The Individualist ideology heavily reinforces the concept of independence. The term is often used within the context of empowerment and self-reliance. While becoming independent may be an important next step in our journey, from dependence or victimization, it is important to recognize this step as a pit stop, rather than the finish line. And if we continue down the path of personal growth, we hopefully, make it to the finish line – Inter-dependence.
Whereas dependence, independence, and co-dependence can often lead to unhealthy dynamics in our lives and relationships, inter-dependence is a combination of healthy trust and reliance on self and others, while also maintaining and respecting personal freedom and space for self and others. The concept of interdependence recognizes there is peace when there is collective freedom together with collective responsibility. It can be helpful to apply this concept both at the macro and micro levels of society. For the purpose of this piece, I will focus primarily on the micro level, i.e., the self, and relationships.
The journey to inter-dependence often begins at dependence. As a therapist, I help people move from dependence to independence to finally inter-dependence, steering clear of co-dependence which involves unhealthy rescuing and fixing others. (If you’d like more information on co-dependence, I wrote an entire article on this that I will happily re-share shortly. :))
If we have an independent self-construct, we will view our internal attributes, such as traits, abilities, values as central to our sense of self. When we are independent, we tend to create “leader/follower” dynamics in our relationships, as opposed to equality/equity or shared partnership. Our focus is on status and achievements rather than meaning and purpose. Sometimes there can be exploitation (intentional or unintentional), competition rather than collaboration, keeping power to self rather than power sharing, and a focus on personal safety and freedom over both partners’ safety and freedom. Over time, a consistently independent attitude from one partner may result in the other partner neglecting responsibility/accountability, and/or acting out in aggressive or passive aggressive ways, resulting in relationship breakdown.
When we move to an interdependent self-construct, we begin to allow our close relationships, social roles, and group or collective memberships to become part of our sense of self. This journey often takes personal growth, self reflection, and sometimes painful social experiments outside our comfort zones, as we learn and allow ourselves to begin trusting others and relying on them, especially in our close relationships.
Emotional inter-dependence, where the feelings of one partner are connected to the other, is a key characteristic, a defining element of a healthy romantic relationship. According to research, high emotional interdependence leads to high relationship satisfaction in couples.
Remember, as human beings, we are wired for connection. We cannot create healthy connection, without trust. In a mentally healthy life, we have both self-reliance and reliance on others. We need each other for support, through close relationships, and friendships. Inter-dependence is a healthy balance of dependence and independence – on self and others.
If you need support on your journey to inter-dependence, talk to a therapist. We are here to help!
Faiza Haroon, MACP, RP(Qualifying)