Interdependency vs Codependency

We are social beings and we need each other. That makes us dependent. Babies cry when they are hungry. They cry when they are uncomfortable. They will literally die if they are not touched. While we can argue that they can’t take care of themselves, indeed they can. They may not be able to feed and change themselves literally, but they don’t hesitate to tell us that they need something, and they will let us know under no uncertain terms until their needs are met (that’s more than some adults can do). As social, loving beings, we answer their call while at the same time we teach them to self-soothe. This is interdependence.

As we learn to talk, a shift happens. The adults around us start to invalidate our cries when they feel inconvenienced and when they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with them. They shift from trying to decipher our needs to deciding they no longer need to; that we now have the words. Children’s needs and behaviors inadvertently become conditional and valid under inconsistent terms.
The child becomes frustrated in their inability to get through, and they tantrum. The adults become frustrated right back and the children shut down. They learn that certain behaviors are approved and others aren’t, and depending on their personality, they will abide or rebel. Either way, they have accepted the validity of those terms to which they will be agreeable or rebel against.
Our need for love and to matter, however, hasn’t changed, so what we do from this point becomes a codependency, battling for our completeness, passively or aggressively. The adults are in this with us, battling with us from their inner child needs because they grew up similarly: to be (barely) seen and not heard. As we grow and take on adult relationships, our inner children battle in a zero-sum game.

Those who break out of this cycle are the ones who have learned to become interdependent. As interdependent beings we understand our basic needs, and we own that responsibility. We’ve learned to self-soothe and self-nurture. We ask for what we need rather than expect it. Sometimes we cry out for them. But we don’t blame others for our lack. I shouldn’t have to tell them isn’t our story. We don’t harbor expectations and set others up for disappointment. We get that people can’t read our minds no matter how obvious things seem. We get that like us, they’ve got stuff going on in their own internal world to keep them pre-occupied let alone have a complete sense of what’s going on in ours. Like children, we don’t always have the words and the tools to know how to communicate effectively. And we don’t always know how to hold back a tantrum. But that’s okay, and that’s no one’s fault. Being patient with ourselves and with each other is a part of our interdependence. It’s the win-win game.

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