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Emotional Dependency

Emotional dependency is a condition that affects all of mankind to one degree or another. The effects can range from mild, where little of a person’s life is affected, to chronic and debilitating, where a person’s world appears to be controlled for them.

The healthier a person is, or the less they are controlled by their dependencies, the clearer that person negotiates emotionally through their life. In addition, they are usually able to see and recognize these insecurities and are apt to accept them without criticism, or condemning themselves or others.

There are those who are blinded by their insecurities and so are unable to recognize them, nor accept them. They are constantly stumbling through life, painfully jarring their own emotional lives as well as the emotional lives of those around them.

The critical point in presenting this book is to advocate the understanding that insecure or dependent people are neither disordered, nor defective, nor broken. Dependency is a natural outcome of human socialization where the individual has been deprived of emotional and spiritual nutrients in their social development. It is fair to say that because of this depravation, much of their behavior, as a product of their thinking, is disordered. It is important, and even necessary to see this distinction as a means of beginning recovery.

Recovery from dependency is rather simple once a person sees the pathway toward recovery.  One of my favorite stories of faith comes from the writings of Marianne Williamson. She relates the mythological story of the island of Avalon where Excalibur, the sword of King Arthur was forged, and where he went to heal from his final battle. It was an island hidden behind a great barrier of mist. Many ships, sailed up and down the wall looking for the passage through, but could not find it because they did not truly believe the island was there. The magic of the barrier was that it opened a passage through when it perceived the belief and faith of those looking for Avalon.

Our recovery works the same way. We cannot make it happen. We cannot manipulate it to happen. Our passage through to our “Avalon” opens when we accept the truth of our lives and stop attempting to change them, fix them, or manipulate them into being something that they aren’t. Some of our history contains garbage–tons of garbage–and the first step to recovery is accepting the truth of it as best we understand it and giving up the war inside to be different, or that events and circumstances of our lives should be different. What I believe can be accomplished through this book is a renewed hope in one’s self, one’s circumstances, and one’s life. Since the source and power to change comes from inside each person rather than outside, I encourage you to open up to the possibilities of “Avalon” existing behind the barriers of mists that have kept us lost and bewildered. There is a pathway waiting for each of us. Once it is revealed to us and we begin to follow it, it remains a sure, solid, intentional path to recovery.

The term we use in the human behavior field for recovery is independence. This is a state of emotional and spiritual freedom where we are responsive, creative, spontaneous and resilient—with infinite possibilities of choices.

Look at how this contrasts with dependency, where a person’s life happens by default; where they are rigid and fixed, and compulsive–with few and very limited choices. They feel compelled to respond to the world outside of them in hostile, resentful, and fearful ways. The array of emotions for independent people can include negative emotions; however, the most common experience will be a manifestation of positive, productive and engaging emotions. In contrast, those who have dependent thinking will live pervasively in dark delusions with negative emotions of isolation, rejection, and paranoia being their experience. Very rarely will they experience genuine positive emotions and social engagement. Typically, dependent’s forms of recreation have to do with mood altering events such as drugs, alcohol, anger, sex, gambling, etc., where they quite often express their “happiness” or that these experiences bring them “happiness.”  A common quote I’ve heard is, “I really enjoy drinking, doing, being....”, or some variation of this.

Recreation for independent people centers around relationships, with the focus on experiencing the positive and joyful aspects of their social engagement. Little of any attention appears to be on what people are saying or doing, but on what is being experienced heart-to-heart between people.

Social interaction for dependents is focused on what people say or do and ascribing meaning (by the dependent observer) to what is being said or done. These people can often be seen in a state of affront with negative filters and barriers raised between them and others–but principally those who are in more intimate relationships such as companions, spouses, children, and co-workers.

When negative (and often, even positive) events come to dependents, it knocks them for a “loop”. They are knocked off their already precarious balance. They scramble for some form of mental [emotional] stability and can only grab the rigid, dogmatic, fixed and ineffective methods they have used in the past. They see no options other than their past options and rigidly adhere to them. I heard an example of this the other day when a patient was relating a number of negative aspects of her job and that she wasn’t happy and didn’t feel appreciated. I asked if she had considered leaving and finding a job that would be more satisfactory to her. Her reply was that she was not going to be seen as the weak person and give in to the situation, and as such, she was going to tough it out and prove to the person that she was strong and not weak.

When negative circumstances come to independent people, they are flexible, resilient, creative, and open to additional options. Their attention does not become focused on the problems, but the options for resolution. They are like the plastic clown I had as an older child. No matter how many times I hit it and knocked it over, it stood right back up again.

One can see the distinct variations in these two states of being that we live in. When we begin to truly “see”, then change will occur. Not because we want it to, or command it to, or manipulate it to, but because it is "built" into us as the most natural occurrence. We are capable, from our center core, to heal and move from our delusional perceived dependencies to our innate inborn capability of independence.

Forward: Removing Barriers to Moving Forward, D. Tully LeBaron

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