I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, the season of giving. I know this time can be stressful, even painful at times due to long to do lists, obligations, past disappointments related to the holidays or simply missing loved ones we wish were still with us. In the midst of this consumerism frenzy, I hope that you all find the time to connect with family, friends and/or neighbors and co-workers. I also hope for you to take time to connect with yourself and to receive during this season and the year to come.
Fear of Dependency; A New Phobia?
I smiled from ear to ear this morning when I saw a clever young girl who managed to stay within the uniform requirements of her school while wearing funky glasses, suspenders and a bow tie in her school colors. Her individuality shining through was so beautiful! We are a country that values independence. We understand that it is important to seek out our desires and discover our own truths. We’ve seen error in extreme collectivism where the individual identities are lost. We value women being able to support themselves without being dependent on a man and believe this reduces the potential for abuse or inequality.
What I would like to shed light on this month is that clinging rigidly to this value, independence, is indeed rooted in fear and is in opposition to other values that I do not believe we are ready to part with as individuals or as a society. The refusal of inter-dependence can be in opposition to community and collaboration. It is also a refusal to recognize the value of social and emotional intelligence. In a post-feminist era, in many ways we are still not highlighting how emotional expression and collaboration can be beneficial to business, community, relationships and individual mental and emotional health. Instead, these types of intelligence are swept under a beautiful and perfectly kept rug.
Again and again in my office I ask “With whom do you share these thoughts, feelings and concerns?” The answer is people are often not sharing. More often than you would think and probably more often than you would like to admit to yourself, we are not sharing. The “My Life Is Perfect” phenomenon, as regularly featured on Facebook, seems to closely coincide with the “I can do it all by myself” phenomenon. Many people are afraid of being dependent on another person for their physical, financial or emotional needs. They are afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be dependent on their loved ones and afraid to be truthful to those closest to them about their feelings. In extreme cases, people are so fearful of being vulnerable that they forgo emotionally intimate relationships all together, despite relationship/marital status. As a result they may feel lonely, stressed and overwhelmed. Their physical health may suffer greatly.
I ask, “Is it not better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” Is it not better to depend on your partner and friends, to expect them to be there and intermittently be disappointed than to go through life “strong”, anxious, misunderstood and lonely? Is it better to do it alone, meaning to keep to yourself all of your insecurities, concerns, fears and self-doubts? I would argue that such a life is often not avoiding co-dependency, as some may believe. It is the individual’s desire to please, appear in a certain way and/or not to trouble “the other” that drives this uber-independent phenomenon.
It would be wrong for me to assert that I know inter-dependence is the only right way. I can say, however, that the result of the phenomenon mentioned above is clear, decreased mental health. Why in the world would we want to do it all by ourselves? I don’t mean to sound preachy this month but I personally believe that if we desire better relationships, we have to allow ourselves to be honest about our emotional experiences AND we need to allow others to be there for us. If we want less anxiety, depression, stress, even physical pain, WE MUST be real AND allow others to share our load. If we want community, we have to unite. Inter-dependency is at the forefront of any system. As the organs of our body are not effective independently, nor do the members of a community or of a family or of a relationship. Each part of the whole can be both strong and inter-dependent. It is okay to need each other!
This Months Challenge: RECEIVE
You would not refuse a beautifully wrapped gift from a loved one. That would be rude! For this month’s challenge I therefore encourage you to open yourself up to receiving by trying the following:
1) Ask for what you need and ask for what you want. Let someone know that you could use some support. It is not a sign of weakness to do so but a sign of maturity and strength. We all need support in order to maintain good mental health.
2) Be vulnerable and honest. Let your guard down and allow someone to know that you may not be as composed as you seem.
3) Accept the gifts in your life. Accept individuals, opportunities and material objects which offer themselves to you. All the love and support (emotional and financial) you need could be available to you but you must be willing to receive it.
4) Remind yourself, daily if needed, you are worthy of all that is available whether it be business, money, love, friendship or just an ear. We are ALL deserving of these.
There is a secret about human love that is commonly overlooked: Receiving it is much more scary and threatening than giving it. How many times in your life have you been unable to let in someone’s love or even pushed it away? Much as we proclaim the wish to be truly loved, we are often afraid of that, and so find it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in. ~John Welwoo