The dictionary defines DEPENDENCE as a noun, meaning reliance or trust; a state of being, contingent upon or influenced, controlled or determined by something else.  Being wealthy depends on having resources, like money.  Dependency then, is subordinate to something else.  You can not expand your resources with out spending your wealth.


Let’s look at another word; PATTERN, also a noun, meaning definite direction, tendency or characteristic, as in behavior patterns.


  One more word for our consideration; CHRONIC.  Chronic is an adjective that means lasting a long time; recurring, constant.  What happens if we put these three words together?


  Chronic Dependency Pattern.  This is a label that to a greater or lesser extent will apply to everyone.  One way or another we all form Dependency patterns.  Most of these we will create to simplify our day to day living.  Your shoes are always by your chair, the car keys are always in your purse, your wallet is always in your back pocket.  If you don’t think these are dependency patterns then why does your world come to a shuttering halt when you reach for something and it is not where it is suppose to be?  That brief feeling of panic is an indication of a dependency pattern.  Most of the time we can deal with these emergencies when they occur.  Some will take more effort than others. Did you ever tear the house apart looking for the car keys?


Then there are times when we can not deal with the crisis and we will panic.  “Johnny did not come home from school today and nobody has seen him.”  The pattern is interrupted and a new response must be created.  Some people have enough free attention to deal with the event, while others quickly become emotional casualties.  The feeling of panic comes from not knowing what is going to happen or what to do about it.  This feeling can compound on itself until you are completely unable to function, this is a panic attack.  This is usually triggered by a fear of the unknown. 


How does panic relate to dependency?  People with chronic dependency patterns are subject to panic attacks when ever that dependency fails.  This is similar to when an addict can not get the drugs.  The first stage of withdrawal is panic.  We can see that there are many dependency patterns and an almost infinite number of ways to deal with them.  The patterns I would like to deal with here are dependency patterns based on a need for others and patterns of co-dependency. 


We have met those who say, “I don’t depend on anybody!”  This is simply not true.  They have to depend on some one even if it is only themselves.  The problem comes when a person can not establish self-worth.  This person has to depend on others to fulfill that feeling of being needed or wanted.  This becomes chronic when a person will actually endanger themselves to be wanted.  How does this work?


Suppose a person has little feeling of self-worth.  This could be from a multitude of reasons not the least of which is childhood upbringing.  An example would be a child raised in a highly competitive family, where success is never good enough.  This may inspire the child to always try their best but also can start a pattern that plays, “I’m never good enough.”  This will start eating away at self-worth.  Most adults have enough trouble with self-worth to not need patterns formed around it. 


If we take our subject with a feeling of low self-worth, and allow them to compensate.  We find them building on an image based on what other people reflect back to them.  This, my friend, can become addictive behavior.  Our subject will always be on the look out for people who can reinforce their self-worth.  People who will tell them how good they are, how wise, that they are the best and so on.  Our subject, then, will play to this; they liked my painting so I will always paint for them, or talk or sing or what ever. This behavior becomes dangerous when subject #1 gets good feelings from subject #2, who gets good feelings by reinforcing subject #1’s patterns and they start to play each other.  This is co-dependency and is almost always to the disadvantage to one or both of the subjects.  This form of co-dependency will restrict the growth of both parties.  What will happen when one or the other changes their mind?  Then the dependency pattern is interrupted and the subject will panic.  “What I was doing does not work any more.  What shall I do?  I don’t know what to do.  Why can’t I do something?  I can’t do anything.”  This becomes a closed loop thought process and the result is panic. 


The most tragic of co-dependency patterns is in personal relationships.  This is when both people want the same thing but in different ways, “They need me and I need to be needed.”  It works like this; subject #1 has low self esteem and has built a fantasy world where he is the very best.  Subject #2 knows this fantasy world is not real.  Both subjects are very lonely and want special attention, stroking if you will, so #2 over looks #1’s fantasy to get the attention they want.  Subject #1 will quickly learn that subject #2 will always be impressed with what they claim to have done if they show #2 a little affection.  To paraphrase the Bible, this is a house built on sand and great will be the fall of it.  People who think they live with constant heart break should look for dependency pattern and co-dependent behavior.  These are not easy to see or admit for we are dealing with the innermost part of ourselves, our feeling of self-worth.


Shakespeare said it best in Hamlet:

“Neither a borrower, nor a lender be….  This above all:  to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou cans't not then be false to any other man.”


 When we learn to care for and nurture our own self-worth so we can depend on it then we will be on the way to better relationships with others as well as ourselves.  To know we are truly worthy and good is to have something of value.


August, 1994


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writing DocLivingston
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The need for Selfworth