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Shifting from independence to interdependence

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

We’ve all heard the expression “It takes a village” in reference to the raising of children. And it’s true, it does take numerous people to successfully nurture children, give them the experiences that enable a well rounded life, whilst allowing the parents to maintain some sense of self. What we forget is that as we grow and become adults, that village in no less important. We put so much pressure on everyone, of every age, and most definitely on ourselves, to be independent that we lose sight of the fact that we are part of an interconnected species and an interconnected universe.

The dictionary definitions of independent are “Free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority”, “not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence,” and “not connected to each other or with each other.” Our culture has taken this word and made it the bar that we are all meant to measure ourselves by. It’s meaning has become skewed and out of alignment with the reality we live in.

Are we confusing independence with freedom?

Humans are social creatures, we are meant to live in families. There is safety in numbers, and we are each given unique gifts that when taken as a whole, creates a beautiful functioning society. There are very few of us who could live alone, completely outside of any connection to any other people, and survive, let alone have any kind of a life. It is not natural or instinctual to live this way, so where did this come from? What is the obsession with independence and why are we falling into the trap of striving for it?

Many of us are taught that this quest for independence ought to start right after birth with self soothing and sleeping alone, but how can that be right when every instinct of infants is to be close to the people who will nurture and protect it? And how can children, bombarded with messages of the importance of being independent, have a chance at a healthy outlook on life when the moment they take a chance and begin to express themselves – free of outside control- they are often slammed back down, made to listen and do as they are told? There is nothing instinctual, natural, or comfortable about separating ourselves from others.

In essence, what we are truly being asked to do is give up our freedom, live within some predetermined lines – that often make no sense – while not causing trouble. We are encouraged to fall into place, like cogs in the machine, with the illusion of independently doing the jobs that we are told are acceptable for us, all the while competing with each other and trying to get ahead of the next guy. But who is deciding what level of independence is acceptable? While some progress has been made, our government, justice and education systems, continue to run on this philosophy – as does our consumer driven economy. But why? Is there anyone out there still pushing this agenda? And if there are still people viewing life from that perspective, how many can there be? I’ve personally never met an individual who professes to want to give up on life in order to satisfy a quota but I’ve met many who do so by default. Are we simply living in the echoes of the past because we aren’t spending enough time examining our motivations and choices?

Interdependence does not equate to the loss of self.

Most individuals certainly aren’t self sufficient, and in fact, would never want to be. We all have people we are grateful for, people who have helped us, taught us, fed us, and housed us at some point in our lives. We want family and friends to connect with, to depend on when we need a hand. We have to rely on each other. Of course, there are times when we need to turn to an outside authority for guidance, or have someone give us a job, or do work that we are incapable of doing. With every one of these interactions, we are connecting with each other, we are relying on another’s authority within a particular area that we know nothing about. It is, quite often, how we learn. We constantly ask for others opinions, and it gives them some measure of control in our lives.

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that dependence equals the loss of self, as it can show up in an unhealthy codependency that leaves adults unable to function and feeling incomplete on their own. None of us want to feel unsure of ourselves, but we need to let go of the notion that we have to be all things, all the time, without help, or we aren’t enough. It’s quite counterintuitive to the fact that we actually love to help each other. It’s also in direct opposition to the majority of spiritual teachings from around the world.

As more people begin to shift into a new way of living, we are able to look at the big picture, yet we are still caught in the middle of the new way and the old. We see the oneness of all people, and yet we still live in the world that pushes the concept of obedient independence. It’s time to let it go. To shake off the pressure this culture runs on, through systems that stay the same, regardless of the individuals who cycle through the positions.

It’s time for a new definition of success, one that embraces personal freedom and includes interdependence between people who are healthy, whole beings. One where everyone thrives and we don’t step on each other to try to get to the top. And one that is not oppressive and manipulative but is instead open to the ideas of all. We have yet to see a truly healthy society but there are many people out there voicing the same truth it is time to change. It’s time we embrace the wonderful world we actually live in, and move forward together into a new era where love is the driving force behind every action of both the individual and the village.

Some simple ways to get started are:

  • Put time into strengthening our villages – This can be done online, but it is a good idea to connect with people locally as well. As physical beings, it’s important for us to have physical interaction. It’s also important not only to find people that will be there for us, but to really consider the kind of role we want to play in the lives of others.

  • Consider what you’ve done in the name of independence, what it cost you, how it separated you from others, and if it was worth whatever was gained.

  • Consider how have you given up on or not showed up for yourself in order to appease society. We commonly feel as though we do not have the freedom to do as we please, but it simply isn’t true. It is our choice start living authentically and in synchronistic flow with the people around you.

  • Stop acting as though dependence is a bad thing. When we look at the relationships with the people we depend on and the people we want to depend on us, they are the most beautiful, loving relationships in our lives. Take the time to appreciate and nurture those relationships on a regular basis.

As with any major shift in society, all it takes is for enough of us to decide to change what isn’t working. Once critical mass is reached, a new model emerges. By consciously examining what we believe regarding independence, freedom, and connectedness, we will begin to live in ways that reflect that truth.


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