Emotional independence is about choosing your emotional response to external circumstances.
Desirable as it is, being happy on your own, without depending on other people or things, is not an easy virtue to attain. Due to our upbringing, where we depended on our parents for assurance, affection and validation, being emotionally dependent on someone else almost comes as a default.
Think about it–how many times have you:
Felt so jealous that your spouse has acquired a new hobby that doesn’t include you?
Been unable to be on your own without needing any distraction or drama?
Caused unnecessary drama because someone did not do things your way?
Proclaimed that you are a giver and never a taker?
Most of us experience these emotional disturbances, which tend to make us very unhappy and frustrated. Deriving your wellbeing from someone else; from anticipated circumstances or from things is a sure way to succumb to the seemingly elusiveness of happiness.
But in truth, happiness is not elusive when you depend only on yourself to experience the joys of life.
The illusion that you can control anyone or anything outside of you is the source of all suffering. When you are emotionally dependent on others, you are essentially hoping that they will behave in a way that always pleases you. But as you are well aware of, people can disappoint you, people come and go, and often they don’t react the way you want them to. Can you see how futile it is to try to control anyone but you? Remind yourself every day that you are the only one you can control; and everyone else is out of your control. It’s hard at first but becomes easier. Emotional self-reliance is the realization that only you are in control of how you respond to external circumstances.
One reason why we depend on others for validation, security, happiness or love is that we lack a clear sense of who we are. When you do not have an intimate relationship with yourself, you are very likely to allow others attitudes and behaviours to define you. A great first step to emotional independence is finding out who you are, what you do best, what you stand for. For example, take time often to sit alone without any distractions. Try to connect with yourself; how are you feeling and how are you doing? If you are not doing great, is there something you can do to make things better? Also, an effective way to quit making someone else or something the centre of your universe is to find something you do so well. Then, invest your time, energy and passion into it. Deliberately discovering yourself will help you to live a life that is designed by you and not by others.
The Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh aptly contended that letting go gives us freedom; freedom is the only basis for happiness.
Of course, detaching yourself from someone or something that is so dear to you is heart wrenching. If you have gone through a breakup or lost a loved one through death, you know how almost impossible it can be to just let go.
Detachment is a practice, not an event that happens suddenly. It is an inner dialogue you have with yourself about the people in your life and what they mean to you. It is possible to be in a loving relationship, without making your partner the centre of your universe. It doesn’t mean you love them any less. It’s merely detachment. It is possible to be happy by accepting that life is inherently uncertain. This too is detachment.
When you practice being unattached, your emotional well-being will no longer be so tied up with another person, another thing, or yet another life event. You will have developed an emotional independence which will create dramatic change in your life.
Remind yourself that you are in control of your response to circumstances. This is the start of detaching.
No man is an island, but you can choose to be one. Due to our social nature, we are hard-wired to derive our sense of emotional well-being from others. However, creating a positive space between you and others; making yourself an island with a walkway and creating emotional independence allows you to derive your own happiness from within yourself, while also receiving the loving support of the people in your life.
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