Recently, we celebrated Independence Day, commemorating the date of the initial signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that proclaimed the new American colonies’ desire to sever their allegiance to the British Crown and to chart their own destiny. Perhaps no other holiday holds as much meaning for Americans as does the 4th of July. That’s because freedom and independence are values that have been deeply rooted in the American soul since our country’s founding.
Independence is almost always the preferable state. It’s the opposite of dependence, which is the state of being reliant upon someone or something else as well as being subordinate to the authority of one’s benefactor. Independence, on the other hand, means neither relying upon, being controlled by, nor being subject to the command of anyone or anything but oneself. Whether you’re a country yearning to be free or a person seeking personal fulfillment, independence is a most desirable commodity.
The way nature planned it, humans are very dependent creatures at first. This is contrary to the way it is for many other species. But humans are born completely dependent, and becoming independent is an extraordinarily long and arduous task. And for some, the quest for independence is can be stymied by a variety of factors. Some of us have physical handicaps and other limitations that hinder our ability to ever become fully independent. Others of us struggle with the scars of trauma or coping skill deficits that impair our ability to function well independently. And, as any parent of a teenager knows, making a bid for independence in the absence the necessary skills and experience can be a recipe for disaster. We need our independence, but we also have to be prepared for it.
In an evolved social community, a certain amount of interdependence is necessary. We don’t all have computer programming skills, agricultural production skills, scientific expertise or medical training. So, in a complex society, interdependence is inevitable. None of us can be completely independent. And not all types of dependence are inherently bad. It’s a matter of balance. And this couldn’t be more true when it comes to our emotional lives. When we need someone just to feel okay about ourselves, when we don’t trust ourselves unless we have someone else’s validation, or when we feel week unless we’ve attached ourselves someone else who we perceive is stronger, we perpetuate a type of dependence fraught with many dangers: emotional dependence.
Emotional dependency is perhaps the most insidious type of dependency, and to the degree we possess it, it can put us at a significant disadvantage when it comes to establishing or maintaining relationships. Dependent relationships are not only unhealthy and destructive but they can make us prime targets for the most dangerous predators among us. Such folks have a sixth sense for the emotionally needy and relish the opportunity to prey upon those whom they perceive as weaker and therefore easier to manipulate and control.
I get emails quite frequently from folks operating various weblogs and websites devoted to helping folks who have struggled with emotional dependencies develop the skills to assert and empower themselves. Many times, the blog operators are persons who have been subjected to various types of relational abuse themselves and eventually found the courage not only to leave their unhealthy situations but also to master the skills necessary to take much better care of themselves emotionally. At first, many felt the urge to focus a lot of attention on the person with whom they were in an unhealthy relationship. But once they came to appreciate what a waste of time and energy that would be they began taking a serious look at their own underlying vulnerabilities and in the process not only healed some of their emotional wounds but also lessened the likelihood of entering another unhealthy relationship in the future. No longer focused externally, they developed skills they’d never acquired before and found a strength within themselves they never realized they had. They then wanted to share the good news with others: that anyone can gain the skills and confidence they need to overcome their dependencies and lead a healthier, more empowered life. And in that vain, they approached me to write some articles for their blogs or submit to interviews, expanding upon material they found helpful in my books Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing. Having researched and written heavily about those who are unhealthily emotionally independent as well as those who are too dependent, I was more than happy to oblige and perhaps provide yet another way to assist those wanting to empower themselves.
One of my more recent interviews is featured on a blog called Chump Lady, which was started by a woman who had to learn the hard way how seriously impaired the character of serial cheaters and fast-talking manipulators can be. But this lady is certainly no “chump” now, and she has a deep appreciation for the principles in my writings that helped her heal. And by reaching out and spreading the word, she and other blog operators have found a way to connect with others in a healthy and helpful way while simultaneously reinforcing their own quest for self-assertion and personal affirmation. You might want to pay a visit to a few of these sites (see also: Lovefraud and Waking You Up). The folks that operate them are all wonderful people. And I’m always glad when I can lend them a little support by contributing an article or two to their blogs. It’s like being a welcome guest at someone’s deeply personal and ongoing “independence day” celebration. No fireworks or parades. Just the profound joy of living free.
BTW folks, thanks largely to YOU and your support, this year’s holiday views on YouTube of my patriotic composition America, My Home, and requests for the sheet music and performance rights for the song, reached an all-time high. The song now has its own Facebook page. Please visit the page and “like” it. And standby for postings of some magnificent recent performances, including one at the huge “Celebrate America” event in the bay area of California!
2 thoughts on “An Emotional Declaration of Independence”
Hi Dr. Simon,
The journey you described is the one I took. It’s been 4 years since I escaped the manipulative abuser I lived with. There were several factors that helped me to finally get out and stay out, and one of them was your writings. Although I only purchased your book “In Sheep’s Clothing” a year ago, I used to read your posts on the counselling site at the time of leaving and after. At every step of the journey towards emotional independence that followed I found my experiences being eloquently put in your words, which was hugely empowering. The culture I grew up with (both the microculture of my house/street and the national one) has not offered much of a discourse to people to talk about abuse and manipulation meaningfully. I now cherish my freedom and the healthy relationships I am in. I have also been able to help others who are affected as they find their reality validated when we talk. In some cases these talks are one of the factors that helps them to break free.
Thank you for contributing so invaluably to our independence!
Thank you so much for your kind words, Magda. And it’s edifying to know that all my writings and not just my books have been of help.
All the best to you, and thanks for sharing your experience.