Why we need to be more co-dependent
There’s a certain type of client who comes to me with a very specific issue they wish to resolve.
The image these clients present to the world is a passive one, but that’s far from the truth. Their need to be less dependent is usually linked to just one person or one relationship but what surprises them is my response to their ‘problem’, which goes something like this:
“What I really want is for you to become dependent on way more people”.
This sounds at odds with our individualistic, egocentric culture but let’s take a walk back in time.
Co-dependency is in our DNA
For the thousands of years humans have been on earth, we have lived together, normally in groups of around 30 to 100. Within those groups were smaller clusters, subgroups of people who remained highly dependent on each other. They learned to co-operate in order to survive.
Today, in theory, we don’t need our ‘subgroup’ to survive. We’re conditioned to be self-sufficient. But depending on others is in our DNA, it’s an inbuilt instinct passed onto us in through the generations.
That makes it hard, maybe impossible, to “unlearn” something that was once essential to our very survival.
So my gentle question to all of us is: within reason, why fight this natural urge? We feel safer when we’re connected to each other on an authentic level. It’s how we are made, how we thrive.
Back to my client.
The task is really to connect to more people on a deep, authentic level. That signals to our brains that we are not relying on a single person or relationship to meet our often complex needs.
And it helps in other areas too.
The woman who comes to me and says her boyfriend hates to hear about her issues with people at work learns that her new friend is not only happy to listen but suggests creative solutions. While she takes a bike ride with her neighbor in the afternoon, her boyfriend can schedule a workout.
You get the point. Multiple connections mean we aren’t placing unrealistic expectations and pressure on that one person to meet all our needs.
Finding strength in connection
What I also notice is that connecting and depending on more people makes us fiercely independent. It’s because we know we always have options. That confidence helps us to recognize and accept that each person has their own limitations (and strengths, of course) – and that’s OK.
We can also learn that we ourselves have limits (and of course, strengths) and be honest about it.
For example, I may not be of much help when you’re packing your boxes to move to a new home, but I am happy to bring over a meal or watch your kids while you focus on the practical tasks. In a group of people, everyone can pitch in based on their own talents and capabilities.
But if you are counting on only one person, disappointment will be inevitable. That disappointment risks making them feel inadequate or ‘less than’ and they pull away.
Co-dependence on one person unrealistic and therefore bound to fail.
My advice to you all is:
- Build out a pack. You will feel confident, accepting and independent (oddly enough). Studies also suggests that you will live longer if you are socially connected!
- Start today! Strike up conversations with your neighbors, co-workers and the people you encounter at the grocery store. Be known and know people.
- Help others before you help yourself. It’s one of the best ways to establish good will and trust.
- Reconnect with relatives and old friends.
Create a constellation of connections and say goodbye – and hello – to co-dependency.
Nicole C Weiss LCSW
- Phone: 619-318-5012
- Email: [email protected]