women in floral dress enjoying their trip

Maturing is Recognizing Our Interdependence

I’ve been struggling with the ideas of independence and dependence for quite some time. I kind of pride myself on being independent. I don’t really need anything from anyone, and I quite enjoy it that way. That also comes with the idea of refusing help. Our society teeters on both opposites. You have one message telling us that we need to pull ourselves from our bootstraps, while another one is saying it’s imperative to be a team player. I guess it’s just the message that benefits us at the time.

What Society Wants You to Be

Maybe it’s my upbringing that makes me lean towards independence. In the Western world, independence is seen as masculine. There’s a reason why we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th in the United States. Independence is clearly seen as good, while dependence is seen as bad. When we flip the coin towards dependency being more feminine we start to realize why women are still not treated equally. Dependency is seen as a negative in the eyes of all sexes, thus the idea is that a person with feminine characteristics must act as their counterpart to be taken seriously. The truth is we all have been dependent on at least one human being at some point in our lives.

The most common period is birth. We had to be attached to our caregivers to survive. This becomes our first attachment relationship. We live with our parents for a certain amount of time, and once we start to develop ideas of our own, we start to detach from our parents to find our own community in the form of friends and future lovers. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to get older because I knew becoming older would lead to independence. I couldn’t wait to move out of the house because this would be my first taste of freedom. As we soon find out as we start adulting, freedom isn’t free and there are going to be times when we need someone else.

Toxic Traits

The toxic trait of independence is narcissism which leads to behaviors such as agreement. Not needing help from a person also means that if getting what I want comes at the cost of you, that’s swell. It’s the reason why Kim Kardashian told us that we need to get off our lazy asses and work. Her company is nothing without the people who make it happen, yet Forbes wants to promote Kylie Jenner as a self-made billionaire. The richest people want us to use them as examples of what you can do when you work hard while they get richer off the work of other people that don’t receive any credit.

You might be thinking, so if independence isn’t all that good, then we should move towards dependency. Being dependent on a person in older age as one was dependent on a caregiver isn’t the way to go. Having others do what we can do ourselves is called codependency. It can lead to not being able to do anything without the help of another person. Dependency is also a great tool for manipulation. Emotionally dependent individuals tend to be abused in a relationship. Financially dependent employees believe they must do everything they are told to not lose their paycheck, even if the duties don’t match their responsibilities or values. Even parents are prone to manipulating their children when they know they are the primary source of their survival.

Let’s Talk About Interdependence

I’m currently reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and I fully agree with the notion that a perfect society helps nurture the growth of individuals without anyone needing to sacrifice. Any interaction that helps us grow as an individual is the interaction we will have. This is going to be my definition of interdependence.

It’s quite different in a team setting at work or school when you’re essentially obligated to interact with everyone to become one unit, diminishing who you are as an individual. Interdependence tells me that if I and another person have the same goals, it’s beneficial to link up with that person in hopes that we can achieve our individual goals together. If we don’t have the same goals, it’s perfectly fine to leave you alone. Dependency says that I have to sacrifice myself to meet the goals of another. Independence says my goals are all that matter.

The actions of the individual indeed affect the collective. This gives no reason for the collective to then try to control the individual. Control is an illusion as it leads to unforeseen consequences. In this case, people tend to rebel because it’s only human nature to want to have a sense of autonomy and individuation as we mature. To deny one this is to deny one’s humanity. We thus realize why communism didn’t work out so well. That’s not leave capitalism off the hook.

It’s Not One or the Other

If you haven’t noticed, a lot of our ideology is focused on individualism vs. collectivism. It’s quite interesting to dig deep into the history with the knowledge that neither one is the answer. We hope to derive our answers from this battle, and yet we get nowhere, but that’s a discussion for another post. Long story short, the issue with these two perspectives is our longwithstanding sense of dualism. It’s either this or that, but the truth lies in both. Yes, we are better together but together is impossible without individuals. And yes, you can do things on your own, but if you want to do something of substance you are going to need another person.

Interdependence helps to integrate both independence and dependence. Independence is a cause for competition. Dependence is a cause for submission. Interdependence is a cause for true collaboration. A collaboration that needs no obligation but is beneficial because it only creates a win-win situation for all parties involved. A relationship in which one person loses as the other person gains won’t last very long, and if it does, trauma will ensue. If I were to define a win-lose situation, I’d better phrase it as injustice. It’s better to be a part of the relationship that is described in Rihanna’s hit song, Umbrella (ella-ella-ay-ay).

There is no fear of losing oneself in an interdependent relationship. The yearning we have for both collaboration and autonomy is met within this framework. It promotes individual growth and collaboration towards that individual growth because the goals of the individuals involved are the same. No one is coerced to join and are free to leave without shame or guilt if the person doesn’t align with the goals of the group. This is a far cry from the family who shames the child for not fitting into the family values or the job recruiter who judges the applicant who can’t “hold down a job.”