Affective dependence, a reflection

Sooner or later, I think most people have wondered whether they are suffering from so-called ’emotional dependency’. If you’ve reached the point where you found this article, you’re probably wondering that yourself. Apparently, emotional dependency is not on the list of behavioural disorders in my country (Italy). Although perhaps it would be better to say that it is not listed at the moment.

I think it is important to understand that addiction to something is not necessarily harmful to society. A particularly dutiful person who is addicted to observing rules even in an obsessive way may seem strange, but as you can imagine, he or she is certainly not always a dangerous person for others. The second fundamental thing is that, as I wrote in the title, this is only a personal reflection and not professional advice, and I am not a professional in this field.

I have a deep respect for psychology and all the professionals who revolve around it when they are conscientious and measured. In many cultures, going to a psychologist is a kind of taboo that sometimes prevents many from feeling better. If you have a discomfort, going to a psychologist does not mean you are out of your mind. On the other hand, being a hypochondriac or falling into the temptation of judging and pointing the finger at others can be very harmful. If you are ill, don’t be afraid to get help from a professional.

If it is true that respecting rules and laws is a good thing for others, logically, it should also be quite true that depending on someone’s love should not be the end of the world. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks there’s not enough love for others in the world, and I’m quite convinced that if there was more love, without a shadow of a doubt, the world would be better off.

Those who manifest emotional dependency are not always mistaken. There are a good number of cases in which one can speak of anaffectivity. This is the tendency not to be able to enter into emotional relationships. It can be temporary, such as when taking medication or drugs, and it can also be innate.

Another example that I think is worth mentioning is people who are treated inappropriately (too well or too badly) and who, over time, acquire a detachment typical of the psychological condition dependent on this play of parts. There are also people who consciously behave in a certain way and when they do not get everything they want, they point at others as exaggerated and in the worst cases as disturbed or sick people.

A weak personality may wonder whether the other person is right and from there a form of depression may set in. Sometimes the people we love do not understand the extent of the power we give them. Not understanding the extent of their power, they cannot imagine how true (and applicable to this context as well) is the statement that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’.

For this reason, I urge my readers not to play cat and mouse with people’s feelings for the sake of personal satisfaction. This is not a correct and conscientious way to proceed.

Possible symptoms of emotional dependency

Since being addicted to something always has its downsides, let me introduce you to the most common behaviours because of which you can be labelled as an ’emotional addict’. You have to be careful because it is not necessarily the case that if you have had a good number of these behaviours, you are necessarily an affective addict. Every single behaviour can have subjective and objective motivations that can be unrelated to the subject of this article.

– There is a tendency to remain entrenched in a relationship at all costs. In this case, however, attention must also be paid to another aspect. If it is true that staying in a relationship for a long time is no longer fashionable these days, it is also true that before entering into any kind of relationship, we should understand that each type of relationship has its own responsibilities. It may sometimes happen that those who are in the habit of withdrawing from a relationship point the finger at them as “emotional addicts”, immature or worse. You have to be careful because if it is true that once upon a time people stayed married only out of a sense of duty, in recent times there has been an increase in divorces. For this reason, it is by no means certain that those who want to take responsibility for their actions by respecting a bond are necessarily affected by something.

– There is a tendency to mistakenly think that one’s life has no meaning without the other person or without being constantly engaged with someone. I knew someone in the past who behaved in this way. I realised that it wasn’t about me as a person, but about the fact that she was lonely and wanted to be with someone (no matter who) to build a family. Here too, one has to be careful because it could be, for example, that the person in question, seeing herself getting older, might want to start a family at all costs for other reasons.

– People tend to move too quickly in a relationship and start relationships without fully exploring the real intimacy. Again, who determines how long a courtship should last? There are some people who simply want to be free to do what they want when they want, but there is a reason why the laws of much of the world’s population defend monogamy. While it is good to get to know the other person well before trusting them, waiting too long may manifest a lack of trust that is incompatible with the relationship itself.

– There is a tendency to have a vivid imagination. Panic attacks are not uncommon at the thought of being abandoned by a partner or being left alone. Or the person may spend more time imagining a relationship than living it. Again, it depends on how strong the relationship is and the circumstances. For example, it is logical that if a member of my family were to be afflicted with a life-threatening disease, I might slip into the limbo of depression. It is also logical that being abandoned by a loved one is not the most pleasant thing in the world. Moreover, those who have enough time to obsessively imagine a relationship without living it, before taking all the blame, perhaps should ask themselves why they have all that time to think about it if it is true that they are not neglected. So again, this symptom should be evaluated carefully.

– There is a tendency to fall in love with people who cannot or do not want to enter into a loving relationship. A clear example would be a person who falls in love with a friend. Or a person who falls in love with a person who cannot appreciate the extraordinary beauty that is inherent in our individualities but appreciates more practical things like money and physical appearance. Who has never been infatuated with someone who does not reciprocate? If this is to be a necessary and sufficient condition, then we are all sick. In reality it is much easier that the object of our love in that case is not able to appreciate us but this is not necessarily our problem, it could very well be due to their blindness.

– There is a tendency to put the loved one on a pedestal as if they were some sort of otherworldly creature, a ruler, a better person than we are. Again, it is difficult to understand whether this is a symptom of emotional dependence or low esteem. When society provides us with examples of beauty, success and values in which we are not reflected, we sometimes tend to believe that we are inferior. This condition may generate a sense of gratitude and admiration towards those who approach us despite our flaws. In this case, without wishing to take anything away from anyone, it is more likely that we have come across people who have been blinded by a bad upbringing and a total lack of values. In this case one is constantly looking for the other person’s approval and confirmation. Each one of us is unique and lovable; it is rarer to find people with sufficient depth of soul and affinity to appreciate it.

– There is a tendency not to accept the end of a relationship. There is a tendency to believe that, despite the other person’s unacceptable, disrespectful behaviour, everything will fall into place and everything will be fine. There is a tendency to lie to oneself, even going beyond one’s own character and nature, and to say and do things that were unthinkable before in order to preserve a relationship. Usually this behaviour only happens on one side. It is easy for a person, especially one with an egocentric nature, to realise that the other person is doing everything possible just for love. They usually lose their partner by trying to shift the responsibility onto the other person. Again, the person who prefers love to ego does not necessarily have to be a person suffering from ’emotional dependency’. It is more likely that the other person has convinced himself over time that he can do everything the way he wants because he takes the other person’s absolute love for granted. We always realise too late how important that person was to us. But this too is a story as old as the world.

– There is a tendency to want to change the other person into what we hope they will be. Actually, I don’t think this has much to do with emotional dependency because again it’s a very common type of behaviour. It is more of a manifestation of opportunism (which is also very common in the human species). It is logical that everyone would hope that their partner would at least partially respect their expectations. Are we really sure that this is a healthy feeling and not a selfish demand?

What is emotional dependence

In the previous paragraphs I have tried to summarise what the symptoms of emotional dependency should be, based on my own research on the internet. As I said I am not a professional in this field and I may be wrong in stating the following. It is important to remember that this status could be confused with other similar ones and that certain behaviours are simply normal unrelated character expressions. There are psychologists for a more accurate diagnosis. Use them!

Behaviours similar to those described above, if taken to extremes, can hurt us and may even annoy others. However, I have noticed that these behaviours are quite common and therefore it might not be very smart to lump them together in a group and label it as a ‘disorder’.

As far as I know, regardless of our discomfort (temporary or permanent), if we can abide by the strict rule of never interfering with each other’s freedom, no one can ever tell us that we are wrong or sick. Without a doubt, there will always be someone who might try anyway. Take care to choose carefully the people you confide in. If we succeed in the simple but imperative rule of not overriding or attempting to override each other’s sacred freedom, we will always be sure that there is nothing wrong with us.

Remember that no healthy person is immune from suffering. This does not mean that friends, family and professionals cannot help us to accept the fact that everything has a beginning and everything has an end sooner or later. Contrary to popular belief, it is precisely the most thoughtful and rational people who have always suffered the most. There is often a tendency to blame oneself too much. I think that, although this is a sensitive behaviour, it would be wiser to accept that the other person is an individual whose freedom to do the right or wrong thing (within the limits allowed by our society) is as inviolable as our own.

What to do if we suspect that we are “emotional addicts”?

First of all we should be very careful not to be hypochondriacs. Emotional dependence is (or should be) well known by all professionals working in the field of psychology. It must be kept in mind, however, that (in my opinion) this subject is very far from being considered as a sort of perfect mathematical science. Since the yardstick for quantifying discomfort is a subjective thing, if you feel you are feeling bad you should without a shadow of a doubt turn to a professional.

Be self-confident because it is never wrong to love your neighbour if you do not interfere with the freedom of others. Try to understand also that others are human beings like you and may misunderstand your attentions and intentions. Indeed, one should not underestimate the enormous influence of the mass media that have made us much more likely to expect the worst from others. Bad things happen and we have to be careful, but I want to be able to hope that from most human beings we can learn something other than distrust.

The centuries that have seen the birth of our species have passed favourably precisely because there has always been a bond between the members of the community who came together to face the difficulties of life. Where would we be without others? Who would look after us? Who would grow the food we regularly consume? Who would we turn to in case of need?

With inexorable modernity, we have become more and more distant from each other and have forgotten the meaning of the word forgiveness. I am increasingly convinced that it is people who create things and not money. There are some things that money cannot buy, love is undoubtedly one of them, but it is not the only one. The measure of who we are and the contribution we can make to society is not only determined by the person at our side.

Anyone who has wandered this earth and behaved with honour and respect by helping others will undoubtedly have fulfilled their function and their life will have been worth living. There is a world full of fascinating and beautiful things, our time is limited, life must be lived in its fullness and entirety. We must understand that the precious little time we have available should be used willingly, wisely and well. Let us spend it doing good to others rather than selfishly pursuing the love of someone who does not deserve us. The world is more beautiful when lived in two, but if we manage to feel part of a community, if we respect others and work for our own good and that of others, we will certainly never be truly alone.

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