In the progress of personality, first comes a declaration of independence, then a recognition of interdependence.
~Henry Van Dyke

So where do you place yourself on the scale of being dependent or independent? How do people describe you, and do they regularly use either of those two words?


In our Western culture, the ideal person has been someone who is, above all other things, independent: a person who is a rugged individualist, able to stand on his own two feet, able to think for himself, not beholden to anyone, completely self-sufficient.

This has been more of the ideal for males in our culture in the past but is arguably becoming a shared expectation for women now, as well. Think Pilgrims, think founding Fathers, think western-moving settlers, think cowboys, think innovators of Western industrialism. Those are images fed to us from the time that we are young, and the qualities of independence and individualism are the ones imprinted upon us.

Most of us are taught from a young age, in a variety of subtle & not so subtle ways, that to be dependent upon someone else is a bad thing.

It Took A Village to make John Wayne Look that Way!

As with most things, when we start talking in terms of  “good” and “bad,” it becomes another example of “black or white,” or “all-or-nothing thinking,” which is not truth, but a distortion of reality. In truth, we are all interdependent with each other.

We all rely on each other for everything we have, everything we own, and everything we do. To be able to depend on another and for others to be able to depend upon us is actually the balance in the middle of the dependence—-independence continuum…and the place of health for all of us.

I Don’t Want to be Dependent on Anyone!

As it relates to our intimate relationships, the more we can become comfortable with the concept of interdependence, the healthier our relationships. I find many times in therapy that people struggle in relationships because they find themselves feeling, maybe for the first time in their lives, like they NEED someone.  And it either scares them or make them feel like they are being weak and “dependent.”

If asking for help when you need it does not come naturally for you, you may struggle with this fear of being dependent on others and what it means.

I Depend On My Clients

A good example of interdependence is something I experience every week as a therapist. The relationship I have with the clients who come to see me for psychotherapy is an interdependent one. My clients may depend on me to be there (barring emergencies or illness), to do the absolute best I can to help them deal with whatever they are going through and to be professional and honest with them.

But I also depend on my clients. If no one ever needed any help to handle an emotional, mental health, or relationship issue…. or if they needed the help but would not seek it… I would be out of a job. I would not be able to keep the doors of my practice open and pay my support staff. I would not be able to feed my child.

In truth, we need each other, we depend on each other, we are interdependent.

All Relationships are Interdependent

Therefore, whenever you are in the position of benefiting from help that is provided, or in the position of benefiting from providing help… it is because the relationship is interdependent. There is nothing to be scared of, no shame in needing each other… when that is actually the state of existence we all live within.

DrAnita Sanz, PhD, Psychologist

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