Human being is a social animal and therefore social dependence is something that is inevitable to him. This can range from monetary dependence to emotional dependence and everything in between. Many a times it happens that we find ourselves so deeply ingrained into a person that we fail to acknowledge when the phase of emotional support transited into the phase of emotional dependence.
What is dependence and when can it turn unhealthy?
Dependence is simply being reliant on another person for support. This support can come from family, a friend or a partner. It’s certainly not bad to be reliant, however when this reliance crosses the threshold where we no longer have awareness of ‘Self’, we should then call that as an unhealthy dependence.
What exactly happens in unhealthy emotional dependence?
Unhealthy emotional dependence as mentioned earlier enters into our relationship when we lose our awareness of self. Some observable aspects include,
- Our life seems to be circulating around that person.
- We start feeling that our life is worthless without the person’s presence in it.
- We start to believe that we cannot find happiness or security alone.
- Our thoughts and emotions for most of the time in the day are dedicated to that person and when not together we might end up worrying about what they’re doing and whether they still love or care about us.
These fixations bring in negative emotions. Here we have equated this relationship with our whole life and existence.
Studies tell us that people who go through unhealthy emotional dependence score low on self-esteem. Our self esteem tanks up when we make a mistake or do not perform well and we depend on that person’s approval to cheer us and lift us back up. I believe, along with self esteem or innate need to feel accepted, an important factor here is also a very deep bonding with the person and the emotional gratification we receive which itself serves as a factor of restlessness, feeling sad or anxious when we think about our future without his/her presence.
How do we then COPE with this dependence?
First we need to understand and accept the fact that other than being independent or interdependent a large part of our life is also going to person or people. What we need to strive for then is without rejecting or suppressing these needs, accept the feeling of dependence and steadily make conscious efforts towards self-fulfillment. Work on identifying those areas in life and potentials within you where you can move towards becoming more independent. For example, rather than expecting or depending on someone else’s judgment about your thoughts, your work or your performance, why not be your own judge? Why not find your own flaws and work towards them? Why not congratulate yourself? And most importantly accepting your thoughts and emotions unconditionally while on this journey.
What you tell yourself about yourself is very important for determining your mental health. Therefore pay attention to your Self Talk and also put efforts at modifying it. Let’s take an example-
- A rigid self talk- “This relationship is my life”
- A modified and rational self-talk- “This relationship is a very important part of my life”
When I say it’s one of the many parts of my life, doors of my mind open to enormous possibilities where I can thrive without the emotional support of that person.
Alas, we all have the resilience within us to accept and adapt to changing situations. However it may happen at times that things may seem really difficult to handle and emotions out of control. At such times it is always advisable to seek help. Not because you are weak, but because you want to find that hidden resilience within yourself.
“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it”
- Nicholas Sparks
By Ms. Janhavi Datar
Ms. Janhavi Datar is a Psychologist, REBT certified therapist and Yoga instructor. She has an experience of working as an assistant professor in a Junior College as well as volunteering with Volunteer For India. She has recently started her private practice in the field of mental health. She believes in mental well - being as an integral part of a sound holistic health.