This month’s Blog Carnival is about “independence” – thanks to Dr Kathleen of Treating Trauma for hosting.
When I was a little kid, my mother would tell me to “be independent” – “be strong,” she’d say, “be a survivor”. And so I did.
I learnt then that you had to be independent. It made you strong and helped you stay out of trouble. It meant other people couldn’t hurt you, though they did really. I thought being independent was a good thing. Of course, in some ways, it was. Being an adult, holding a job, paying the rent or the mortgage, keeping house… these are all hallmarks of independence in a social sense. And I mastered them all.
I kidded myself into believing that I was emotionally independent as well. I didn’t need anyone else – I’d learnt early on that relying on other people just meant you got hurt. Other people were definitely trouble (even though I’m sure there was some weird a$$ co-dependence with my mother going on, that I still don’t understand).
Of course, now that I’m in therapy I realise that being so independent wasn’t such a great thing after all. Being independent meant that I stood alone; I carried my secrets alone; and I fought the darkness alone.
In what sounds to me like a strange twist, therapy is helping me become less independent. Not in a needy way, but in a way that’s teaching me it’s ok to “need” other people. It’s ok to say you need other people; it’s ok to say you need a whole range of things. In fact, in can be enjoyable to need other people, and for them to need you. It makes you feel warm and loved and snuggly. It makes you feel special.
So what is the point of this ramble? Well, I think an important part of my healing is learning how to find the right balance with independence. Obviously in a practical sense – being able to support myself financially and make toast in the mornings are good things. But the healthy emotional independence is what I chase now. I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll get there.