Dependency may be the most powerful and prevalent human energy that exists between people… right behind love and straight, simple fear. Dependency is like a spell, it lays all over us, the weight greater and greater, seemingly impossible sometimes to get out from under. It’s also hard to admit and take responsibility if you’re the dependent one. Sometimes the compounded weight of dependency contributes to chronic unhappiness and divorce.
Parents, especially moms unfortunately, often get trapped in dependency dynamics. It can literally hurt when our kids or partners put out that suffering energy, that act of incapability around doing things for themselves. Moms wind up perpetuating their children’s helplessness because it’s suffering for them to go through the pathetic yawping of their whiny loved ones.
The unfortunate news is, if you succumb to their pain you will be carrying water for these people their whole lives. And then everyone is suffering. The mom suffers because she is answering to this dependency over and over again. Stretched thin and often unwilling to prioritize themselves, how can moms in that situation not turn resentful, even if it is often under a facade of gratefulness for these otherwise beautiful people being in their lives? Their children and partner suffer, because they never develop the essential capabilities to handle their own lives and needs, which will catch up to them. When all of that weighs on you as a mom, it is an incredible load.
As a coach, I have to be willing to be with people while they are uncomfortable every day. Clients can whine, beg out, dodge, cajole and guilt trip. Sometimes it’s so uncomfortable for them to be their word or take the actions outside of their comfort zones, that they pull the same stuff in session. It is essential that I am able to allow that dependent energy to exist when it shows up, pulling at me, without succumbing to it, for their sake and mine. To be very effective, I need the energy not to affect my tone, message, consistency or judgment. This way, the client is left to deal with themselves. I may even lose clients over it, but if I give in without pointing out the predictable way their dependency shows up, then I’m not doing my job. Moms can benefit greatly from the same skill, for their sake and their family’s.
We often feel selfish when someone else is suffering, like it’s callous of us not to make them more comfortable. Well, how comfortable is it for Moms to add one more item to their daily to do list? How comfortable is it to feel like you – as a Mom – can’t ask for certain things because those around you are unwilling to own their own needs? How comfortable is it to feel drained and unfulfilled?
What are some things you really want to be doing for yourself but feel like you can’t?
What would it take to get them?
Who would need to handle certain things on their own or handle them more powerfully for you to have these things you want?
And, how would it make them grow if they handled it themselves?
This is not meant as advice to be combative or confrontational, but your family may have adverse reactions to you being selfish in an empowered way. Sometimes, we need to understand that change will have its growing pains. Some of the most inspiring stories people tell about their parents include the lessons they didn’t want to accept initially, but in the end were grateful to have received, even if it was the hard way. We need to remember that just because people are uncomfortable, we can still be loving towards them without being a doormat. I’m not talking about being loving to make them change how they are behaving, but so we are not adding to their discomfort with our own reactions and becoming a distraction from what there is for them to handle themselves.
Choosing to let others go through their own growing pains and claiming our own needs and space has plenty of positives. This is the “put your own oxygen mask on first” approach to parenting and partnership. If you are happy, healthy and have taken care of yourself well then the version of you that you willingly give to others will be of a much greater quality. This is something you’ll have to trust and then see for yourself, not just talk others into and abandon if they don’t agree. Bargaining is not essential. There will be consequences if you go forth without agreement, but those consequences can be handled, too. You are not abandoning your loved ones if you encourage them to take care of themselves and do not succumb to dependency. You are not a bad person, but the complaints may come up when you shift and do not continue the dependent cycle. Stay strong.
Empowered selfishness requires resilience and a willingness to be with and get used to discomfort ourselves. After having two kids, it takes a real screamer for me to not smile when a baby cries. Nowadays, it’s just a signal that they’re alive. I needed to be able to hear my boys cry without going into knee-jerk reaction if I was going to be able to create the separation from them sufficient to lead them, even as babies. They still had my love, comfort and connection, but they did not grow up with the expectation that their discomfort would equal my action.
You will also have to decide to get used to discomfort to a greater degree to break the bindings of dependency. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take care of yourself, though. You can do whatever calms you down (other than take it out on them and make yourself a distraction as mentioned above) so you can go through it without giving in again. Take deep breaths, rub your arms in a soothing way, nourishing yourself well and my favorite, meditation. There’s nothing like going through the discomfort of creating and continuing to deepen your meditation practice to support your ability to go through the discomfort of other people and your own reactions to them.
If you cultivate the courage, resiliency and trust to be able to change the dependency paradigm that may exist in your home, all can benefit from it. Sometimes it takes outside support to help us remember that we are doing this for the right reasons, to hold us accountable and to keep us developing it further. Whether that’s a coach, a friend, or a sibling doesn’t matter, as long as you both agree that this is the place to remind yourself that this is what you want and maybe vent a little, too, when the discomfort shows up.
Let’s get YOU back into your family. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to leave in order to bring yourself back.