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There's No Such Thing as Independence

From your first breath to your last you are an absolutely dependent and needy being.  Your smallest decision, like putting sugar on your oatmeal, is dependent on thousands of others who cultivated fields, harvested, packaged, drove trucks, stocked stores, etc.

Though you might often take for granted the presence of air, food, and water, you can likely easily acknowledge your dependence on others and the environment in a physical way. 

Acknowledging your emotional / psychological dependence may not be so easy or straightforward*.  You might believe that real adults are supposed to be responsible and take care of themselves and that you should be independent and meet your needs on your own, or not have needs at all.

The fact is that you are constantly moving through a cycle of needs.  First you become aware a need, then you take an action to meet it by interacting with others and the environment, then you experience satisfaction of the met need, and then you rest in completion.  This cycle flows smoothly or not depending on your relationship to it.

  In learning Compassionate Communication (NVC), you often hear about how important it is that you take full responsibility for your needs.  But this isn't about being independent.  It's about responsible interdependence.  You are constantly meeting the needs of others as they are meeting your needs.  In a healthy interdependent flow you get to have your needs met while being in harmony with and meeting the needs of others.

You can become more responsible in this flow of interdependence by noticing exactly how needs are met or unmet, and communicating directly about this.   In this way, you can work to create ever more subtle levels of conscious consideration among the groups of people with whom you interact.

When you imagine you are independent of others, there is a subtle shaming of the fact that you need others to thrive.  Shame shuts you down to your own experience.  Shaming and shutting down can look a lot of different ways on the outside.  You might cope by creating a facade of smiles and friendliness.  You might cope by becoming goal oriented and keeping a near constant schedule of activity.  You might also simply get by in a depressed state, using what you can to keep yourself going.

However, the drive to thrive is an unstoppable force.  You will take action to meet your needs.  In the presence of shame, this action is an underground movement and often takes the form of unconscious habitual strategies that tend to cost as many needs as they meet.

In cultivating a responsible interdependence, you are asked to drop the illusion of independence and stand upright and transparent in the truth of your neediness.  You take responsibility for this truth by

§       Practicing mindfulness and meditation and becoming ever more conscious of the complexity of you.

§       Stating your needs, making requests, and entering creative negotiation regarding what works best for all.

§       Guessing the needs of others asking them what would meet their needs.

§       Noticing when needs are met and expressing appreciation frequently.

§       Availing yourself of opportunities to meet your physical needs thoroughly with clean water, healthy food, consistent exercise, and enough rest and sleep.

This week, notice your interdependence by naming all the people that met needs for you each day.  Let yourself include the simple and mundane, like the grocery clerk who met a need for kindness by offering an authentic smile and eye contact or the person in the car who paused for you so you could walk across a busy street.

*In the book A General Theory of Love  by Thomas;Amini, Fari;Lannon, and Richard Lewis (Jan 9, 2001), which I highly recommend, our emotional / psychological interdependence is explored through decades of research studies.

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