Humans are born as social beings and being emotionally dependent on our near and dear ones, comes as second nature to us. In fact, the whole idea of being a family is based on the belief that we must be there for each other, no matter what. What is this talk then about being emotionally independent in relationships? Let’s try a deep dive.
“Don’t let someone become your everything, because when they’re gone you have nothing!” ~ Anonymous
Emotional independence implies being able to mentally stabilize oneself in any situation without external support. You might wonder, if looking for support is our true nature, then why should we try to become emotionally independent? Well, emotional independence must not be wrongly interpreted to mean, cutting off social ties with people around you, becoming a recluse or keeping your emotions bottled up. It just means drawing more support from within yourself and practicing a kind of “self-healing” so that you’re not totally reliant on someone else to free you from your own emotional struggles. Additionally, it means that we do not let situations in life dictate our state of mind on a regular basis. We all know that life isn’t a bed of roses, but accepting this fact and dealing with it is easier said than done. We become truly emotionally independent when our attitude and perspective to situations are not influenced by external factors. Let us explore some of our inherent emotional weaknesses that will help us to be emotionally independent.
We Love Condolences and Advice
Let’s go back to when you were in school. Each time a classmate bothered you (punched you, bullied you or made faces at you), try to remember your first response.
- As a preschooler, your first reaction was perhaps, to fight back and/or complain to the class teacher. You would have probably come home and told your parents as well. Most likely, your mum scooped you into her arms and told you that she would speak to the mother of your classmate.
- As a teenager, you would probably settle the issue within your friend circle (no teacher or parent in picture).
You will see that as you grow up you become less dependent on your parents and other elders to help deal with your issues. You would have new emotional counselors in the form of your spouse or friends. But the fact remains that we still need an emotional cushion. We’re not, by nature, willing to take emotional responsibility for situations around us. We invariably rely on others to make us feel better.
Emotional Security: Locks are Ours but the Keys are With Others
Do you sometimes feel that you’re an emotional doormat for someone else? Do you have a friend or a relative who calls up on phone or comes over at the smallest sign of an emotional turmoil. You end up cajoling that person only to lead them to believe you’re there for them. While you are only lending support and understanding for that person, you are the emotional release they will turn to on all such occasions in future. Now, imagine if you weren’t around for some reason when that person needed you, you will most likely be coming back to a total emotional wreck. The reason being that the person was totally emotionally dependent on you, so much so, that your brief absence left that person even more devastated and helpless. How guilty would that make you feel? Now think if you’re treating someone else the same way. This kind of behavior of extreme emotional dependence, is often one of the leading causes for strained and estranged relationships world over. Who would want to come home to a weeping spouse day after day! Who would want to hang around a friend who’s whining all the time. And while you are busy taking guilt trips for others, what or who will be your own emotional outlet? Just as you would guard the key to your valuable safe with yourself, you must also hold the key to your own emotional security within your heart.
Dealing with Emotional Conflict
In today’s times, where work often takes us away from our families and even friends, we need to be all the more emotionally independent. Stress at work and in relationships is a common occurrence. We know that excessive smoking, drinking, casual romantic flings and even indulging in drugs is often the recourse for loners trying to beat emotional stress. Well, we also know that these are short-term and life-threatening “stress busters” for the inevitable frustrations of daily life. However, you will most likely have a nervous breakdown if you keep those negative emotions bottled up inside you. So let’s try to understand how we can start dealing with emotional conflict on our own. Remember that the key is tuning yourself to deal with whatever you’re going through, not shutting yourself out from the rest of the world.
Emotional independence is the secret of healthy relationships and healthy individuals. Here are some tips to become emotionally independent.
- Analyze the Emotional Stress Factors: We often become victims of our circumstances. Thoughts like “Why me?”, “Life sucks” and “This is just not fair!”, instantly transport us from reality into some kind of emotional stage that only accepts drama and pathos. Nobody has answers for these questions and therefore, it’s important to analyze the situation and not fret over it. Note down these feelings every time you feel low and you will soon realize that they’re not helping you deal with your situation. Eventually, you’ll be able to shake yourself out of the self-pity habit and move on to accepting whatever is happening.
- Know Yourself: In the mad rush of growing up and routines of daily life, we often forget to stop and look at ourselves, the progress we have made and our strengths and weaknesses. We often see ourselves through the eyes of others, which is not wrong, but we must regularly review ourselves for who we are. Recognize your inner strength and it will give you a huge boost to deal with emotional stress. Like, sometimes we say “I have had worse days, this is no big deal” or “I can do this”. Pick yourself up with these kinds of thoughts and you will not need to look for answers outside.
- Know When to Reach Out: As we have been saying throughout this article, it is alright to discuss your situations with those who are close to you. However, do not entrust them with the responsibility of solving your problems. Strike a balance between pouring your heart out and seeking advice. Sometimes, seeing that someone else has had a similar situation inspires us to accept things the way they are. Use others for drawing strength, not for leaning on them endlessly. It is possible that some situations are especially difficult and lack of external support may leave you feeling trapped and lonely. Therefore, do not approach others with the expectation of a tried and tested solution.
- Do Not Test Your Relationships: Taking the above point further, do not use situations in your life as a constant yardstick to measure the strength of your relationships. If you find yourself telling your friend or spouse – “You don’t love me like you used to” or “This shows how much you really care”, you are putting conditions, obligations and expiry dates on your relationships. Refrain from holding others responsible for your emotional struggles. Avoid building up a toxic relationship.
- Train Your Mind: This is like performing a magic trick. Only practice can make you an expert. It’s easier to build positive responses once you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Writing a diary, indulging in a hobby or practicing meditation techniques will temporarily take your mind away from the difficult emotions. Why, even weeping is alright if that’s going to calm you down and make you feel slightly better. It is no secret that when you revisit the same situations objectively, you will be more optimistic of being able to deal with it. Try to control your impulsive reactions to situations and pat yourself on the back for the smallest triumphs in this regard. Believe that nothing can shake you. You will realize in time that you are increasingly able to deal with your issues on your own and you might even surprise yourself with how much you can handle. Gradually, what seemed like major issues will shrink to manageable levels. And that is really the point of this exercise, to make mole hills out of mountainous heights that emotions take us to.
- Attain Emotional Freedom: Once you train yourself to be in control and happy even when times are difficult, you will be a joy to be around. You will be able to inspire people around you to draw strength from you. This will help you be calm no matter what the circumstances are. You will find there’s truth in the cliché that happiness is a state of mind, and you will attain true emotional freedom.
Emotional independence will free you from your own negative emotions. It cannot be achieved overnight, but you will find yourself getting better at it with each passing day. Every small victory over situations will render you tougher and more resilient. Your inner strength and spirit will inspire people around you, your relationships will prosper and you will no longer have to wait for something to happen to make you happy. Happiness will cease to become an occasional event, instead it will become a way of life.