which one person is overly reliant on another person or thing. It could be a physical addiction, as to alcohol or gambling, or a psychological addiction to other person. Both are pretty destructive. It is worth exploring the dynamics of codependence and reaching out for help. You don’t realize how paralyzing codependence is until you escape it!
Interdependence is the relationship between two or more living things or systems where each one benefits from the other.
A cursory examination of any system, like food production, shows how crucial interdependence is. Seed propagation, fertilizer production, equipment manufacturing, fuel manufacturing and distribution, manual labor, timely harvesting, transportation, distribution, marketing, and so many other vital links are absolutely necessary for any region’s food chain to work.
So it is in relationships. In the West, we tend to overemphasize our independence, so need to be reminded how much we are truly connected.
We mirror each other, synchronize our movements, and communicate in ways we’re not even aware of. (Watch the film, I Am where it’s shown how even the bacteria in yogurt is affected by human emotion).
As you reflect on Independence Day, political troubles in the world, and your own relationships, consider the work of dependence, independence, codependence and interdependence in your life and vow to be healthy in each.
Click here to read Jeannette Slater’s article on relationship interdependence.
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Royalty-free puzzle image by Bartek Ambrozik; retrieved from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/puzzles-compilation-2-1140920