Emotional Dependency: Why It Happens And How To Overcome It

Emotional Dependency: why it happens and how to overcome it

Feeling emotional dependence, whether in your relationships or perhaps in the social, friendly or family environment, or even at work, is one of the most unpleasant and at the same time frequent experiences that we experience.

Dependency is an unpleasant and limiting emotional state linked to two emotions: fear and insecurity. At the same time, it is based on an idea: without the other (or others) we cannot be well.

Living our relationships in a dependent way leads us to anxiety, anguish and, over time, discouragement. It does not allow us to live relationships fully and we act as if we were in a constant state of alert. Any detail in what happens can be interpreted as a possible risk, thus also reducing our self-esteem.

However, the solution to emotional dependence is not to break up with our relationships It is about experiencing deep learning and stable change that goes through three phases or discoveries: what does this dependency really mean? What would I have to change in myself to not feel it?

In the intricate tapestry of human emotions, emotional dependency emerges as a crucial thread that can profoundly impact individuals’ lives. It’s a concept that delves deep into the dynamics of relationships, self-perception, and psychological well-being. Understanding emotional dependency requires a nuanced exploration, navigating through its manifestations, effects, and potential interventions.

Defining Emotional Dependency

Emotional dependency refers to an individual’s reliance on another person for emotional support, validation, and a sense of identity. It often involves an intense need for constant reassurance and fear of abandonment. This dependency can manifest in various forms, from seeking approval in relationships to feeling anxious or incomplete without the presence of a significant other.

The Roots of Emotional Dependency

To comprehend the roots of emotional dependency, one must delve into early life experiences and attachment patterns. Psychologists often trace its origins to childhood, where the quality of parental care and responsiveness plays a pivotal role. Children who receive inconsistent or inadequate emotional nurturing may develop insecure attachment styles, paving the way for emotional dependency in adulthood.

Patterns and Behaviors

Emotional dependency manifests through a myriad of patterns and behaviors that permeate individuals’ lives. These may include:

  • Constant Need for Reassurance: Individuals may seek validation and approval from others incessantly, relying on external sources to affirm their self-worth.
  • Fear of Abandonment: The prospect of being alone or rejected can evoke intense anxiety and distress, driving individuals to cling to relationships even if they’re detrimental.
  • Lack of Autonomy: Those grappling with emotional dependency may struggle to assert their independence and make decisions autonomously, fearing disapproval or rejection.
  • Unhealthy Relationship Dynamics: In romantic partnerships, emotional dependency can foster co-dependency and enable toxic behaviors, such as manipulation or emotional blackmail.
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What does emotional dependence consist of?

Human beings are social, affective and emotional beings. This It leads us to live relationships where we share our well-being It is something natural and necessary to be well. However, sometimes we learn to relate in such a way that your well-being does not depend primarily on you… but on external factors that you cannot control: how the other person behaves, how they value you, what they do or say, etc.

This occurs through a mechanism of fear and insecurity. These emotions are positive and necessary, but if we have not learned to manage them appropriately they can end up being too intense, frequent and long-lasting. This leads us to a state of alert where we interpret any detail in our relationships as a danger to your own self-esteem and security.

In relationships, it occurs especially intensely. Because? Because A relationship is an intimate bond where we experience a special well-being but which we cannot control (since a relationship depends on joint decisions). If anxiety or a need for control arises when faced with this problem, we can end up relating in a dependent way. There are four main causes.

How can I make that change stable?

For more than 11 years I have been accompanying people in their processes of personal change and therapy. This problem is increasingly common, as we live in a more stressful and anxiety-prone world. Solving it depends on looking at yourself and not at the other. It is a learning that will help you throughout your life.

This is what we are going to solve in this article. Because feeling that emotional dependence is a common problem that has affected every human being at some point in their lives (especially in relationships) When it is a sensation that is repeated too much over time, we are talking about a psychological and emotional problem that is worth solving to live with well-being and more security.

Main causes that lead us to emotional dependence

Emotional dependence is above all a system. You have become accustomed to living your relationships in a dependent way. Searching for the origin of the problem in past events is not useful. The valuable thing is to discover what leads you to this unpleasant feeling in relation to your own behavior and views and see how to change it. Every process of change and personal improvement consists of that: knowing ourselves, discovering what the problem consists of and beginning to get out of it through a concrete, practical and at the same time profound change.

Knowing the exact causes leads us to the solutions. These are the four main causes:

1. Insecure attachment style

Human beings build their relationships according to an attachment style, which is learned mainly in childhood in relation to our main bonds, but which we also develop throughout our lives (that is, it is something that we can work on and change).
An insecure attachment style is based on building relationships from a feeling of fear and insecurity that leads us to need too much of the other and in turn to suffer too much from the temporary separation. This affects our self-esteem and well-being.

2. Emotion management

As we talked about, the problem is not the emotions you feel but how you are managing them. If you validate your fears and insecurities with your behaviors, you make them come true and we end up feeling those emotions more and more frequently and intensely.

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For example: if in your relationship you feel afraid of the other’s behavior and this leads you to constantly look at their social networks or want to know information (which is always interpreted according to that fear and insecurity). One’s own behavior causes this fear and insecurity to persist over time (because your behavior gives it meaning).

3. Anxiety and discouragement

Anxiety is a state of alertness and fear that has become widespread. It is linked not only to your emotions but to your way of breathing, fast and shallow (which causes that unpleasant feeling in the chest or pit of your stomach).

Over time, anxiety leads to discouragement and exhaustion If we live our relationships in a dependent way, it ends up being exhausting. Reducing the intensity of anxiety is the first and most essential step to overcome dependency.

4. Focus on your relationships

It is also important to analyze how you approach your relationships. If for you it is an essential experience on which your well-being depends, you will be more likely to live in a dependent way due to the fear it provokes in us.

Solving emotional dependence: a stable change

One of the most limiting mistakes that can be made in a therapy or personal change process is to focus everything on superficial changes, on the symptoms, or even only focusing our problem on the outside (such as diagnosing others or thinking that they are to blame).

This doesn’t work for a very simple reason… they are not factors we can control. We cannot control the world or people or what has happened. But if We can learn to know ourselves and apply changes that help us in a stable way All our interpretation of what happens outside, if it is born from fear and insecurity, will always make us feel what we fear most.

For this reason, an effective change process must be focused only on you and what you can learn. These are the changes necessary to overcome emotional dependence.

1. Learn to manage your emotions

This is the most basic and important learning to overcome dependency in relationships. Dependency arises above all from certain emotions that we manage in a dysfunctional way.

We mainly talk about fear, insecurity, as well as guilt or anger These emotions are too intense because of how we manage them with our own behaviors. In a process of change it is essential to work with this area, since we are emotional beings and everything else flows from how we manage them.

2. Communicate assertively (limits and decisions)

When there is dependency in relationships, it is also common not to set limits, give in too much to others, or communicate in an opaque way. Assertiveness implies that you say what you want, what you don’t want, you can and you can’t, always in a concrete and kind way. Working with your communication is also a pillar to build more positive and balanced relationships.

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3. Work with your self-esteem and belief system

Sometimes we think that dependency is a self-esteem problem. In reality, self-esteem is harmed by our dependent behavior. For this reason self-esteem is not the problem, but a consequence Working with how you build well-being, take care of yourself and prioritize, will change the rest.

Taking into account your interpretations and beliefs will also help you see how they limit you and change it.

4. Have an action plan

For a change or therapy process to work, it is also important that you have a concrete action plan that will lead you to the changes you need. When the process is only reflection, no major change will occur. The action plan should always be individualized and take you towards what you want and need.

5. Constant company

Finally, it is of special value that you have company not only sporadically with sessions, but on a more constant basis, with greater opportunity to consult. For this reason, my way of accompanying as a psychologist and coach is constant, every day, for any questions and needs, in addition to working with weekly tools and sessions.

Getting the change you need to live with well-being and build healthy relationships involves knowing yourself and making that change happen in you It is something that will influence not only what happens to you now, but your entire life and future relationships. If you need expert company, remember that at Human Empowerment you can request a session and we will see how we can resolve what is happening to you.

Impact on Mental Health

The ramifications of emotional dependency extend far beyond interpersonal relationships, significantly influencing individuals’ mental health and well-being. Some common effects include:

  • Anxiety and Depression: Chronic reliance on others for validation and support can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression, leading to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
  • Low Self-Esteem: Constantly seeking external validation can erode self-esteem, as individuals come to define their worth based on others’ opinions and perceptions.
  • Stunted Personal Growth: Emotional dependency can impede personal development and hinder individuals from cultivating resilience and self-reliance.
  • Interpersonal Conflict: Unhealthy relationship dynamics stemming from emotional dependency can give rise to conflicts, resentment, and emotional turmoil.

Navigating Towards Healing

While emotional dependency presents formidable challenges, it’s not insurmountable. With introspection, self-awareness, and professional support, individuals can embark on a journey towards healing and autonomy. Some strategies for overcoming emotional dependency include:

  • Therapy and Counseling: Seeking guidance from qualified therapists or counselors can provide valuable insights and tools for addressing underlying issues and developing healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Self-Exploration: Engaging in self-reflection and introspection can help individuals identify the roots of their emotional dependency and cultivate greater self-awareness.
  • Building Self-Esteem: Fostering a sense of self-worth independent of external validation is essential for breaking free from emotional dependency. Engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment can bolster self-esteem.
  • Setting Boundaries: Learning to establish and maintain healthy boundaries in relationships is crucial for cultivating autonomy and reducing reliance on others for validation.

Embracing Empowerment

At its core, overcoming emotional dependency is about reclaiming one’s agency and embracing empowerment. It’s a journey of self-discovery and growth, characterized by resilience, courage, and a commitment to nurturing one’s emotional well-being. By acknowledging the complexities of emotional dependency and taking proactive steps towards healing, individuals can embark on a path towards greater fulfillment and authenticity in their lives.