The Declaration of
Interdependence is the healthy state of mutual need shared by independent or autonomous beings. All of life is interdependent; we all need and depend on each other in healthy appropriate ways.
The Lantana bush does not say to the green caterpillar, which voraciously munches her leaves,
“ Get off of me you #@*^% S.O.B’, stop hanging on me and chewing me up!”
She knows that it is part of the perfect cycle of the life for the caterpillar, and for the Lantana bush. In due time the caterpillar spins her cocoon, and emerges as a brilliant orange butterfly, who in turn propagates the Lantana bush. In time the leaves that have been eaten by the caterpillar, grow back and the Lantana bush is none the worse for wear!
It is the perfect cycle of life. It is the relationship between two autonomous fully evolved entities, doing exactly what each is meant to do.
Human beings too, are interdependent. We have the biological need to create new life. A healthy man and a healthy woman create a baby. The mother gives birth, loves her baby, and feeds him or her from her breast. The baby thrives, grows strong, becomes a man or woman, and produces new life. Thus the cycle of life continues
The problems begin in human beings when the natural healthy cycle of life is disrupted. This can occur when the mother and father are not emotionally healthy, and do not want their baby. The baby is not made to feel loved, and does not thrive. This also occurs when the mother and father want the baby to conform to unrealistic standards of behavior that are part of their own unhealthy agendas. In this case the baby becomes confused, because her own instinctive behavior is disrupted, and an artificial mode of conduct inserted. She begins to doubt herself. At this stage in her life, if she is not lovingly nurtured, she becomes fearful and withdrawn.
As the baby grows and begins to assert her independence, the healthy caregiver encourages her, supports her efforts, and is there to pick her up when she falls. And fall she must, because nothing is achieved without a few falls along the way. If she is shamed at this point in her early development, she will become unsure of herself.
When the healthy child goes to school, she will interact with the other children with confidence. Her parents do not expect her to be brilliant at everything, but simply to try her best. At this point the child who is not nurtured gives up and meets challenges with doubt and apathy, or acts out and is disruptive. These are completely appropriate responses for a child who has not been nurtured, but are usually met with disapproval from teachers and other children alike. This gives the child the idea that
“ I am not good enough, smart enough, and pretty enough. There is something wrong with me.”
When the wounded child who feels, “ not good enough”, enters her teenage years, she discovers a whole new way to seek approval, and dull her pain. Drugs and alcohol can anesthetize her bad feelings, sex can give the illusion that she is loved and valued, compulsive eating can fill the empty space inside her, and compulsive spending and shop lifting can make her feel a false sense of power.
All these unhealthy behaviors lead to unhappy outcomes: addiction, unwanted pregnancies and STD’s, obesity and jail. This all further reinforces the feelings of “not being good enough.”
She thinks to herself, “ No matter what I try, it doesn’t work. My parents must be right. There is something wrong with me.”
Sadly many people stumble through life without ever healing this initial wound. Many people form co-dependent relationships. Unlike interdependence which is the union of two autonomous beings, codependence is the union of two unhealthy souls
A codependent relationship cannot thrive because its very nature is flawed.
The codependent relationship is between two wounded people, a victim and a rescuer. The rescuer feels it is her role to save the victim, who is often addicted to some unhealthy substance. The rescuer feels a false sense of empowerment by doing so.
“He needs me”, she thinks. “I am needed, therefore I am valuable.”
This is a lose/lose deal, as neither the victim nor the rescuer can grow and become autonomous. In order for the rescuer to have someone to save, and for her to feel “needed”, she must have a victim. The victim remains sick, because he may be afraid that if he becomes healthy and independent, the rescuer will leave him, or he will leave her. Or he may remain sick, because he has not realized that it’s much more fun to be healthy. Often victims feel a false sense of power and control by remaining sick, and manipulate others into their drama. Rescuers control and resent the victims.
Thus the unhealthy cycle continues through years, decades, lifetimes and generations. Most often this behavior is mirrored from behaviors learned in childhood. In alcoholic families, the disease of alcoholism may have existed for generations. The child of an alcoholic parent or parents may come to expect angry unstable irrational behavior as the norm. Abused children often become abusers.
The codependent child may feel that it is her role in life to assume the responsibility for another who cannot take care of himself. Although hurt by the angry unstable behavior of her partner, she may feel that she can, “Make him change “. This is not possible, as change can only come from within. Healing the deep wounds of childhood is a long slow process
Therapy, Twelve Step Groups, meditation, prayer, contemplation and solitude, friendship and fellowship, creative pursuits, time spent in nature, and ultimately the love of and for others, all help us to heal.
The most difficult challenge for one who has been wounded is to trust another. Wise discrimination is essential in determining just who to trust. The deep healing work required to heal deep wounds can only occur in relationship with another. This is an ongoing process, much like peeling the layers of skin off of an onion. There is trial and error involved. Often the childhood wounds are reopened with great pain. Self-realization does not come cheaply. Sometimes, when we look inside, we do not like what we see.
But with courageous effort, perseverance, compassion and generosity for self and other, we can unbury the innocent child within. The road to autonomy is a steep and winding path.
“ The path of true love never does run smooth “,William Shakespeare writes in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
Honesty, openness and trust are the vehicles that carry the soul forward in communion with another. Fear and denial are the locks that bolt the door, and keep the frightened child hidden away inside.
It is the greatest joy in life to love, and to be loved. Human Interdependence is the loving, serving, and mutual caring of two whole and complete beings.
Love can be romantic, or it can be a friendship, but all healthy love is mutual, and safe. In an interdependent relationship both people are nourished and enriched by the relationship, and each becomes happier, stronger and more joyful from the shared experience.
April 30, 2005