Today, I’d like to talk about dependence and independence, what each of them is on the emotional level, and how one can become more independent.
Many times, when we talk about independence, it’s in reference to an interest in being able to do what we want to do. For instance, “financial independence” refers to being able to live without working. But for some, this still can mean dependence on financial independence, always living with the tension that one’s current stability might fall through, and fearing it, or otherwise letting that fear drive incessant action to control one’s financial stability, without having peace.
Indeed, the freedom to be where one desires isn’t necessarily freedom at all, since one can still feel dependent upon that desired circumstance remaining. And when one’s desire isn’t there, it can feel as though things aren’t right until it is. What people are talking about here is independence as freedom from circumstance. Yet, it’s still very much dependent upon the circumstance one wishes to escape to, and remain in.
So what is dependence? I posit the following definition:
A state of being that involves “looking to get to” a circumstance, such that one craves it, feels one needs it, feels things are wrong without it, or may fear its absence. It can involve impatience, fixation, imbalance, suffering, emotional pain, fear, panic, and anxiety. It can lead to escapism, negativity, and frustration.
And what about independence?
A state of being that involves openness to all circumstances, whatever the current circumstance happens to be. Involves flow, and a sense of detachment from circumstance and everything outside of one’s control, including direct control. Generally a positive, free, authentic, open state, devoid of shame and very fluid, not holding on to the things that come and go in reality.
Thus you can see the differences between the two. Yet, all too often, we can slip into feelings of dependence, however ideal independence might sound. We like our ideal circumstances, we like being safe in fairly consistent surroundings and relationships. If our good things are there, we can be happy, right?
Yet there’s a certain staleness to dependence, even if everything stays in the “good” zone, and nothing seems to threaten it. Life can wear at us, seem to go nowhere, or we might even find ourselves in a state where little things changing can make us uneasy or cause us to worry. After all, what if something major changed? What if a relationship went bad, a house burned down, people whose company you like stopped inviting you to be around them? What if the job we want doesn’t go through? What if we fail, even if we’ve been pretty successful in the past? Anything could happen, and knowing this, in the back of our minds, it can trigger our worries, our fears, and our attachment to our circumstances.
Yes, life can change, and it can change rapidly. Not only outer life, but inner life, too. That good feeling we had this morning could be replaced with worry, dread, or frustration. That empowered emotional state could be reduced, our confidence shattered. Insecurities or fears we thought we’d dealt with can come up again, perhaps triggering us to try and reject their very presence, and refuse to acknowledge them.
And yet, things still do change, despite however much we might not want that. That’s why dependence does not work long-term. Feeling dependent on something that can change is, in general, not a reliable or safe policy. It can drain you, depress you, cause you undue torment.
That’s why there’s adaptation, openness, flow, independence, relaxation, awareness, rest, and letting go. Circumstance does not have to dictate your state. You can adapt, you can do what you can to adopt a stance of openness to change, and a willingness to be where you are. You may be taken on a wild adventure of thoughts, feelings, ideas, actions, and new considerations, but at least change won’t be met with your own resistance, your own inability to adapt, which can grate and grind at you, bringing pain to you even as the world moves on. While you struggle to keep one door open, another one, leading to untold beauty itself, might be right nearby, and wide open.
Shifting from Dependence
There can be little and huge things that we may feel we rely on within our day to day life. How do we realize them, and how do we release that dependence, so we can move more towards independence?
Here are some things to look for:
- When feeling imbalanced – such as feeling needy, impatient, or being upset – is this a situation that could be related to dependence on circumstance?
- What circumstances are you relying on being true in your life?
- What things are you “counting on”?
- What does independence feel like to you? What about dependence? Emulating these states could help you get a sense of where you’re currently at.
- What things do you not want to let go of, and why? Is there another way to fulfill the underlying interests?
- When stuck, what are all the things that you could do, if something else was true? Is there something you could do that isn’t dependent on a non-present circumstance?
- What do you want control of in your life, and why? For each of those “why’s”, is there another way you could have them in the present, without controlling circumstance? (for instance, a shift in perspective, such as seeing where you’re pushing away those things in the present)
Then, there is the following example exercise. You can take any of the questions above and flesh it out into something similar, following what you feel is the best opportunity as far as what to investigate:
- Find a place to write, and list out all the things you want to have in every major area of your life. (Make sure to give yourself space to expand on each item.) These are things beyond your control, that you don’t already have, but want them. Possible areas: personal goals, finances, social life, relationships, physical circumstances, health, fantasy goals (like, wishes for if you could literally have anything, even wildly imaginative things), etc.
- For each of these, write out why. If this is too much, just focus on the major ones. For instance, you could circle 5 of the most desired things, and focus on those.
- Go beyond the why if you have to, focusing in on figuring out why each of these is important to you. Try to get to the emotional layer of these things, as well as to the point where you feel you’ve found something that is possible in other ways. Circle or highlight these “essential things” that are possible in other ways.
- Brainstorm other ways that having these essential things might be possible. You don’t have to commit to any of these, but the point is opening yourself up to more possibilities than the pathways you’re fixated on.
- Ideally, after brainstorming, you’ll start to find a sense of peace between your self who wants these essential things, and the changeable nature of reality. That sense of peace is the goal of the exercise.
After your first trial with this exercise, you can always come back to it later in times of distress or imbalance, or just in general any time you feel dependent on something, such as when there’s an anxious need to make something happen, or keep something from happening.
That said, I wish you, the reader, well with this issue, and I hope I’ve provided some insights into it, as well as some tools that could assist you with overcoming some sticking points, such that you feel more equipped to release dependencies when it’s important, and be in a state of independence more often. Take care.
Anxiety – Anxiety can be part of the desire for control that is connected with dependence. Thus, working with anxiety can help to release tensions as well as dependencies, to better relax into the present and be open.
Tension – Dependence on something uncontrollable being in a fixed state can cause enormous tension. Understanding tension’s relation to attachment, and knowing strategies for dealing with it, can help to relax dependencies, creating a more independent environment.